DISCLAIMER: This content applies only to federal campaign activities and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult your counsel for legal advice regarding specific federal campaign activities and local and state matters.
Discussing Candidates & Issues with Employees
Understanding where a candidate stands on important issues gives a voter the confidence to make an informed decision. If people choose to vote—then exit the polls feeling good about who they voted for—they are more likely to participate in future elections. No one wants to go to the polls only vaguely informed about the candidates and issues. That may be why only about half of our eligible citizens exercise their right to vote. Lack of knowledge leads to lack of voting.
But where do employees get good information? How do they sort through the daily deluge from candidates, parties, news organizations, and others? Whom should they trust for an expert opinion?
Research tells us that employees want information from their employers regarding candidates, issues, and elections. In fact, employers are the most trusted source of this information. That makes the workplace an ideal setting for voter education.
Employees need to know the candidates’ positions in order to use their votes wisely, especially when those positions may impact their employer and possibly their job. Companies should consider:
- Inviting an AGC of America or chapter staff member to speak about the election and industry priorities.
- Providing real life examples – “If H.R. 1 is signed into law or a candidate gets this position into legislation, it will affect our company and your jobs in the following ways…”
- Placing articles in company publications explaining how issues impacting the industry affect the company. Include the positions of all the candidates as well as the voting record of incumbents on these issues.
As long as you do not specifically endorse a candidate, there is no limit to the amount of company resources you can invest to inform your employees about people, platforms, and issues of importance to your business.
Communicating Support for a Candidate to Employees
A communication that expressly advocates for a candidate is called a "partisan communication." Such communications, which can take the form of speech, emails, letters, and phone calls, can only be directed to the company's restricted class. Any material that accompanies the communication cannot be content or materials from a candidate’s campaign. The company must create original content for reproduction and distribution.
If a campaign solicitation (i.e. “Make a contribution to Congressman Smith’s campaign”) is made within the communication, the company may include the campaign’s office address or link to its contribution page. However, the company is prohibited from including material that can facilitate a contribution, such as a campaign contribution form or reply envelope. Employees are also generally prohibited from collecting and forwarding contributions to the recipient campaign. Finally, a disclaimer must be included on any solicitation, such as "Contributions are not tax deductible. All contributions are voluntary. You have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal."
If the costs to create and distribute a communication exceed $2,000 per election, the expenditures must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
Endorsing a Candidate
A company may endorse a candidate. Listed below are the different requirements that arise depending on the audience.
- To the Restricted Class: A company can make a candidate endorsement to its restricted class. The endorsement can be included in an email, letter, or publication or it can be announced at an appearance by the candidate or party representative. These endorsements may be coordinated with the candidate. If the endorsement costs exceed $2,000 per election, the expenditures must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
- To All Employees: Unless it is prepared to file independent expenditure disclosure reports with the Federal Election Commission, a company is prohibited from issuing a candidate endorsement to all employees.
- To the General Public: A company can make an endorsement of a candidate to the general public in a press release or press conference. As part of the endorsement process, a company may communicate with candidates in order to learn about their positions on issues deemed important by the company. However, the company is prohibited from coordinating the announcement with any candidate, campaign, or agents of the campaign. Should your company wish to make a public endorsement, it can only distribute the press release or press conference notice to its usual media contacts. The company must also refrain from placing endorsement messages in publications, on social media platforms, or on a company website unless placed in the same manner as non-political information released to the press.
Posting of Campaign Signs (e.g. posters, billboards, bumper stickers)
Any other public endorsement, such as posting a campaign sign supporting a candidate on company property, may be subject to Federal Election Commission reporting and other regulation. As such, caution is urged. If a company wants to pursue such an action, AGC recommends that it consult its counsel for legal advice.
From the employee standpoint, they may voluntarily display signs supporting a candidate in their workspaces, provided the company has a policy permitting the display of personal items.