If these walls could talk: Political paraphernalia under the Hatch Act

By DLA Office of General Counsel and Office of Public Affairs

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Not all communication is electronic. And not all prohibited political activity is written or spoken.

Even a small campaign button in your work space could violate the Hatch Act, depending on several factors.

To help the workforce get a better understanding, an attorney from the Defense Logistics Agency’s Office of General Counsel weighs in on a few scenarios involving politically themed office decorations.


Can I display a button or poster pertaining to a current political campaign on the wall of my cubicle or office?

With limited exceptions for personal photographs, you may not display a button, poster, photo, screen saver or any other item that advocates for or against a partisan political office, candidate or political party.


How about paraphernalia from a past (but recent) campaign?

If it advocates for or against a political candidate still running for or serving in office, you may not display it — even if it's from a previous campaign. The same goes for a political party still in operation.

However, if the paraphernalia is from a party that's no longer running candidates (such as the Whigs, or the Constitutional Union party, etc.), you may display it. The same is true if the candidate shown is no longer running for or holding office.


So it would be OK to display a poster or button reading "JFK 1960” or "I Like Ike"? Or “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”?

Yes, you're not advocating for a current partisan political office, candidate or political party when you display these items.


The Act is clear that any federal employee can display any political bumper sticker on his or her vehicle at work. What if I want to display on the wall of my work area an expired license plate with a state-provided theme commonly associated with a political viewpoint? E.g., in Virginia, one can choose “Don’t Tread on Me,” “Choose Life,” or “Trust Women/Respect Choice.”

These examples are not partisan political activities and are not prohibited. While each issue may be identified with a particular party, the issue is not partisan political activity.


Can I display on my workplace wall a political cartoon making fun of a candidate?

No. Political cartoons making fun of a partisan political candidate are still advocating on behalf of or against a partisan political party.


What if I display political cartoons making fun of both candidates?

No. Displaying political cartoons making fun of both candidates is still advocating on behalf or against a partisan political party.


What if the cartoons merely make fun of “liberals” or “conservatives” but not actual candidates or office holders? Am I permitted to share those with coworkers?

Maybe. If the cartoon can’t be identified with a partisan political office, candidate or party, you may display it. But if it can be identified with a partisan political party, candidate or office, you may not display it.


For more on the Hatch Act, consult the DLA Hatch Act Guidance homepage and the Hatch Act pages of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel website.