State Restrictions on Political Activity

With the election season underway, the WSU Ethics Advisor reminds employees that state laws and University policy contain strict guidelines on campaigning and lobbying.

As private citizens, WSU employees are free to lobby or support candidates, issues, and campaigns. But employees must do so on their own time, with their own resources, and while making it clear that they are not speaking on behalf of WSU. Remember:

  • De minimis use exceptions do not apply to political activities. Even a brief political email or phone call on state time or with state equipment or resources is prohibited.
  • Do not send emails from a WSU email account, network, or through a private account on a WSU computer with messaging that implies or states support for (or opposition to) a candidate or ballot proposition. One email is enough for a violation.
  • Only make phone calls related to political activities using a personal phone, on your own time.
  • Personal campaign activities must not interfere with your official duties or the official duties of any other state employee. Employees are prohibited from using work hours to solicit signatures for ballot propositions, raise funds for or against propositions, or organize campaigns.
  • Wearing a campaign button or displaying political material in your personally assigned space is a personal expression allowed by the Ethics Act.
    • Remember that this can be problematic in publicly visible spaces, like walls and reception desks. It can leave the impression that WSU supports a particular campaign or message.
  • You must avoid engaging in activities in ways that it could appear to observers that you are promoting or advocating for some political affiliation or activity in your official capacity, especially when interacting with the public.
    • Make sure items in your Zoom background, whether a digital background or an office space, are appropriate and in line with the functions of your official duties.
  • If you have authority over employees (as a supervisor, for example) or control of facilities, you have a duty to stop employees from using state resources for political activities. Knowing but failing to stop them is a violation of the Ethics Act.

Please review Executive Policy 45 and the Ethics In Public Service Act – Use of Public Resources for Political Campaigns for more information, and contact the WSU Ethics advisor at with any questions or concerns.