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  1. #1

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    Default Volunteer Company Assists with Campaign of Election Offical... Illegal or What?

    Hello All,
    We have had an issue in my borough with the local volunteer emergency company campaigning for an elected official. They have called up local citizens saying they are so and so from the emergency company saying the name of the company and requesting that the citizen support a specific candidate in the upcoming election. They have even gone as far to now send out letters to the local citizens again using their name and requesting the support for their chosen candidate.

    What can be done about this? Isn't their laws against volunteers that a funded by the community choosing sides to vote for a specific official? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  2. #2
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    The answer is "it depends". Not all volunteer fire departments are created equal. Let me use my own organization as an example.

    We are an independent non-profit organization. We are not in any way associated with or managed by the town. The land, building, utilities, and anything else associated with the facility are owned privately by us with no tax dollars supporting any of it. Funding for the organization and facilities comes from private donations and fund raising. This is no different than for example, the local VFW post.

    Operational funding is a little different. The actual firefighting equipment, apparatus, communications equipment, etc is all funding through tax dollars. Basically, the town buys the firefighting stuff and parks it in our building and we use it and manage it.

    So, because we are not a tax funded organization and the municipality has nothing to do with us, we can really do whatever we want. As long as we aren't using the town owned firefighting equipment to do it, it is our private privilege in the United States to support and say whatever we want. Now with that said, we don't campaign for anyone. We could but we choose not to.

    If the volunteer fire department in question is not like this, where all their funding is tax funding, that is a different story.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  3. #3
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    Unions for career firefighters almost always endorse candidates, often using the name of the union and the fire department. Those guys are - ultimately beginning with their paychecks - also funded by the community through taxes. They send letters, make phone calls, etc.

    Organizations of all kinds, not just firefighters or unions, endorse candidates as a matter of routine.

    If you worked for or were associated with an organization and the organization would clearly benefit from the election of a particular candidate, and you were prohibited from saying so to anyone, wouldn't that be oppression on your free speech rights? What's next, denying them the right to vote, too?

    I fail to see any conflict of interest or violation of the law here.
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  4. #4
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    This one is pretty simple. If the organization is a 501(c)(3) pure public charity, then official support of a political candidate by the organization violates their non-profit status and the IRS could take action against them.

    If they are a municipal department, some kind of 501(c)(4) not-for-profit, or something similar, they very well may not be violating anything at all by supporting a candidate. However, campaigning for particular candidates can be risky for other reasons, especially if the candidate they support loses or one they oppose wins.

  5. #5
    Forum Member BrianB35's Avatar
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    Well here's a good one. I am currently running for city council and the election is today. Vote for me!!

    Our department is associated with the city. They "officially" know I am running, but have they endorsed me? Nope, because that's a conflict of interest and I have no problem with it. On the same front, some of my fellow FF's have helped me campaign, but as citizens with no FF notations and it is noted on my bio that I am a FF.

    I'd rather lose honorably than win suspiciously.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianB35
    Our department is associated with the city. They "officially" know I am running, but have they endorsed me? Nope, because that's a conflict of interest and I have no problem with it. On the same front, some of my fellow FF's have helped me campaign, but as citizens with no FF notations and it is noted on my bio that I am a FF.
    And this is exactly the way it should be done. Your friends in the fire service can help you out as private citizens...as long as the fire company itself doesn't get involved in any official way, you don't use fire company resources for your campaign, etc., you're fine.

  7. #7
    Forum Member BrianB35's Avatar
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    Well I got elected. 61% versus 38% (Yes, I know that doesn't equal 100%, it's been rounded.)

    I got a few calls last night from the guys and my Chief this AM. I had a chuckle with him answering the phone "Hi boss, Hi employee, I mean boss, I mean employee. You're my boss and my employee. Go figure that."

    I have to bring in donuts this Saturday for training or I will NEVER hear the end of it.




    Quote Originally Posted by bobsnyder View Post
    And this is exactly the way it should be done. Your friends in the fire service can help you out as private citizens...as long as the fire company itself doesn't get involved in any official way, you don't use fire company resources for your campaign, etc., you're fine.

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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    Congrats!

    I did a four year hitch as a council member and am currently finishing up a four year term (or sentence, depending on how the week's gone ) as mayor of my hometown.

    Be prepared. After almost eight years in elected office I continue to be amazed at how something can be so frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

  9. #9
    Back In Black ChiefKN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EFD840 View Post
    Congrats!

    I did a four year hitch as a council member and am currently finishing up a four year term (or sentence, depending on how the week's gone ) as mayor of my hometown.

    Be prepared. After almost eight years in elected office I continue to be amazed at how something can be so frustrating and rewarding at the same time.
    Wow, I give you a lot of credit.

    As crazy a life as it is to work a full time job, raise a family, and be the, what I call, "Unpaid full-time fire chief", I always felt that at the end of the day the public was behind my efforts (or at least not chasing me with torches and pitchforks).

    To be a politician in town... man, that's crazy. They put in a lot of hours and for the most part no matter what decision they make a large number of people will think they are wrong. Not to mention, the grief and name calling and mud slinging that goes along with it.

    I never understood it, but I'm glad someone is willing to do it.
    Last edited by ChiefKN; 11-07-2007 at 07:56 PM.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

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    You got to be smart about this.

    Using the phones in the fire house? Stupid. Using the FD's name" Dumb.

    Getting together in Joe's basement and using your cell phones? Smart. Saying that you are with a group of local fire fighters supporting the candidacy of ( ), Brilliant.

    If you want to know what the power of a smart, organized FD political action can do, see the State of Delaware.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  11. #11
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    George has it right. There is nothing that says we can't all get together as a group of friends and show our support for a candidate as citizens. There is nothing that says we can't state we are local firefighters.

    I tell me explorers the same thing when they want to do something as a group. "Can we go on a ski trip?" I tell them of course you can. But it won't be a fire department ski trip. You are all more than welcome to get together as a group of friends and go skiing anytime you want. You can even wear your fire department logo winter jacket as long as you behave yourselves.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  12. #12
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    At times getting funding from your community can be very difficult. If the guy who you are humping gets in, you are golden. If he or she looses, trust me the winning competitor will not forget. It is a double edged sword. So be careful.
    If I'm not here I'm on http://ctfire-ems.com/indexc.php

  13. #13
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    61% versus 38% (Yes, I know that doesn't equal 100%, it's been rounded.)
    spoken like a true politician.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  14. #14
    Forum Member BrianB35's Avatar
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    If you want the 1% I'll give it to you.

    hehehehe


    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    spoken like a true politician.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by osfd100 View Post
    At times getting funding from your community can be very difficult. If the guy who you are humping gets in, you are golden. If he or she looses, trust me the winning competitor will not forget. It is a double edged sword. So be careful.
    A very wise old gentleman once told me that a Vol. FF actually controls four votes...his own, his wife, his friends. That is a tremendous amount of voter power. The challenge is to harness it and use it properly. It also must be times properly. A sneak attack is very effective.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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