Election Year Reminder Regarding Prohibited Political Activity

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

To:           All Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) grantees, sponsoring organizations, and AmeriCorps members

From:      Jeremy Joseph, CNCS General Counsel

Date:       June 22, 2016

Re:           Election Year Reminder re: Prohibited Political Activity

As the 2016 election approaches, I want to remind the entire national service and Social Innovation Fund community that it is prohibited to use federal funds or resources for political activities or other activities for the purpose of influencing the outcome of any election to public office.  This applies to any election for federal, state, or local office. 

I am sending this message broadly to all CNCS grantees, VISTA sponsors, and AmeriCorps members (including AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC members).  Grantees, please deliver and emphasize this message to your subgrantees, staff, and Senior Corps volunteers.

As with all prohibited activities, the goal isn’t just to follow the law but to avoid any perception that you are misusing federal resources.  Every single grantee is responsible to train its subgrantees, staff, and members/volunteers on what activities are prohibited, and discuss them routinely to quickly identify and resolve issues.

As a general matter:  

Never mix election activity and CNCS resources—money or national service participants (AmeriCorps members, including VISTAs and NCCC, or Senior Corps volunteers). 

Specifically, don’t use federal funds, charge time to your grant directly or as match, accumulate service or training hours, or direct or allow national service participants to engage in prohibited political activities, which generally includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • organizing or attending political events, demonstrations, protests, petitions, rallies, etc.;
  • participating in, endorsing, or advocating for or against political parties, platforms, groups, or candidates;
  • conducting voter registration or other get-out-the-vote activity; and
  • posting election-oriented messages on social media (using CNCS funds or with reference to CNCS programs).

This is a general reminder, not a detailed summary of the law.  You can find the precise restrictions applicable to you or your program in your grant terms and conditions, member agreement, or related documents.

Of course, individuals may exercise their rights as private citizens to participate in political activities:

  • on their own initiative and personal time[1];
  • not affiliated with CNCS programs or supported by CNCS funds; and
  • not wearing any program insignia, logo, or uniform.

Again, it is very important to avoid any perception that CNCS resources (money or national service participants) are being misused.

Any questions about this reminder?  Grantees should consult with your CNCS program officer, and individual AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers should contact the programs you serve with.

[1] AmeriCorps VISTAs have additional restrictions on political fundraising that apply at all times (on- and off-duty).