In theory, and to a large extent in practice, the workforce of federal employees is apolitical. The people employed by the federal government are there to support the administration elected by the American voters, not to use the power of the government to set their own agenda.
There is even an agency that investigates the actions of employees who may have overstepped the bounds of the law in pursuing the election of their political party or candidates. In each electoral cycle, the Office of the Special Counsel find examples of Hatch Act violations that can take a variety of forms.
But, while the federal workforce is supposed to be apolitical, the creation of federal employee unions has dramatically altered the makeup from the civil service system created before government unions existed. Federal employee unions now exist and have been around for some time. They are allowed to participate in political activities and they do. Money, time and effort are spent electing their favorite candidates and bashing the opposition. In the vast majority of cases, this means that federal unions actively, publicly and vehemently support Democrats.
So, while individual federal employees are subject to many restrictions on political activity, and the workforce is apolitical and hopefully operates on merit principles, elected officials speaking on their behalf are exempt from many of these restrictions.
In a country increasingly divided by politics, the result is a public perception that the federal workforce is largely a segment of society that works on behalf of Democrats. Political donations from unions and federal employees are a measure in which a political party is largely supported by unions of federal employees and workers.
The graph below highlights data from the Center for Responsive Politics. This describe its organization as “the nation’s premier research group that tracks money in US politics and its effects on elections and public policy.”
Here’s a quick rundown of where most of the money from unions and employees of many federal agencies goes. Data does not reflect all federal employees or all federal agencies. It includes a variety of agencies and most of the larger agencies to give an idea of how federal employees support their political beliefs.
Political donations in 2020 by federal officials
|AFGE||$ 2,321,246||$ 1,064,285 (95.85%)||$ 46,124 (4.15%)|
|National Association of Letter Carriers||$ 6,579,094||$ 1,912,097 (81.43%)||$ 436,000 (18.57%)|
|NARFE||$ 1,302,529||$ 968,336 (74%)||$ 333,193 (26%)|
|NTEU||$ 722,951||$ 706,771 (97.79%)||$ 16,000 (2.21%)|
|United States Postal Workers Union||$ 1,357,874||$ 1,159,185 (86.04%)||$ 188,025 (13.96%|
|National factors and rural factors||$ 772,680||$ 451,155 (58.39%)||$ 321,525 (41.61%)|
|Association of FAA Managers||$ 405,500||$ 191,000 (47.34%)||$ 212,500 (52.66%)|
|National Assn of Post Controllers||$ 305,000||$ 272,000 (89.18%)||$ 33,000 (10.82%)|
|National postal mail handlers||$ 191,592||$ 140,092 (75.08%)||$ 46,500 (24.92%)|
Obviously, in the case of the National Letter Carrier Association, the bulk of donations were not made directly to candidates. The Center for Responsive Politics notes, regarding all organizations, that “contributions to the 527 are not included in the Individuals, PAC, Soft (Individuals), or Soft (Organization) columns, so the sum of these columns may not equal in the Total column. “
To put these gifts into perspective, they are relatively small. By comparison, the large teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers donate $ 43,624,248 during this election cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics. No doubt a donation of over $ 43 million will buy political influence.
Political donations from federal employees
Several agencies have employee donations in the 2020 policy cycle that total in the millions. The agency with the largest total donation was the State Department with more than $ 5.2 million. This agency also had the highest percentage of giving to Republicans (46.14%). The Department of Defense came close behind with more than $ 5.2 million in donations over the same political cycle. 65% of donations from these employees went to Democrats.
The Justice Department received more than $ 2.3 million in donations, of which 87.6% went to Democrats.
The agency with the highest percentage going to Democrats was the Federal Communications Commission (also, probably the smallest agency represented and the one with the smallest amount of total donations). 99.29% of donations from people in this agency went to Democrats. The highest total amount going to Democrats was $ 3,356,391 from the Department of Defense.
The agency with the highest percentage going to Republicans was the State Department with 46.14%. The highest total amount going to Republicans came from those working at the State Department with a total of $ 2,341,370.
For those who prefer to look at the longer term to determine if this was a single year for political donations by federal employees and unions of federal employees, the 2016 data yielded similar results (see Accounting for political donations by federal employees and unions and for unions of federal employees in 2002.).
Is there a “deep state?” “
There have been a number of allegations that the federal government workforce sometimes functions as a “deep state” on behalf of Democrats. Various reports involving FBI and Justice Department employees and actions or decisions supporting or overthrowing the Trump campaign have made the news. The belief of some supporters of President Trump was captured in this commentary reported by CNN of Mick Mulvaney, who held senior positions during the Trump administration, reflects this belief:
When asked if a “deep state” of government workers is actively undermining Trump’s agenda, Mulvaney replied that it was “absolutely” so. “This is one hundred percent true,” he told the crowd, adding that he viewed civil servants as employees who should implement the policies of the administration. Federal workers are not at their posts to “make decisions” and should resign if they disagree with Trump’s agenda, Mulvaney continued. An attendee at the event said Mulvaney was “adamant” that Democratic-leaning government employees are trying to thwart Trump at all times.
Political donations that are made reflect a strong allegiance to a candidate. Federal employees, their donations reflect a global political allegiance to the Democrats. There are clearly more Democrats contributing than Republicans.
For the 2020 election cycle, the total contributions of employees of the following agencies amounted to $ 37,368,311. A total of $ 27,141,594 was donated to Democrats by employees of the agencies listed below. A total of $ 9,026,820 was given to Republicans. In other words, 72.63% of donations went to Democrats and 24.15% to Republicans.
|Health and social services||$ 3,443,434||$ 3,064,855
|$ 228,012 (6.92%)|
|State Department||$ 5,245,868||$ 2,732,658 (53.86%||$ 2,341,370 (46.14%)|
|Postal service||$ 4,445,075||$ 2,681,875 (61.82%)||$ 1,656,065 (38.18%)|
|Veterans Affairs||$ 3,993,226||$ 2,999,402 (77.68%)||$ 861,726 (22.32%)|
|The Minister of Agriculture||$ 841,971||$ 709,471 (87.76%)||$ 98,915 (12.24%)|
|Department of Defense||$ 5,211,100||$ 3,356,391 (65.93%)||$ 1,734,536 (34.07%)|
|Ministry of Justice||$ 2,360,873||$ 2,020,588 (87.6%)||$ 286,083
|Department of Energy||$ 1,658,635||$ 1,478,192 (92.83%)||$ 114,235 (7.17%)|
|Commerce Department||$ 2,330,924||$ 1,816,565 (80.4%)||$ 442,942 (19.6%)|
|Interior Department||$ 1,524,952||$ 1,306,823 (91.1%)||$ 127,438 (8.89%)|
|Department of Homeland Security||$ 1,856,464||$ 1,280,630 (70.65%||$ 531,994
|Environmental Protection Agency||$ 1,814,107||$ 1,581,809 (90.12%)||$ 173,459 (9.88%)|
|Ministry of Education||$ 260,634||$ 246,709 (97.06%||$ 7,460 (2.94%)|
|Ministry of Labour||$ 517,588||$ 455,229 (91.81%)||$ 40,627 (8.19%)|
|Treasury Department||$ 1,669,778||$ 1,224,968 (76.29%)||$ 380,624 (23.71%)|
|Federal Communications Commission||$ 193,682||$ 185,429 (99.29%)||$ 1,334 (0.71%)|
Empty the swamp
The reasons for supporting a candidate or a political party are varied. Employees of certain agencies may have allegiance to a party when they believe that party provides greater political or financial support for the mission of that agency. In other cases, employees may react with their donations believing that some will provide better benefits or greater job security. Others may support a candidate or party believing that the overall political philosophy of that party is more in line with their personal beliefs.
Federal employee organizations have strongly opposed the actions of the Trump administration with frequent visits to the legal system to delay or inhibit the policies of the Trump administration and actively engaging in political action in support of Democrats . This support does not go unnoticed by elected officials. When the supported candidates win an election, their decisions are likely to be more favorable to the unions. Conversely, when their candidates do not win, the decisions are generally not favorable or “anti-union” according to various press releases attacking these decisions or policies.
There is no way to know for sure whether these actions or the difference in political donations contribute to the belief that there is a “deep state” in career federal employees. It is also possible that union political activity and the difference in political donation actions by federal employees were a factor in an executive order issued by President Trump to create a new category of federal employees (Schedule F) with restrictions. hiring and limited appeal rights.
In other words, the new timeline would have applied to “positions of a confidential nature determining policy, policy making or advocacy that are not normally subject to change as a result of a presidential transition. be listed in Appendix F ”.
An observer of federal government politics and civil service may have viewed the Executive Order in Schedule F as a means of “emptying the swamp” – a phrase often mentioned by presidential candidate Donald Trump when he stood up. refers to how the federal government and those who support it operate on a daily basis.
In any event, executive orders creating so much hostility among federal employee groups (including the one creating Schedule F) were quickly repealed by President Biden after taking office.
© 2021 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without the express written consent of Ralph R. Smith.