Political Activity by Federal Officials

October 27, 2010

This is Part Three of a series of editorials on federal election law.

by ALICIA G. LIMTIACO - U.S. ATTORNEY FOR GUAM AND THE NMI

“[While it is] the right of any officer [federal employee] to give his vote at elections as a qualified citizen . . . it is expected that he will not attempt to influence the votes of others nor take any part in the business of electioneering, that being deemed inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution. . . .”
—Thomas Jefferson

The United States was still mired in the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt had signed an executive order creating the Work Projects Administration to create jobs on public works projects around the country. But by 1939, widespread allegations that WPA officials were using their positions for partisan political advantage in Congressional elections led New Mexico Senator Carl Hatch to introduce An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, now known as the Hatch Act.

In Part Two, I wrote about the parts of the Hatch Act that prohibit intimidating federal employees to secure campaign contributions, and coercion of federal employees to engage in political activity. Promising employment or benefits in exchange for political support —or taking jobs or benefits away in retaliation for withholding such support — is also a crime. In today’s column, we will cover the Hatch Act prohibitions on political campaign activities by public officials.

Who is covered?

The Hatch Act applies to most Federal employees and officials, but it also covers State and local government employees who perform duties in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by federal funds, even if the employee’s salary is not federally funded. For purposes of the law, the term “state” includes both the CNMI and Guam. Examples of types of programs that frequently receive Federal assistance include public health, education, housing, labor and industry training, public works and conservation, civil defense, transportation, anti-poverty and law enforcement programs. Most agencies of the CNMI and Guam governments receive Federal aid. A covered employee remains subject to the restrictions of the Hatch Act, even when on annual leave, sick leave, leave without pay, administrative leave or furlough.

In addition, employees of private, nonprofit organizations that plan, develop and coordinate Federal Head Start, Community Service Block Grant and economic opportunity programs are also considered covered employees under the Hatch Act.

State and local employees-Prohibited activities

Covered State and local employees may NOT:

• Be candidates for public office in a partisan election. A partisan election is one in which a candidate is running as a representative of a political party.

• Use their position or authority to interfere with or affect the results of a nomination or election. For example, a covered employee may not ask an employee he or she supervises to volunteer for a political party or candidate, or advise employees that they may purchase tickets to a fund-raising event. Targeting subordinates for such “requests” is seen as inherently coercive, because the subordinate might reasonably fear to deny such a request by his or her supervisor.

• Directly or indirectly coerce, command, advise or suggest that another State or local employee — particularly a subordinate —contribute anything of value to a party or candidate for political purposes. For example, it would be a violation for a covered employee to advise his subordinates to take part in any partisan political activity, or contribute money, food, beverages, or anything else of value, to a political candidate or party. Again, subordinates might feel they have no choice when a request is made by their supervisor, so supervisors must avoid making such requests.

State and local employees-Allowable activities

Covered State or local employees MAY:

• Vote for the party or candidate of their choice.

• Be a candidate for public office in a nonpartisan election, such as for a local school board.

• Hold office in a political party, club or organization.

• Be appointed to fill a vacancy for an elective office.

• Actively campaign for candidates for office in partisan or nonpartisan elections (on their own time, not during work hours, and not at the government work site).

• Contribute money to political parties or candidates.

• Attend political rallies, meetings or fund-raising events.

Of course, all employees remain subject to the laws of the State or local government they live and work in, as well as regulations or policies of their employing agency.

Anyone with information concerning possible election fraud should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and ask to speak with the FBI’s Election Crimes Coordinator, at 322-6934, or AUSA Jim Benedetto, the District Election Officer for the CNMI, at the United States Attorney’s Office in Saipan at 236-2980. All calls are confidential, and any person who retaliates against a witness who has given information to Federal law enforcement authorities is subject to serious criminal penalties.

Those who wish to file a complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel may also go to: http://osc.gov/haFilingComplaint.htm for instructions on how to file form OSC-13.
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See the ELECTION GATE POSTS for alleged violations of  CNMI and Federal election laws in the 2010 U.S. House Delegate Race.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ms. Wendy,
This is a different concern that I want to tell you. This is about a campaign ad posted at Saipan Tribune papers today that says “Filipino Community for Joseph Camacho”. These ten men on this picture don’t really represents Filipino community here on CNMI. I believe that this ad is only for these men’s personal interest and does not represent the majority of Filipinos here in the CNMI.
Ms. Wendy, how could this deceiving kind of campaign be stopped? Saipan Tribune should know that this is a big lie. It is untrue to state that these ten men represent the Filipino community!

Wendy said...

Yes, they have KSPN news ads too supporting Camacho. I guess the only thing you could do is to have a counter ad, write a letter to the editor or have a Filipino Organization say that the ten men do not represent the views of the thousands of Filipinos in the CNMI and do not speak for you.

Captain said...

I believe something along the same was also done on the Gov's reelection campaign.

The newspaper will print anything that is paid for.(Saipan Tribune will print anything for the Gov. free)
Maybe if the CW organizations would put out a notice to counter the ad MV might publish it for free??
It might also be advisable if someone could identify the individuals in the picture. Maybe they are indeed not CW.
Is so state their names and place of employment in a rebuttal stating that they do not represent nor are endorsed by any CW group.
I guess there is no such thing here as "equal time" in the political front on TV and newspapers, huh..

Anonymous said...

MAKAPILI!

Anonymous said...

Captain: Equal time does not apply to newspapers, nor to scheduled newscasts. See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode47/usc_sec_47_00000315----000-.html

Anonymous said...

one of them is Danny Buniag whom i believe works for the governor.

TAGLISH said...

Thank you, Ms. Wendy!

Captain, these men in this campaign ad are IRs, greencard holders and UScit who are working in different govt agencies here. You could hardly see them in Filipino community gatherings here! They are truly like spoiled eggs...STINKY!!!

Indeed, they're MAKAPILI!!

Anonymous said...

Taglish, Thanks, I figured something like that. They may not realize it yet but they sold their soul to the devil and it will come back to "haunt" them eventually for the rest of their days in the NMI.
ESPECIALLY if the CW gets status.

Anonymous said...

For those unfamiliar with Philippine history, a Makapili is the Pinoy equivalent to a Norwegian Quisling.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makapili

“By their fruits shall ye know them.”

Is this what the Contract Workers' Rights movement has become? An angry mob turning Kababayan against Kababayan, brother against brother?

What next, shall we be shaving the heads of “collaborator” women, as was done to Vichy supporters in France?

The whole idea of federalization was a poor idea, based on selfish greed, whose inevitable consequences have already displaced the poorest of our former co-workers.

Do not add to the evil by fomenting and promoting violence.

Instead, do everything you can to improve your own personal life and situation. Get more training and skills. Look into off-island opportunities, whether Guam, Australia, Canada, the Middle East, or back home in the Philippines, China, or Bangladesh.

Taking one's life in one's own hands, as much as possible, is far preferable to envy and seeking “equality” by tearing down others through verbal or physical violence.

Anonymous said...

2:11

1. you are not Filipino
2.who suggests promoting physical violence, angry mob, envy, shaving heads?? ONLY YOU!
3. Makapili means traitor. Filipino with crab mentality don't support there brothers and sisters to rise up like them. They step on there backs to get to the top of pot. That is what we are saying here.The Filipinos on the ads are Covenant because they get something from Covenant. They don't care about there brothers and sisters as long as they are okay. That is true and they are MAKAPILI!

Anonymous said...

The guys in the ad are no Makapili. They are good people that can be depended upon. Danny Buniag is a person that most Filipinos ask for assistance and he never say no to his kababayans.

Anonymous said...

Being a part of a corrupt administration harms everyone. Good people don't support bad things.

Anonymous said...

What is corrupt is people who falsely and enviously accuse good, helpful, self-sacrificing people of corruption.

How many of Saipan's best and brightest must be driven away before we learn the consequences of malicious gossip?

Wendy said...

Of course, I agree it is a bad thing to accuse non-corrupt people of corruption. However, when officials are corrupt it is our civic duty to expose them. Fitial is absolutely corrupt and it is documented! From the stealing of the speakership deal with Abramoff to massage-gate, parole-gate, and election gate ...

Anonymous said...

If Fitial obtained his speakership by "corruption," he would be in federal prison by now.

As to "massage-gate," I read everything on your blog and in the CNMI press about Fitial's spinal stenosis and economical use of government resources for alternative medicine -- and read nothing but a politically motivated witch-hunt.

Parole gate? While the governor appoints the board of parole, he has no legal control of what they do afterward. The CNMI population is unfortunately extraordinarily "merciful" toward relatives (extended family members) who commit crimes. Check out how many jury trial convictions there have been on Rota over the past two decades -- well below 10%.

"Election-gate"? The pertinent authorities are still investigating and if there is probable cause to believe a federal crime has been committed, I'm sure there will be an indictment.

Fitial is not the first person who comes to mind in reference to false accusations of corruption.

But if the shoe fits, wear it.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:34

Fitial should have gone to jail for his conspiracy with Abramoff. He didn't. Our system failed.

He pardoned offenders who went out and then they committed more crime.

He used money that the government didn't have to hire friends and allies.

Where in the US could an elected leader take a prisoner out of jail for a personal massage and not have some serious consequences?

There has been corruption in the CNMI for years, and yes, Fitial has been involved.

I am sticking to my words. This is a corrupt administration. It is also a huge failure. It is bankrupt. It promotes hatred with the racist and anti-worker sentiments.

The governor makes no statements when his friends or departments fail. Where is his statement on the police beating the Chinese worker? Is he sending a message that the police officers are also above the law? Good luck getting tourists and investors.

The governor acts like he is above the law. In some cases he has made himself the law. He declares emergencies to give his office supreme power. His actions hurt everyone who lives in the CNMI.