Please consider carefully before you decide to hold any meeting, event or conference with political overtones. Penalties for improper political activity by and at a college or university can include loss of the institution’s tax-exempt status, imposition of taxes on the institution and its responsible managers, and other risks, including federal or state lawsuits, audits, and investigations.
Usually Acceptable Activities:
- Genuine curricular activities aimed at educating students with respect to the political process.
- Partisan editorial activities of a student newspaper that is supported by a college or university.
- Providing on and equal basis to all legally qualified candidates for a public office, and consistently within the limits imposed by Federal Communications Commission standards, access to air time on a university-owned radio station.
- Conducting institution-sponsored public forums to which all legally qualified candidates (or, if impractical, at least all candidates who meet certain objective criteria) for a public office (or for the nomination of a particular party) are invited and given equal access and opportunity to speak.
- Certain “voter education” activities if related to the institution’s educational purposes.
- Non-partisan voter registration activities of certain charitable organizations have been approved, even when aimed at groups (such as urban voters, young people or minorities) likely to favor a certain political candidate or party.
- Circulating unbiased questionnaires to all candidates for an office, and tabulating and disseminating the result, provided that the questionnaires cover a broad range of subjects, and neither reflect political skew nor contain editorial opinion.
- Continuing usual and permissible lobbying and public policy education activities, within the constraints ordinarily applicable to such activities conducted by a college or University.
- Rearranging the academic calendar to permit students, faculty, and administrators to participate in the election process.
- Use of facilities by established student groups for partisan political purposes, provided that such groups pay the usual and normal charge, if any, for use of institutional facilities by student groups.
- Conducting training programs designed to increase public understanding of the electoral process or to encourage citizens to become involved in the process.
- Conducting public opinion polls with respect to issues (rather than candidates.)
- Providing a hyperlink to the webpages, or other space on a university’s website.
- Establishing a voluntary payroll deduction plan that would allow individual employees to direct a portion of their wages to the political action committees (“PACs”) for their respective unions.
Questionable or Unacceptable Activities:
- Categorically: “Participating” or “intervening” in any campaign of any candidate for office.
- Endorsing, expressly or impliedly, a candidate for public office.
- Providing mailing lists, use of office space, telephones, photocopying or other institutional facilities or support to a candidate, campaign, political party, political action committee (PAC) or the like free of charge.
- Coordinating institutional fund-raising with fund-raising of a candidate for public office, political party, PAC or the like.
- Sponsoring events to advance the candidacy of particular candidates.
- “Voter education” activities, such as those involving questionnaires, if confined to a narrow range of issues or skewed in favor of certain candidates or a political party.
- Voter registration activities that are similarly skewed (See N6, above)
- Reimbursing university officials for campaign contributions.
- Publishing ratings of the candidates.
- Commenting on specific actions, statements or positions taken by candidates, including incumbents, in the course of their campaigns.
- Promoting action (voting) with respect to issues that have become highly identified and dividing lines between the candidates.
- Coordinating voter education activities with campaign events.
- Providing a candidate a forum to promote his or her campaign, even if the forum is not intended to assist the candidate.
- Use of institutional letterhead in support of a candidate, political party, PAC or the like.
- Public statements, oral or written, by institutional officials (such as the president and deans) in support of a candidate, political party, PAC or the like.
- Use of message boards and forums affiliated with the institution’s website to support particular candidates if the statements of the provider of the information can be reasonably attributed to the institution.