Political Activities by AF Members |
Commentary by Lt. Col. Michael D. Tomatz
1st Special Operations Wing Staff Judge Advocate Office
2/19/2010 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Even though November is far off, the campaign season is already warming up in our country. All Americans are of course encouraged to carry out the obligations of citizenship and vote. However, since our country's founding, the political activities of government employees has been a concern. Air Force members' participation in political activities is governed by Air Force Instruction 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the US Air Force, dated 1 January 1996. Participation in political activities includes everything from writing letters to the editor of your local paper to holding a fundraiser for a specific candidate. The intent of this article is to highlight some of the "do's and don'ts" for Airmen and their civilian counterparts.
Airmen are allowed to make financial contributions to political parties and committees but not to specific candidates. They may attend political events as a spectator, but not in uniform. They may show their support for a candidate by placing a small political sticker on their car or wearing a button (when not in uniform), but not actively participate in an electoral campaign. They may write letters to their newspaper, including editorials, but not on partisan political issues.
Civilians have fewer restrictions, but must still be careful. They may be an active member of a political party, serve as an officer, and even attend political conventions as a delegate. They may contribute directly to a candidate, but may not host a fundraiser or solicit for donations. They may even take an active part in a campaign such as acting as a campaign manager.
Airmen and civilians should remember that anything they are allowed to do can only be done when off-duty, out of uniform, and out of a government building or vehicle. The key is to use common sense. Don't do anything that might make someone think the Air Force is endorsing a candidate or promoting an issue.