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Advocacy Guidelines for Public Employees

Public employees are subject to regulations concerning contacts with members of Congress or state legislators. Fortunately, this does not translate to a blanket prohibition on lobbying your legislators, i.e., conducting activities for the purpose of influencing a member of Congress or state legislature to favor or oppose legislation or appropriations.

The First Amendment protects your right to lobby members of Congress and congressional staff and committees as well as state legislators.

However, statements you make must not be construed as official pronouncements of federal or state policy. Therefore, you must explicitly separate yourself from your federal or state capacity when lobbying members of Congress or state legislators. That is, identify yourself as a concerned citizen presenting your personal views.

Even so, there is no need to conceal your government employment. You are welcome to identify your official local, state or federal capacity and to discuss your professional activities as long as you make it clear that you are speaking on behalf of yourself or a non-governmental organization (i.e. a local or state organization or the National Recreation and Park Association) and the views expressed are your own.

Appropriated federal or state funds may not be used, directly or indirectly, to pay for lobbying activities.

This means that anything paid for by the government, including your salary, telephone, copier, paper, postage, secretary, etc., may not be used to support your lobbying activities. However, personal funds or funds provided by non-governmental organizations may be used to support lobbying activities.

These two simple precepts should not discourage you from lobbying your legislators, but rather are meant to inform you on your responsibilities as a government employee. Your participation in the democratic process can be personally satisfying and is critical to the success of our nation’s parks and recreation programs. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local ethics official.