[Fox News] On this day in history, August 2, 1939, FDR signs the Hatch Act into law

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On this day in history, Aug. 2, 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Hatch Act of 1939 — known formally as An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities — into U.S. federal law, according to History.com. 

This legislation prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in some forms of political activity, the same source indicated. 

The president and vice president are exempt from this legislation.

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​”The Hatch Act limits certain political activities of federal employees, as well as some state, D.C. and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs,” the U.S. Office of Special Counsel states.

“The law’s purposes are to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.​​​​”

The mission of the law is to keep federal employees from engaging in political activities while they’re on the job

It was also designed to ensure federal employees don’t face political pressures as they perform their work, cited History.com.

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Violations of the Hatch Act carry serious penalties, which may result in disciplinary action or removal from federal employment, the same source indicated.

The Hatch Act is enforced by the Office of Special Counsel.

There are three main purposes of the law, according to the American Postal Workers Union.

Additionally, while at work, federal employees may not distribute or display campaign materials, perform campaign-related chores, wear or display partisan buttons, T-shirts or signs, make political contributions to a partisan political party, candidate or group, post comments to a blog or a social media site, or use email or social media to distribute, send, or forward content advocating for or against, a partisan political party, candidate or group, as History.com outlined.

The legislation was initially passed in reaction to a scandal during the administration of FDR, multiple sources have noted.

Sponsored by as well as named after New Mexico Sen. Carl A. Hatch, a Democrat nicknamed “Cowboy Carl,” the legislation defined political activity as “any activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group,” according to History.com.

Notably, the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the Hatch Act because those positions are both officeholders and candidates, according to multiple sources. 

The Hatch Act applies to all federal employees; however, application of its restrictions is broken down into two groups based on position, according to the Department of Justice.

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“Less restricted” employees, including most career employees in the executive branch, are able to participate actively in political management or partisan political campaigns, while off-duty, outside a federal facility and not using federal property, said the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Further restricted” employees are held to stricter rules that preclude active participation in political management or partisan political campaigns, even off-duty, the U.S. Department of Justice also noted. 

The following Department of Justice employees are “further restricted” by statute: all career Senior Executive Service (SES) employees; administrative law judges; employees in the Criminal Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division; and criminal investigators and explosives enforcement officers in ATF, recounted the same source. 

Since its enactment in 1939, the Hatch Act has been amended. 

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A 1940 amendment extended the act to cover certain state and local government employees with salaries mostly paid using federal money, reports History.com. 

Then, in 1993, under President Bill Clinton’s administration, the act was further amended to allow most federal employees to engage in voluntary, partisan political activities during their off-duty time, away from federal premises, the same source indicated.

Also, the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012, passed under President Barack Obama, changed the status of District of Columbia employees and made changes to enforcement, allowing more disciplinary actions, according to History.com.

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There are consequences of violating of the Hatch Act. 

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The penalty structure for violations of the Hatch Act by federal employees include: removal from federal service, reduction in grade, debarment from federal employment for a period not to exceed five years, suspension, reprimand or a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

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