Office of Ethics
United States Department of Agriculture

Do's and Don'ts for Non-Career SES and Schedule C Employees

Restrictions on Political Activity by Non-Career SES and Schedule C Employees

General: The 1993 Amendments greatly liberalized what you may do provided you abide by "time and place" restrictions. These are the rules that apply to career staff below the SES level. Essentially:

  1. You may not solicit political contributions from anyone at anytime (there is a narrow exception for soliciting within the membership of a federal employee union for its Political Action Committee).
  2. You may not encourage or discourage political activity by persons doing business with, or regulated by, USDA.
  3. You may not use the authority or influence of your office to interfere with an election.
  4. You may not engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, in a government vehicle, or wearing a government uniform or insignia. This also means you may not permit your official title to be used when your political activity is otherwise permissible.
  5. You may not wear political buttons on duty or display political materials in your office.
  6. You may not seek the nomination for, or election to, a partisan political office (there is an exception if running as an independent in certain specified localities).
  7. If accompanying a PAS in mixed official and political travel, you may not advance the political element of the trip, may not participate in any political events during duty hours (although you may accompany the PAS, but not participate in the event, if your presence is required in support of agency business).
  8. You may not volunteer your time in support of a political party or candidate through your USDA PAS supervisor - any such activity must be volunteered directly to the party or candidate committee.
  9. You may not exceed the contribution limits either in cash or in kind.

Permissible Political Activity by Non-Career SES and Schedule C Employees

General: On your own time and away from the office, you may engage in a broad range of political activity except fundraising, running for partisan office, or politicking persons doing business with, or regulated by, USDA.

  1. You may seek election to a non-partisan office (and run as an independent for partisan office in certain specified localities - including most of the DC metro area).
  2. You may serve as an officer in a party or candidate campaign committee in either a volunteer or on a compensated basis.
  3. You may campaign for or against candidates by preparing and/or delivering speeches, distributing campaign materials, and organizing and/or attending rallies.
  4. You may contribute to campaigns, develop fundraising programs, attend fundraisers, and even serve as a treasurer for a campaign; however, you may not allow your name to be included on any solicitation materials or personally host a fundraiser.
  5. You may engage in partisan voter registration activities and partisan get out the vote drives (GOTV).
  6. You may sign nominating and ballot access petitions for partisan candidates and participate in circulating such petitions.
  7. You may serve as a delegate to a local, state or national political party caucus or convention.
  8. You may serve as poll watcher on behalf of a candidate or political party.
  9. You may display political materials in your yard, on your personal vehicle, and, when off the clock, on your person.
  10. You may accompany your PAS superior in mixed official/political travel if your presence is needed in support of official purposes (i.e., for security, communications back to the office) and you do not participate in the political events during your duty hours.