Federal SocMed Guidance

The United States Office of Government Ethics, which provides standards of conduct for federal employees, has released a legal advisory on the use of social media. The six-page document addresses these topics:

  1. Use of Government Time and Property
  2. Reference to Government Title or Position and Appearance of Official Sanction
  3. Recommending and Endorsing Others on Social Media
  4. Seeking Employment through Social Media
  5. Disclosing Nonpublic Information
  6. Personal Fundraising
  7. Official Social Media Accounts

The section on personal fundraising is particularly relevant in Texas right now, as there is a live discussion about an agency executive director who raised funds for a nonprofit activity from entities with business before that agency. Under the federal guidance, the language provides

As a general rule, fundraising solicitations over social media are permissible so long as the employee does not “personally solicit” funds from a subordinate or a known prohibited source. See 5 C.F.R. §2635.808(c)(1).

Prohibited sources includes any person who:

  • Is seeking official action by the employee’s agency;
  • Does business or seeks to do business with the employee’s agency;
  • Conducts activities regulated by the employee’s agency;
  • Has interests that may be substantially affected by performance or nonperformance of he employee’s official duties.

Since many contractors and industry lobbyists follow top agency officials’ personal Twitter accounts, they could still make donations and find ways to bring that to the officials’ attention, but it is a good step removed from personal solicitation.

The Washington Post published an article about the guidance on April 16, 2015.

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