By Holmes Lybrand
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday announced new restrictions on the political activities of political appointees in the Justice Department, including restricting their ability to participate in partisan political events.
The announcement comes as the Justice Department is under increased scrutiny for its handling of sensitive political investigations. The guidelines are updated regularly.
“Although longstanding Department policy has permitted non-career appointees to attend partisan political events, e.g., fundraisers and campaign events, in their personal capacities if they participated passively and obtained prior approval,” Garland wrote in a memo Tuesday, “under the new policy, non-career appointees may not participate in any partisan political event in any capacity.”
The restrictions are part of the department’s compliance with the Hatch Act, a longstanding federal law which generally prohibits federal employees from participating in political activities while on duty.
The revised policy, Garland notes, includes no exceptions — even for those whose family members are running for office, an exception that was made in previous years.
“I know you agree it is critical that we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards to avoid even the appearance of political influence as we carry out the Department’s mission. It is in that spirit that I have added these new restrictions on political activities by non-career employees,” Garland concluded.
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