Political Activities by Members of the ArmyJuly 13, 2020
Political activities by members of the Army are governed by DoD Directive 1344.10 and AR 600-20. While both of these policies should be read, AR 600-20 (Chapter 5-3 and Appendix B) is more specific and all encompassing of the DoD Directive. This article is meant as a general overview and covers some of the more common political activities for active duty Soldiers; any Soldier concerned about their political activity should contact Attorney Barry today for a consultation.
Active Duty Soldiers in the Army are allowed to: register, vote, and express their personal opinion on political candidates, but not as a representative of the Army; make monetary contributions to a political organization; and attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings or rallies as a spectator when not in uniform. Active Duty Soldiers are also specifically allowed to participate in local nonpartisan political activities as long as: the Soldier does not wear a uniform or use any Government property while doing so; allow such participation to interfere with, or prejudice, the performance of the Soldier's military duties; or engage in conduct that in any way may imply that the Army has taken an official position on, or is otherwise involved in, the local political campaign.
Active Duty Soldiers in the Army are explicitly not allowed: to use their official authority or influence for interfering with an election; to use their official authority or influence to affect the course or outcome of an election; to use their official authority or influence to solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue; to use their official authority or influence to require or solicit political contributions from others; to be a candidate for, or hold, civil office except under specific conditions (contact Attorney Barry for a more detailed explanation); to make campaign contributions to another member of the Armed Forces serving on active duty or an employee of the Federal Government.
Soldiers are also prohibited from participating in partisan political management/campaigns or making public speeches in the course thereof; allowing or causing to be published partisan political articles signed or written by the Soldier that solicit votes for or against a partisan political party of candidate; serving in any official capacity or be listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club; speaking before a partisan political gathering of any kind for promoting a partisan political party or candidate; using contemptuous words against specific officeholders (See 10 U.S.C. 888 and Article 88 of the UCMJ); performing clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee during a campaign or on an election day; soliciting or otherwise engaging in fundraising activities in Federal offices or facilities; soliciting a campaign contribution from another member of the Armed Forces or from a civilian officer or employee of the United States for promoting a political party or candidate; or attending partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces.
AR 600-20 also contains a catch all. It says that although some activities may not be expressly prohibited, they may be found to be against the spirit and intent of the regulation. The regulation says the following: "In determining whether an activity violates the traditional concept that military personnel should not engage in partisan political activity, rules of reason and common sense will apply. Any activity that could be viewed as associating the Department of the Army directly or indirectly with a partisan political cause or candidate will be avoided."
As one can tell, the rules are very concerned with Soldiers engaging in partisan political activity. Partisan political activity is defined as "activity supporting or relating to candidates representing, or issues specifically identified with, national or state political parties and associated ancillary organization." A rather obvious violation of this policy can be seen at the following link: obvious violation of the policy. While this is a pretty clear violation, most political activities by members of the Army are not as black and white.
Anyone interested in political activities by members of the Army should read DoD Directive 1344.10 and AR 600-20 (Chapter 5-3 and Appendix B) in full. Furthermore, a Soldier should consult with a military lawyer before conducting any questionable activity.
This article was written by Attorney Matthew Barry