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What is the Hatch Act?

March 13, 2012

Officially known as “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities”, the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees (civil servants) in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in partisan political activity. Named after Senator Carl Hatch from New Mexico in 1939, the Hatch Act grew out of a long tradition of civil service reform. It removed political patronage from government jobs and blocked office holders from using their power for partisan ends. The immediate need came from the widespread allegation that WPA workers had been used by local officials of the Democratic Party during the congressional elections of 1938 — where people were coerced to work in a campaign as a condition for getting a job.

The Hatch Act also applies by extension to certain employees of state and local governments whose positions are primarily paid for by federal funds. It has been interpreted to bar employees of state agencies administering federal unemployment insurance programs, or appointed local law enforcement agency officials with oversight of federal grant funds, from political activity. The Hatch Act prohibits only “covered employees” from running. That is, it applies only to employees of the federal government and to employees of other governmental units, including the state, cities, and counties, whose principal employment is in connection with an activity which is financed in whole or in part by federal funds.

So long as some federal funds support the position, the Hatch Act bars state and local government employees from running for public office even if their position is funded almost entirely with local funds.

Even though I work for a private company, Logistic Specialties, Inc., one of my former opponents has repeatedly questioned whether my service in the Utah Senate is a violation of the Hatch Act. It isn’t. If you are interested in learning more about the Hatch Act, here is a helpful link: http://sogweb.sog.unc.edu/blogs/localgovt/?p=1755

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One Comment
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