FEC Rules for Campaign Advocacy at Work

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As primary season gets into full swing and the November midterms approach it is important for corporate employees in Washington and across the country to be mindful of the rules governing campaign work in the office. Performance of campaign work by an employee during normal business hours is generally considered a corporate contribution constituting the value of that employee’s time. The prohibition on direct corporate contributions to federal campaigns generally precludes this type of activity except for certain limited exceptions addressed below.

There is an exception under which an employee’s occasional, isolated or incidental use of a corporation’s equipment or facilities (such as computers, phone, desk and office) in connection with voluntary political activity will not be considered a corporate contribution to the campaign, even if the activity is undertaken during normal working hours.

  • Incidental Use: The Federal Election Commission has said that an employee’s use of corporate facilities to a total accumulation of one hour per week or four hours per month is considered “incidental use” as long as the activity does not increase the corporation’s overhead or operating costs.
  • Internet Usage: An employee’s use of his or her employer’s Internet facilities for more than one hour per week or four hours per month will not result in an improper corporate campaign contribution as long as the activities do not curtail the ability the employee in executing his or her duties, the activity does not increase the employer’s overhead or operating costs and such actions are not coerced.
  • Copy Machine: An employee who uses a corporate copy machine to duplicate election related materials must reimburse the corporation within a reasonable period of time for the normal and usual charge for producing such materials.

These prohibitions on corporate contributions to campaigns should not discourage employees from participating in the political process if they so desire. Understanding the rules will allow individuals to effectively advocate for their candidate of choice without exposing the candidate, employee or work place to liability.

[This blog post is meant for informative purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. These exceptions are not intended to be comprehensive nor to imply whether such activities are permitted under the work rules of a particular business unit.]

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