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09-25-08, 03:10 PM
Corps releases guidance on prohibited political activity

9/25/2008 By Cpl. Michael R. Whitnel , Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, YUMA, Ariz. — —In guidance released by Headquarters Marine Corps Sept. 16, Marines and federal employees were advised to avoid violating political activity policies in the upcoming November elections.

Federal employees and service members are prohibited from official involvement or the appearance of official involvement in partisan political activities, according to Marine Administrative Message 534/08.

Service members are subject to more restrictive rules concerning political activities. They cannot participate officially in partisan political fundraising activities or perform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee or candidate during a campaign.

Additionally, service members cannot use their official authority to influence or interfere with an election, march or ride in partisan parades, speak before a partisan political gathering in uniform or display a partisan political sign, poster, banner or similar device at their residence on a military installation to include privatized housing.

For example, on Yuma's air station--a relatively small base--an average of approximately 800 prohibited e-mails have been sent over the local network regarding political support recently, said Jack Neely, air station information technology director.

They may encourage others to vote, display one partisan bumper sticker on their vehicle and make financial contributions to partisan parties or candidates.

Rules that service members and federal employees must adhere to regarding political activities can be found in Department of Defense Directive 1344.10.

"There are certain things that a person of influence, whether he is a sergeant or a general, can't come out and do; like saying he supports this candidate and you should support him too," said David James, Marine Corps voting action officer.

"The intent is that we don't want undue pressure on individuals from their seniors," said James. "You can support your candidate, you can do what you need to do, but you shouldn't have that feeling of someone forcing you to vote a certain way."

Federal employees can't wear campaign badges or buttons, display campaign materials or distribute campaign materials on government property or over government e-mail. However, federal employees, unlike service members, can actively participate in political activities off government property.

Those seeking more information about voting rights and limitations should contact their unit voting information officer or their local staff judge advocate.