Political activities at Fermilab

John Myer

John Myer

John Myer, general counsel, wrote this column.

Fermilab’s recently revised Interactions with Government Officials Policy lays out ground rules for interactions between Fermilab employees with elected and nonelected government officials and their staff members. All employees should read and be familiar with the policy, which states that DOE property may not be used to carry out political activities and that FRA contract funds may not be used to carry out activities that seek to influence the results of federal, state or local elections.

But what does that mean in practice?

Fermilab employees are encouraged, as responsible citizens, to participate in the electoral process. Fermilab employees are also free outside of work to support their favorite candidates and issues in any way that they choose.

However, all employees and users should be aware that it is illegal to use any Fermilab resources to support candidates or political issues or carry out any political activities.

Fermilab resources include but are not limited to:

  • The entire Fermilab site, including the portions that are open to the public
  • All Fermilab buildings and vehicles
  • Fermilab-owned phones, including cell phones
  • Fermilab computers, computer networks and computer accounts, including email accounts

Political activities prohibited at Fermilab or using Fermilab resources include, but are not limited to:

  • Interviews with reporters about political candidates or political issues
  • Photo opportunities or video footage with candidates for office
  • Displaying posters or distributing materials on behalf of candidates for office or political issues
  • Town hall meetings, rallies or speeches
  • Fundraisers or fundraising for political candidates or issues
  • Conversations with candidates for office about their views on political topics or issues

Interviews by Fermilab employees with reporters about political candidates are allowed when not on Fermilab property and not using Fermilab resources, but it is important that we avoid even the appearance of an endorsement by the laboratory. Please do not use your Fermilab affiliation when speaking with the media about political candidates.

Political figures are allowed to tour the Fermilab site if they are current officeholders and the purpose for their visit is to learn about Fermilab’s activities and mission. Such visits are perfectly legitimate activities, though they are carefully handled to ensure they cannot be interpreted as or evolve into political or campaign events.

If you have any questions, or for further clarification on the Interactions with Government Officials policy, please contact me at jmyer@fnal.gov or x3252.