Presidential campaign season dos and don’ts

14 Dec 2015 | Lance Cpl. Ned Johnson Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

As the presidential campaign heats up in 2016, Marines and sailors should be reminded of the rules governing political actions of service members.

"I think it is as simple as noncommissioned officers giving a quick class to their Marines," said Sgt. Maj. Paul Berry, Marine Corps Installations East —Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune sergeant major.

Berry took it a step further by adding that all Marines are to teach their subordinates what is acceptable behavior surrounding political campaigns.

On Dec. 1, the Commandant of the Marine Corps released MARADMIN 603/15 GUIDANCE ON POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS AND ACTIVITY, which details exactly what a Marine can and cannot do.

It is recommended that a copy be printed and placed in a prominent area in the workplace

Below are a few bullet points pulled directly from the MARADMIN.

Marines may:

a. Register to vote and vote.

b. Express a personal opinion on political candidates or issues but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.

c. Promote and encourage others to vote, if such does not constitute use of their official authority or influence to interfere with the outcome of any election.

d. Join a partisan or nonpartisan political club and attend its meetings when not in uniform.

e. Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper expressing their personal views on public issues or political candidates, if such action is not part of an organized letter-writing campaign or a solicitation of votes for or against a political party or partisan political cause or candidate. If the letter identifies the member as being on active duty, the letter should clearly state the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Department of Defense.

f. Make monetary contributions to a political organization, party, or committee favoring a particular candidate subject to campaign finance limitations.

g. Display a partisan political bumper sticker on a POV.

h. Attend partisan and nonpartisan political fundraising activities, meetings, rallies, debates, conventions, or activities as a spectator when not in uniform.

i. Participate fully in the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Active-duty Marines may not:

a. Participate in partisan political fundraising activities.

b. Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election.

c. Speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.

d. Perform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee or candidate during a campaign (e.g., stuffing envelopes, manning a phone bank, precinct walking, distributing campaign literature and buttons, etc.), on Election Day, or after an Election Day during the process of closing out a campaign.

e. Solicit or otherwise engage in fundraising activities in federal offices or facilities, including military installations, for any political cause or candidate.

f. March or ride in a partisan political parade.

g. Display a large political sign, banner, or poster (as distinguished from a bumper sticker) on a private vehicle.

h. Display a partisan political sign, poster, banner, or similar device visible to the public at one’s residence on a military installation, even if that residence is part of a privatized housing development.

Online/social media guidance for active-duty Marines and sailors

a. An active-duty Marine or sailor may generally express his or her own personal views on public issues or candidates via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or personal blogs, much the same as they would be permitted to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. If a social media site/post identifies the member as on active duty (or if the member is otherwise identifiable as an active-duty member), then the entry must clearly and prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Department of Defense.

b. An active-duty member may not engage in any partisan political activity. Further, an active-duty member may not post or make direct links to a political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause, because such activity is the equivalent of distributing literature on behalf of those entities or individuals, which is prohibited.

c. An active-duty member may become a friend of or like the Facebook page, or follow the Twitter account of a political party or partisan candidate, campaign, group, or cause. However, active-duty members will refrain from engaging in activities with respect to those entities’ social media accounts that would constitute political activity. This would include, for example, suggesting that others like, friend, or follow the political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause, or forwarding an invitation or solicitation from said entities to others.