The guidance herein is intended as a summary of relevant Senate Rules, federal law, and related standards of conduct. The application of ethics laws, rules and standards of conduct is fact-specific, and the information herein is not meant as a substitute for obtaining the Committee’s advice and guidance on a particular matter. Providing advisory guidance to Members, officers, and employees is an important part of the Committee’s work, and the Committee strongly encourages Members, officers, and employees to contact the Committee and seek advice whenever possible.
Subject to federal law and Senate Rule 41, Senate employees may 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. Since campaign activity is an outside activity, employees must obtain the approval of their supervising Senator prior to engaging in such activity pursuant to Senate Rule 37.
Staff may not be required to do campaign work as a condition of Senate employment. Because Senate pay must be commensurate with Senate duties performed, if an employee intends to spend additional time on campaign activities beyond regular working hours and any accrued annual leave, the Senate office must either reduce the employee’s salary or remove the employee from the Senate payroll, as appropriate. Staff must work at least one full day per 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 $141,022 (CY 2023) may not earn more than $31,815 (CY 2023) from all combined outside sources, including campaign work. Senate employees who only work in the Senate for part of the year are subject to a pro-rated outside earned income limit.
Senate Rule 41.1 prohibits most Senate employees from receiving, soliciting, being a custodian of, or distributing any funds in connection with any campaign for Federal office. This includes all Senatorial, Congressional, and Presidential campaigns.
A Senator may designate up to three “political fund designees” (PFDs). PFDs are not subject to the Rule 41 restrictions with respect to funds for a campaign committee controlled by a Senator, a campaign committee controlled by a group of Senators, or a state or local committee of a national party. PFDs, like all Senate personnel, are prohibited from engaging in campaign activity on Senate time, in Senate space, and while using Senate resources.
Political fund designees, regardless of salary, are required to file Financial Disclosure Reports. See Financial Disclosure.
All PFD designations must be in writing and publicly filed with the Secretary of the Senate, Office of Public Records. Senators may use the Designation of Staff for Limited Political Fund Activity (Form 41.1) to do so.
Under 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a), official funds may only be used for the purposes for which they were appropriated. Accordingly, Senate resources may only be used for official purposes, and official resources may not be used to conduct campaign activity.
In addition to this general prohibition, there are several criminal statutes that impose additional restrictions on campaign activities by Senate Members and staff:
Ban on Campaign Contributions in Government Space
18 U.S.C. § 607 generally prohibits the solicitation and receipt of campaign contributions in any federal building, but includes an exception for unsolicited campaign contributions that are transferred within seven days of receipt.
The Senate office can avoid using Senate resources by using envelopes and stamps purchased by the campaign to transfer the misdirected contribution to the campaign, or return it to the sender. The Senate office may also provide a campaign-purchased envelope and stamp to a constituent who arrives in person to the Senate office to deliver a campaign contribution.
However, a Member may never accept a campaign contribution connected to official action. See 18 U.S.C. § 201. The Committee has advised Senate offices to exercise special care in cases when the individual tendering a campaign contribution has official business to conduct in the office. In those cases, to avoid even the appearance of any connection between official Senate activities and the receipt of campaign contributions, the Senate office should not accept the contribution, and emphasize that the Senate office is separate from the campaign and that the provision of Senate services is unrelated to any campaign contributions.
Ban on Soliciting Campaign Contributions from Federal Employees
18 U.S.C. § 602 prohibits Members, officers, and employees from knowingly soliciting a federal campaign contribution from any other federal officer or employee.
Ban on Campaign Contributions to Employing Senator
18 U.S.C. § 603 prohibits employees, including Political Fund Designees, from contributing to their employing Member’s campaign. A contribution may include:
- Donating funds
- Purchasing a ticket to a campaign fundraising event or merchandise from the campaign, and
- Making “outlays” to the employing Senator’s campaign—that is, advancing funds for campaign purchases, even if the campaign will reimburse the individual. The only exception is for outlays by an employee for his or her own personal travel expenses incurred on behalf of the campaign.
A committee employee may not contribute to the chairman of that particular committee. An individual employed by the minority may not contribute to the ranking minority Member of the committee or the chairman of the committee.
While the law prohibits employees from making contributions to their employing Member’s campaign, the law does not prohibit them from making a campaign contribution to any other candidate, including another Senator. In addition, the law does not prohibit employees from making contributions to multicandidate political committees, such as a PAC or the Democratic or Republican Senatorial or Congressional Campaign Committees, even though some of the proceeds received by such committees may eventually be spent for the benefit of the contributor’s employer. In making such a contribution, however, an employee should not earmark it for use in the campaign of the employing Member, because that could be deemed a contribution from the employee to the Member.
Official resources (e.g., Senate space, equipment, staff time, and supplies) may not be used to assist campaign organizations. However, the Committee has recognized that there are certain limited activities that, while related to a Member’s campaign, may properly take place in the Senate office.
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.
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.
Providing Materials to the Campaign
The campaign may be treated in the same manner that the Senate office would treat any other outside organization. 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 may not provide press clips about the Senator that were collected by the office to the campaign if the office does not routinely provide clipping services to anyone who asks for them.
If the Senate office receives an inquiry (e.g., mail, email, and phone call) that refers to a campaign matter, the office may forward the correspondence to the campaign for response, or respond to the inquirer by providing the phone number and address for the campaign.
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. Because referrals from the campaign can create special issues of concern for the Senate office under Senate Rule 43, care should be taken to ensure that no official action is taken on the basis of an individual’s status as a campaign supporter or contributor.
Because the use of official funds for campaign activity is prohibited, expenses for mixed-purpose trips—that is, those involving both campaign and official activities—must be pro-rated on a reasonable basis to accurately reflect the purposes of the trip. This may include an evaluation of the number, nature, length, and efforts dedicated to the various events on the trip. Alternatively, a Member may use their campaign or personal funds to pay for the entire cost of the trip.
For example, if a Senator flies to a state for two campaign and two official events, absent something unusual in the character of the events, the travel expenses may be equally divided between appropriated funds and campaign funds (if evaluation of the factors noted above so indicates, this equal division should be adjusted as necessary to accurately reflect the purposes of the travel), or the Senator’s campaign or personal funds may be used to pay for all of the transportation. A campaign committee, however, may not benefit from use of the government rate.
Finally, a trip that involves both campaign and official business must comply not only with Senate rules, but also with federal election laws. Questions regarding Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations should be directed to the FEC Congressional Liaison at (202) 694-1006.
Federal campaign finance laws and Senate Rule 38 provide that funds from a Senator’s principal campaign committee may be used to defray certain ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the Senator’s duties as a federal officeholder. Conversion of campaign funds to personal use is prohibited.
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 does not identify the individuals as campaign workers or contributors, as members of a political party, or by any other partisan political designation.
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 for a Senate office to accept the list from the campaign free of charge.
Handheld Communication Devices
As established by federal law and Interpretative Ruling 444, a Member may use their excess principal campaign committee funds to purchase a handheld communication device (e.g., smartphone) and its associated information technology services to be used by that Member or their employee for both official and campaign purposes. While it is permissible to have such a dual-purpose device, it may not be used for campaign purposes while on Senate time or in Senate space.
A Member may use their excess principal campaign funds to pay legal expenses incurred in connection with their official duties or the official duties of their staff, but only with the prior written approval of the Committee. These funds remain campaign contributions, and therefore remain subject to all the restrictions and prohibitions of other campaign contributions, including the reporting requirements, contribution limits, and prohibitions on corporate, labor union, and government contractor contributions.
Pursuant to Senate Resolution, payments or reimbursements from official Senate funds shall never be made for donation or gifts of any type, except gifts of flags which have been flown over the Capitol, and copies of the ‘‘We, the People’’ book and calendar. However, a flag purchased with Senate funds may only be gifted to public organizations, such as churches, schools, and patriotic service groups. Members may use campaign funds to purchase flags for other types of organizations if the Member deems the donation of the flag to be officially-connected.
Pursuant to the Regulations Governing the Use of the Mailing Frank, Members may not send a mass mailing fewer than 60 days immediately before any primary election in which the Member is a candidate, or the biennial general election.
Similar moratorium periods apply to several Senate resources whose use is within the primary jurisdiction of the Committee on Rules and Administration. Please contact the Committee on Rules and Administration regarding the following moratoria:
- Using Senate television or recording studios.
- Using official funds to maintain a mobile office.
- Sending unsolicited mass emails.
- Limitations on the use of official funds for travel expenses.
- Limitations on the use of official social media and internet.
Generally yes, but there are important restrictions that apply to engaging in campaign activity for any office, including federal, state, or local office. For example, you may not use official resources for campaign purposes, solicit or otherwise handle federal campaign funds, or make a campaign contribution to your supervising Senator.
If you are interested in engaging in campaign activity, please refer to the Committee’s Campaign Quick Reference Guide, Campaign Activity Training Handout, or contact the Committee if you have any questions.
Potentially yes. Your Senate position, duties, and hours are generally within the discretion of your Senate office. With your employing Senator’s approval, and absent a conflict of interest, you may hold a part-time Senate position and a part-time campaign position.
However, to avoid any use of official resources for campaign work, your Senate pay must reflect only your official duties. This means that if you reduce your official hours to accommodate outside campaign work (or any other outside activity), you must reduce your Senate pay commensurately. Additionally, in order to remain on Senate payroll and continue to receive Senate benefits, you must work at least one full day per week for the Senate office. You may also perform campaign work during accrued annual leave, consistent with your office’s leave policy.
No. 18 U.S.C. § 603, a criminal statute, prohibits Senate employees from making campaign contributions to their employing Senators. Contributions include advances or “outlays” to the campaign (e.g., paying for campaign expenses with personal funds, even if reimbursed).
This statute does not prohibit Senate employees from donating to other Members, candidates, and causes.
Probably not. Under Senate Rule 41, no Senate officer or employee may solicit, receive, be a custodian of, or distribute funds in connection with any campaign for federal office.
The only exception is if you are a “political fund designee” (PFD). Each Senator may designate three such employees in their personal office. PFDs may handle campaign funds of their supervising Senator, a committee established and controlled by a Senator or group of Senators, or a state or local committee of a national party.
Note that it is never permissible to conduct campaign activity, including making fundraising calls, from a Senate office or otherwise using Senate resources, regardless of whether you are a PFD.
Not if the fundraiser is for a candidate for federal office. Unless you are a “political fund designee” (PFD), you may not solicit funds in connection with any campaign for federal office. Posting, forwarding, or otherwise promoting an invitation to a fundraising event is a solicitation under Senate Rule 41.
Senate Rule 41 does not apply to fundraising for candidates for state or local office.
Potentially yes. No Senate Rule prohibits you from running for or holding elective office. However, like any other outside activity, you must ensure there is no conflict of interest with your Senate position, receive your supervising Senator’s approval, and not use any Senate resources for the outside activity.
The Committee strongly recommends that you contact the Committee for guidance before running for any elected office. You should also consult the relevant authorities that govern the state or local office and election.
Note that Senate Rule 41 and the dual compensation statute, 5 U.S.C. § 5533, make running for and holding federal office virtually impossible.
18 U.S.C. § 607, a criminal statute, prohibits you from soliciting or receiving a campaign contribution in federal office spaces. However, the law contains an exception that allows unsolicited contributions received in official space to be forwarded to the campaign within seven (7) days of receipt. If you receive a misdirected campaign contribution, you may forward it to the campaign, but must do so within seven days of receiving it. To ensure official resources are not used to supplement the campaign, the campaign may provide envelopes and postage for forwarding misdirected campaign contributions.
Exercise special caution when a contribution is delivered to the Senate office in person or comes from a person with business before the office. Any appearance of a link between campaign contributions and official action can raise concerns under criminal bribery laws and related standards.
No. Federal law and the Regulations Governing the Use of the Mailing Frank provide that no Senator may send a mass mailing within 60 days of a biennial federal election, or within 60 days of any other election in which the Member is a candidate.
The Committee on Rules and Administration has promulgated similar 60-day moratorium periods on other uses of official resources. Please contact the Committee on Rules and Administration for additional guidance.
- 2 U.S.C. § 503(d) – Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1991 (Limitations on Use of Campaign Funds)
- 5 U.S.C. § 13143 – Outside Earned Income Limitation
- 5 U.S.C. § 5533 – Dual Federal Government Employment
- 18 U.S.C. § 201 – Bribery and Illegal Gratuity
- 18 U.S.C. § 602 – Solicitation of Federal Employees
- 18 U.S.C. § 603 – Contributions to Employing Senator
- 18 U.S.C. § 607 – Contributions in Federal Building
- 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a) – Appropriations Statute
- Senate Ethics Manual (2003 ed.) (Chapter 6: Political Activity)
- Campaign Quick Reference Guide
- Campaign Activity Training Handout
- Dear Colleague: Guidance on the Purchase and Use of Challenge Coins (June 2016)
- Dear Colleague: Guidance on Campaign Activity (April 2016)
- Dear Colleague: Application of the Senate Gifts Rule to Inaugural-Related Events (Jan. 2013)
- Attendance at Events Held During the National Party Conventions (March 2012)
- Dear Colleague: Application of the Senate Gifts Rule to Inaugural-Related Events (Dec. 2008)
- Dear Colleague: Application of the Senate Gifts Rule to the National Political Conventions (July 2008)
- Events Honoring Members at the National Party Conventions (Feb. 2008)
- Dear Colleague: Notice of a Change in the FEC Allocation of Expenses for Certain Mixed-Purpose Travel (Feb. 2002)
- Dear Colleague: Trinkets and Giveaways (Sept. 2001)