Campaign Activity


Campaign Activity by Senate Employees

Subject to the restriction on handling federal campaign funds (see link below on “Political Fund Designees”), Senate employees are free to engage in campaign activity, as volunteers or for pay, provided they do so on their own time, outside of Senate space, and without using Senate resources.  Staff may not be required to do campaign work as a condition of Senate employment.  Because Senate pay should be commensurate with Senate duties performed, when an employee intends to spend additional time on campaign activities beyond regular working hours and any accrued annual leave, a Senator should either reduce the salary of or remove the employee from the Senate payroll, as appropriate.  Staff must work at least one full day a week in the Senate office to continue to receive Senate pay and benefits.  Members and staff are encouraged to contact the Committee regarding specific proposed official/campaign work arrangements.

Anyone earning a Senate rate of pay at or above $131,239 (CY 2020) may not earn more than $28,845 (CY 2020) from all combined outside sources, including campaign work.

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Political Fund Designees (PFDs)

Senate Rule 41.1 prohibits most Senate employees from soliciting or handling any campaign funds for a federal election, with limited exceptions.  This includes all Senatorial, Congressional, and Presidential elections.  The Rule does permit a Senator to designate up to three political fund designees (PFDs) to solicit and otherwise handle federal campaign contributions, but only for the Senator’s principal campaign committee, a political campaign committee controlled by a Senator or group of Senators, or a state or local committee of a national party.  This campaign activity must be done on the PFD’s own time, away from Senate facilities, and without using any Senate resources.  All PFD designations must be in writing and publicly filed with the Secretary of the Senate.  Contact the Committee with questions about such filings. See Form 41.1 Designation of Staff for Limited Political Fund Activity

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General Prohibitions

Senate resources may only be used for official purposes.  The General Appropriations statute, 31 U.S.C § 1301, provides that official funds are to be used only for the purposes for which they were appropriated.  No official resources may be used to conduct campaign activities. 

In addition to this general prohibition, there are several criminal statutes that impose additional restrictions on campaign activities by Senate Members and staff:

•    No Campaign Activity in a Federal Building

Senate Members and staff may not receive or solicit campaign contributions in any federal building.  When a Senate office receives an unsolicited campaign contribution, either through the mail or in person, the office may accept the misdirected contribution and forward it within seven days of receipt to the appropriate campaign organization.  The contribution should be given to the Political Fund Designee to forward to the campaign or the office may provide the constituent with a campaign-purchased envelope and stamp to mail the contribution to the campaign.  The Committee has advised, however, that unsolicited contributions delivered or mailed to the Senate office should not be accepted if there is any indication of a connection between the contribution and official business. The Committee has also advised that the office should exercise special care in cases when the individual tendering a campaign contribution has official business to conduct in the office.  If this is the case, to avoid even the appearance of any connection between official Senate activities and the receipt of campaign contributions, it is advisable that the office not accept the contribution and emphasize that the Senate office is not connected with the campaign and that the provision of Senate services is unrelated to any campaign contributions.  18 U.S.C § 607.

•    Ban on Solicitation of Federal Employees

Members, officers, and employees may not knowingly solicit any federal contribution from any other federal officer or employee.  The statute prohibits the “knowing” soliciting of federal employees.  Thus, an inadvertent solicitation of a federal employee would not be in violation of this statute.  18 U.S.C § 602

•    Ban on Political Contribution to Employing Senator

A Senate employee, including a Political Fund Designee, may not make a political contribution to his or her employing Senator’s campaign.  Accordingly, a Senate employee may not purchase a ticket to a campaign fundraising event for his or her employing Senator.   Nor may the employee advance funds for campaign purchases, even if the campaign will reimburse the individual.  The only exception to this rule is for outlays by an employee for the individual’s own personal travel expenses incurred on behalf of the campaign.  18 U.S.C § 603.

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Limited Minimal Overlap between Official and Campaign Activity

Official resources (Senate space, equipment, staff time, and supplies) should not be used to assist campaign organizations.  However, certain de minimis overlap between the Senate office and the campaign inevitably may occur and is permissible.

•    Scheduling

The Senate scheduler may coordinate independently established schedules with the campaign scheduler.  The Senate scheduler may also maintain an integrated schedule that reflects the Senator’s campaign as well as official activities.   However, the Senate scheduler should not arrange any of the Senator’s campaign activities using Senate resources.  A Senate scheduler wishing to schedule the Senator’s campaign activities should do so outside of congressional space, and on his or her own time.

•    Responding to Press Inquiries

The Senate press secretary may answer occasional campaign questions, and may also respond to such questions that are merely incidental to an interview focused on the Senator’s official activities.  However, while in the Senate office, the press secretary should not give an interview that is substantially devoted to the campaign, or initiate any call that is campaign-related.  A press secretary wishing to do either of those things should do so outside of congressional space, and on his or her own time.

•    Providing Materials to the Campaign

The campaign may be treated in the same manner that the Senate office would treat any other outside organization on a non-partisan basis.  Thus, a Senate office may make available to the campaign committee at its request a copy of the Senator’s floor speech, so long as the Senate office would provide the speech to any other organization or individual who asks without regard to political affiliation.  Similarly, the office may make available to the campaign committee at its request information about the Senator’s legislative accomplishments, if the office would do the same thing for anyone who asks.  Conversely, the Senate office should not provide press clips about the Senator that were collected by the office to the campaign because Senate offices do not routinely provide clipping services to anyone who asks for them.

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Mixed Purpose Communications

Misdirected Correspondence

When a Member’s principal campaign committee receives written inquiries concerning legislative/representational matters, the campaign may forward the correspondence to the Senate office for response.  Similarly, if the Senate office receives an inquiry that refers to a campaign matter, the office may forward the correspondence to the campaign for response.

Unsolicited Telephone or E-mail Inquiries on Campaign Topics

The receptionist in a Senate office may inform callers who seek campaign information or who express a desire to make a campaign contribution to direct their inquiries to the Member’s campaign committee, and also may give the caller the address, website, and telephone number of the campaign. The Senate communications director may respond to unsolicited telephone inquiries, even where the caller asks questions related to a Member’s political campaign, if such campaign questions are incidental to official questions.  However, a Senate office should not function as the campaign press shop or otherwise engage in proactive campaign activity.  A Senate office that receives an unsolicited e-mail that is only campaign-related should treat the email as misdirected mail and simply forward it to the campaign.

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Mixed Purpose Travel

Expenses for mixed purpose travel must be pro-rated on a reasonable basis to accurately reflect the purpose of the trip.  Questions regarding Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations should be directed to the FEC Congressional Liaison at (202) 694-1006.

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Permissible Officially-Related Uses of Campaign Funds

Federal campaign finance laws and Senate Rule 38 provide that funds from a Senator’s principal campaign committee may be used to defray any certain ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the Senator’s duties as a federal officeholder.   “Personal use" of campaign funds is prohibited. 

•    Mailing Lists

Mailing lists from outside sources, including campaign or political organizations, may be purchased for fair market value with official funds (subject to the rules and regulations of the Committee on Rules and Administration), so long as the incorporation of the list complies with Senate Rule 40.5, that is, the list bears no identification of individuals as campaign worker, contributors, or as members of a political party and it does not contain any other partisan information. 

As a general matter, if an expense is deemed by a Senator to be related to official duties, then the expense may be paid with either (or a mixture of) Senate funds, the Senator’s personal funds, or excess funds of the Senator’s principal campaign committee.  Because principal campaign committee funds could be used to obtain the mailing lists from the campaign, it would be acceptable a Senate office to accept the list from the campaign free of charge.

•    Handheld Communication Devices

A Member may use campaign funds to purchase a handheld communication device (e.g., cell phone or blackberry) and its associated information technology services to be used by a Member, officer, or employee in connection with both official and campaign purposes, pursuant Senate Rule 38 and Interpretative Ruling 444.

•    Legal Expenses

With the prior written approval of the Committee, Members may use campaign funds to defend legal actions arising out of their campaign, election, or the performance of their official duties.  These funds remain campaign contributions, however, subject to all the restrictions and prohibitions on campaign contributions. 

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Prohibited Official Uses of Campaign Funds

Members may not use campaign funds to:

  • Supplement franking allowance (may only use appropriated funds);
  • Supplement mass mailing ($50,000 allowance);
  • Pay employee salaries (may only use appropriated funds or Senator’s personal funds);
  • Pay for office space (may only use appropriated funds);
  • Buy office equipment and any associated information technology services (use only appropriated funds);
  • Support Home State Office (may only be paid for with appropriated funds); or
  • Pay Committee expenses (may only be paid for with appropriated funds).
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60 days prior to a primary or general election, a Senator is prohibited from certain activities.

  • No mass mailing 60 days prior to primary (Senate offices that are in cycle) or general biennial election (all Senate personal offices).
  • Please contact the Committee on Rules and Administration regarding the following moratoria:
  • No use of Senate television or radio recording studios.
  • May not send unsolicited mass communications, including but not limited to email, (if up for re-election) if not in direct response.
  • Senate will not pay for the maintenance of a mobile office.
  • Other than the actual costs of transportation, the Senate will not pay for food or lodging.

No moratorium if election is uncontested and no legal possibility for a write-in candidate.

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Campaign - FAQs

Q:  May I receive compensation for working on a campaign? 

A:   Yes, provided you have your employing Senator’s permission, and do it on your own time without using official resources, and follow all other rules and regulations.  Senate employees who earn an annual rate of pay in excess of $131,239 (CY2020) are subject to the outside earned income limit.  Such Senate employees may not receive compensation in excess of $28,845 (CY2020) in a calendar year for providing services.  

Q:  I want to work part-time in the Senate office so that I may also work on a campaign.  What is the minimum amount of time that I have to work in the Senate office?

A:   You must work at least one full day per week in the Senate office to remain on the Senate payroll.

Q:  I know it is against federal law to give campaign contributions to my employing Senator, but can my spouse or other relatives donate to my Senator’s campaign?

A:   Yes.  Only employees are prohibited by 18 U.S.C. § 603 from making campaign contributions to their employing Member.   However, your spouse may not make a contribution from any joint account in which you are an account holder.

Q:  Can I volunteer to campaign for a local political candidate? 

A:    Yes, provided you have your employing Senator’s permission, and do it on your own time without using official resources, and follow all other rules and regulations. 

Q:  May I run for an elective office?

A:   Generally, yes for state or local office.  However, there are additional restrictions for running for federal office.  You should seek the approval of your supervising Senator and contact the Ethics Committee for guidance before running for any elected office.

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Rule XLI

Political Fund Activity

1. No officer or employee of the Senate may receive, solicit, be a custodian of, or distribute any funds in connection with any campaign for the nomination for election, or the election, of any individual to be a Member of the Senate or to any other Federal office. This prohibition does not apply to three 48 assistants to a Senator, at least one of whom is in Washington, District of Columbia, who have been designated by that Senator to perform any of the functions described in the first sentence of this paragraph and who are compensated at an annual rate in excess of $10,000 if such designation has been made in writing and filed with the Secretary of the Senate and if each such assistant files a financial statement in the form provided under rule XXXIV for each year during which he is designated under this rule. The Majority Leader and the Minority Leader may each designate an employee of their respective leadership office staff as one of the 3 designees referred to in the second sentence.49 The Secretary of the Senate shall make the designation available for public inspection.

2. For purposes of the Senate Code of Official Conduct—

(a) an employee of the Senate includes any employee whose salary is disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate; and

(b) the compensation of an officer or employee of the Senate who is a reemployed annuitant shall include amounts received by such officer or employee as an annuity, and such amounts shall be treated as disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate.

3. Before approving the utilization by any committee of the Senate of the services of an officer or employee of the Government in accordance with paragraph 450 of rule XXVII or with an authorization provided by Senate resolution, the Committee on Rules and Administration shall require such officer or employee to agree in writing to comply with the Senate Code of Official Conduct in the same manner and to the same extent as an employee of the Senate. Any such officer or employee shall, for purposes of such Code, be treated as an employee of the Senate receiving compensation disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate in an amount equal to the amount of compensation he is receiving as an officer or employee of the Government.

4. No Member, officer, or employee of the Senate shall utilize the full­time services of an individual for more than ninety days in a calendar year in the conduct of official duties of any committee or office of the Senate (including a Member’s office) unless such individual—

(a) is an officer or employee of the Senate,

(b) is an officer or employee of the Government (other than the Senate), or

(c) agrees in writing to comply with the Senate Code of Official Conduct in the same manner and to the same extent as an employee of the Senate.

Any individual to whom subparagraph (c) applies shall, for purposes of such Code, be treated as an employee of the Senate receiving compensation disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate in an amount equal to the amount of compensation which such individual is receiving from any source for performing such services.

5. In exceptional circumstances for good cause shown, the Select Committee on Ethics may waive the applicability of any provision of the Senate Code of Official Conduct to an employee hired on a per diem basis.

6. (a) The supervisor of an individual who performs services for any Member, committee, or office of the Senate for a period in excess of four weeks and who receives compensation therefor from any source other than the United States Government shall report to the Select Committee on Ethics with respect to the utilization of the services of such individual.

(b) A report under subparagraph (a) shall be made with respect to an individual—

(1) when such individual begins performing services described in such subparagraph;

(2) at the close of each calendar quarter while such individual is performing such services; and

(3) when such individual ceases to perform such services. Each such report shall include the identity of the source of the compensation received by such individual and the amount or rate of compensation paid by such source.

(c) No report shall be required under subparagraph (a) with respect to an individual who normally performs services for a Member, committee, or office for less than eight hours a week.

(d) For purposes of this paragraph, the supervisor of an individual shall be determined under paragraph 12 of rule XXXVII.51


48 As amended by S. Res. 258, 100–1, Oct. 1, 1987.

49 Pursuant to S. Res. 236, 101–2, Jan. 30, 1990.

50 Reference corrected by S. Res. 192, 102–1, Oct. 31, 1991.

51 Redesignated pursuant to S. Res. 236, 101–2, Jan. 30, 1990 and S. Res. 299, 106–2, Apr. 27, 2000.