As public office races heat up and an increasing number of political events are hosted, Political Activity Rule questions have been on the rise. Of particular note in this arena is a formal opinion issued by the State Ethics Commission in its March meeting regarding the propriety of agency appointing authorities attending political fundraising events. The SEC ultimately concluded that while Political Activity Rule questions are fact sensitive, agency appointing authorities do not violate the rule when they merely attend fundraising events on their personal time. However, the SEC noted that engaging in any involvement beyond mere attendance at such events may constitute solicitation or prohibited political activity in violation of the Code of Ethics. You can access the opinion here. The full text of the Political Activity Rule is available on the OIG website.
When questions related to political events and activities arise, please bear in mind these facets of the Political Activity Rule:
- First, while the rule addresses the types of activities in which state employees or special state appointees may engage, it does not prohibit them from running for office. However, the federal Hatch Act’s prohibitions for covered employees and the State of Indiana’s prohibition on dual office holding may restrict the offices for which employees and appointees are eligible.
- Second, questions on acceptable political activity also often implicate Outside Employment (42 IAC 1-5-5), Use of State Property (42 IAC 1-5-12) and Ghost Employment (42 IAC 1-5-13) considerations as well. Ultimately, though the political activity may not violate the Political Activity Rule, it still cannot interfere with an individual’s official duties nor can it be done with state resources on state time.
- Third, the Political Activity Rule does not limit how much individuals are permitted to personally contribute to a campaign or candidate. The rule does, however, place limitations on how and if individuals are permitted to solicit contributions—including hosting fundraisers—from a third party on a political candidate’s behalf.
Following are examples that illustrate appropriate and inappropriate political activities pursuant to the Political Activity Rule:
- A special state appointee wants to run for school board in her community. She is not prohibited from running for office by the Political Activity Rule.
- The director of an agency has been invited to attend a fundraising event for a candidate running for Attorney General. While at the fundraiser, the director is approached by a member of the candidate’s campaign committee who asks him to join the campaign in its fundraising efforts. While it is permissible for the director to attend the fundraiser, as the appointing authority for his agency it would be a violation of the Political Activity Rule for him to fundraise on the candidate’s behalf unless the director is a candidate for public office himself.
- A state employee is the procurement officer for his agency and has a friend who is running for public office. He would like to assist with his friend’s campaign and fundraising efforts. Because the employee is not a candidate for public office himself, he is prohibited by the Political Activity Rule from soliciting political contributions on his friend’s behalf.
- A state employee is participating in a fundraiser for her county’s political party on her own time and apart from her official capacity with the state. At this event, she happens to solicit a contribution from Vendor A, a company that has a business relationship with her state agency. The employee has violated the Political Activity Rule by soliciting this contribution from a person she knows has a business relationship with her state agency even though she was engaging in the activity apart from her official duties with the state.
Agency Policies: Many of your agencies have updated their internal ethics policies in recent years. If you have not submitted a copy of these revised policies to our office, please do so at your earliest convenience.
Ethics Officer Designation Forms: If your agency has not filed the form with our office designating your Ethics Officer or needs to update a previous form, please contact our office for a copy of the form you can fill out and return to us.
Ethics Training Update: To date, over 14,500 state officers, employees and special state appointees have completed training across 30 state agencies. Another 20 state agencies, comprised of 5,500 trainees, are expected to complete training by the end of this month. Thank you to all of the Ethics Officers and HR Administrators for your efforts and patience in helping our office reach these results!
|For More Information
The Ethics Code
Filing A Complaint
Recent Advisory Opinions
08-I-3: Political Activity
May 8, 10:00AM
June 12, 10:00AM
July 10, 10:00AM
August 14, 10:00AM
Legislative Ethics Questions
Senate Ethics Committee:
House Statutory Committee on Ethics: 800.382.9842
Judiciary Ethics Questions
Disciplinary Commission: 317.232.1807