Two federal laws, the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) and Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, lay the foundation for elections law by regulating federal elections (President and Congress). Each state and local jurisdiction provides additional rules about how individuals...
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Departmental employees generally can participate in campaign activities, depending on local civil service rules. However, an individual may not use the organization's financial resources, facilities or personnel to support campaign activities, since this would be an impermissible donation by the department. Thus, while a fire chief may endorse a candidate, he or she could not use the chief's buggy to drive to a campaign event. Volunteers generally are free to work on campaigns, with similar restrictions, since they are not employees.
The laws governing campaign activities are complex, but ultimately, they are intended to promote appropriate participation by all. While the tools may vary, there is a role for all parts of the fire and EMS community to participate.
STEVE BLACKISTONE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a Maryland attorney who directs state and local liaison activities for an agency of the federal government. Prior to his current position, he served in a variety of posts on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives, working both on the personal staffs of members of Congress and on congressional committees. Blackistone also is an active volunteer EMT/firefighter with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Montgomery County, MD.