As the 2016 presidential election draws near, it is important that Combat Center Marines, sailors and Department of Defense civilian employees exercise their rights and obligations of citizenship without violating statues, regulations or policies regarding involvement in partisan political activities.
“In politics, a partisan candidate is a nominee of a political party,” said Capt. Joe Teirab, the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Combat Center. “You have the right to express your views, but it’s limited because of our unique positions as active duty service members and government employees. Active duty service members are prohibited from participating or engaging in partisan political activities. What they can do is vote and encourage other service members to vote. They can donate money to campaigns and even attend a rally if not in uniform. But what they can’t do is anything more active than that.”
According to DoD Directive 1344.10, active duty service members are not permitted to:
• Appear or speak at partisan events
• Work on partisan campaigns
• Solicit funds for a candidate
• Solicit support of/encourage others to vote for a candidate
• Use their status as a member of the Armed Forces to encourage support of a candidate
• Share via social media material from a political candidates official campaign
While both active duty service members and civilian employees must adhere to the guidelines set forth, civilian employees are generally subjected to a less restrictive set of guidelines than their active duty counterparts.
“If you’re not active duty, for example a reservist or retiree, you can participate in partisan activities but there can’t be an appearance of DoD endorsement,” Teirab said. “You can attend political campaigns in your own personal capacity. The guidelines for civilian employees are clearly outlined in the HATCH Act.”
Specific guidance and answers to questions about what activities are authorized, can be found in DoD Directive 1344.10, MARADMIN 603/15, or www.dod.mil/dodgc/defense_ethics/resource_library /elections_guidance_2016.pdf.
“I think the rules are there for a good reason because we don’t want to tarnish the role of our status as Marines and as service members,” Teirab said. “While we have a status, mission and an identity as Marines, we also have first amendment rights and it’s important to balance both.”