For Some Gov't Workers, Blurry Line Where Work Ends, Campaign Begins : It's All Politics Election time means government workers become campaigners for their bosses which is legal so long as workers keep track and account for the time they spend campaigning and the time spent doing their government jobs.
NPR logo For Some Gov't Workers, Blurry Line Where Work Ends, Campaign Begins

For Some Gov't Workers, Blurry Line Where Work Ends, Campaign Begins

Tim Cahill, Massachusetts treasurer who's running as an independent for governor, gets campaign help, like many incumbents, from employees in his office.  Stephan Savoia/AP Photo hide caption

toggle caption
Stephan Savoia/AP Photo

If you're a political officeholder running for re-election or another office, one of the best assets you've got going for you is the ready-made campaign apparatus known as your office staff.

The Associated Press' Glen Johnson reminds us of this in a short article. While Johnson focuses on Massachusetts, it's an issue in jurisdictions across the nation.

As Johnson points out, government employees are supposed to account for all those hours they spend politicking for their bosses by holding up campaign signs or knocking on doors. It's meant to make sure that taxpayer money is used for governmental and not political purposes.

This accounting, however, occurs pretty much on a governmental honor system which means is probably not going to give many citizens confidence that the practice isn't being abused.

As the AP's Johnson reports:

This week, the first deputy treasurer and chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts treasury spent more than 90 minutes away from her Statehouse office as she watched her boss, Treasurer Timothy Cahill, participate in a gubernatorial debate in Cambridge. A spokesman later said Grace Lee was on "personal time" at midday Monday.

Three days earlier, that spokesman, David Kibbe, was clapping and cheering for his boss during a 2 p.m. news conference at the Cahill campaign headquarters in Quincy — more than 10 miles from Beacon Hill. "I took personal time Friday afternoon," Kibbe said in an e-mail.