The Hatch Act prevents federal employees to donating to federal candidates, or from supporting political activities. But if the employees are not permitted to engage in partisan activities, why are their unions permitted to do so?
In keeping with national trends for the 2008 election cycle, Democrats are outpacing Republicans in contributions from federal employee groups' political action committees. Those PACs also are giving greater proportions to Democrats than they did in either of the two previous election cycles.
The National Treasury Employees Union committee has given $100,850 in campaign contributions so far, giving 96 percent of those donations to Democrats. In 2006 and 2004, 85 percent of the union's offerings went to Democrats, and 13 percent and 15 percent to Republicans, respectively.
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association PAC has directed 85 percent of its $99,500 in candidate contributions to Democrats, up 21 percent from 2006, when it gave 64 percent to Democrats and 34 percent to Republicans. In 2004, 73 percent of NARFE's contributions went to Democrats and 27 percent to Republicans.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has made $823,900 in contributions this cycle, though with 20,000 members, it is significantly smaller than NTEU, which represents 150,000 bargaining unit employees, and NARFE, which has almost 350,000 members. Seventy-seven percent of NATCA's contributions so far have gone to Democrats and 23 percent to Republicans. NATCA directed 75 percent of its contributions to Democrats in 2006 and 65 percent in 2004.
NATCA's political action committee also has $1,040,586 on hand, according to data released by the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 2. NTEU's PAC has $68,357, and NARFE's has $386,910.
Leaving aside the question of whether this policy violates the spirit of the Hatch Act, is it prudent for federal workers to become known for strong alignment with one party or the other? Politically, it gives Republicans one more reason to support opening federal agencies to competition with private sector providers.
After all, if you can save taxpayer dollars, improve service, AND weaken your political opponent, the move becomes a no-brainer.