Heard on the Hill

7 Quirkiest Rules for Staffers During Campaign Season

Courtesy of the House and Senate Ethics committees

Technology now allows staffers to start diving into  campaign work the second they step outside their Hill office buildings. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Reading through the Senate and House Ethics rules for staffers doing campaign activity can be a thankless task. It can be hard to keep track of the right protocol to follow just to help your boss win an election. 

Staffers are free to engage in campaign activity on their own time, away from Capitol spaces and without using Senate and House resources. Campaign committees have made that as easy as possible to encourage staffers to participate.

For example, the National Republican Congressional Committee has the Advantage app available to create call lists and door-knocking lists on personal phones. All phone banking calls are placed through the app, which also records survey responses — whether over the phone or at a door — and then syncs them back to a GOP data center. That helps staffers start with the virtual canvassing the second they step out of their office buildings.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the quirkier rules, courtesy of the House and Senate Ethics websites, that staffers need to follow. 

You can’t be forced to do campaign work

“The prohibition against coercing staff or requiring staff members to do campaign work is quite broad. It forbids Members and senior staff from not only threatening or attempting to intimidate employees regarding doing campaign work, but also from directing or otherwise pressuring them to do such work.”

(Campaign Work by House Employees Outside the Congressional Office and on Their Own Time, House Ethics Committee)

You should keep a record of campaign work you do, but you really don’t have to

“Employees who do campaign work while remaining on the House payroll should keep careful records of the time they spend on official activities and, separately, on campaign activities, and demonstrate that campaign work was not done on official time. There is no set format for maintaining such time records.”

(Campaign Work by House Employees Outside the Congressional Office and on Their Own Time, House Committee on Ethics)

Get out the white out

“A Member’s campaign is free to reproduce and distribute, for campaign purposes, materials that were originally prepared by the congressional office. A requirement is that the name of any congressional staff contact that appeared in the material as issued originally must be deleted.”

(General Prohibition Against Using Official Resources for Campaign or Political Purposes, House Committee on Ethics)

Who knew souvenirs could be so complicated

“A Member’s campaign wishes to purchase some souvenirs from the House gift store to give as gifts to the Member’s supporters. An employee of the Member’s congressional office may not purchase the items with her own money or a personal credit card, even if the campaign makes arrangements to reimburse her promptly. However, the Member may purchase the souvenirs with his personal funds and receive reimbursement from the campaign.”

(Campaign Work by House Employees Outside the Congressional Office and on Their Own Time, House Committee on Ethics)

If you want to be the boss, you have to go

“[W]hen a Member is departing office, and one of the Member’s employees wishes to become a candidate to succeed the Member. In that circumstance, the Committee has taken the position that the staff member must terminate his or her employment in the congressional office upon becoming a candidate.”

(Campaign Work by House Employees Outside the Congressional Office and on Their Own Time, House Committee on Ethics)

Schedule on your own time

“The Senate scheduler should not arrange any of the Senate’s campaign activities using Senate resources. A Senate scheduler wishing to schedule the Senator’s campaign activities should do so outside of congressional space, and on his or her own time.”

(Campaign Activity- Ethics Rules, Senate Select Committee on Ethics)

If you would give it to the press …

“A Senate office may make available to the campaign committee at its request a copy of the Senate’s floor speech, so long as the Senate office would provide the speech to any other organization or individual who asks without regard to political affiliation.”

(Campaign Activity- Ethics Rules, Senate Select Committee on Ethics)

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