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Updated 10:00 AM September 22, 2008




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Campaign rules outlined for faculty, staff

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With the election season in full swing, University leaders remind faculty and staff of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to campaigning.

Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations, and Suellyn Scarnecchia, vice president and general counsel, sent a recent message to faculty and staff outlining the dos and don'ts of campaigning for public employees.

They note that Michigan law does not restrict individuals, including members of the University community, from participating in political activities, provided they are acting on their own behalf and using their personal time and resources.

"However, Section 57 of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act prohibits public bodies and anyone acting for a public body from using public resources to support or oppose a candidate or the qualification, defeat, or passage of a ballot proposal," Wilbanks and Scarnecchia wrote.

Examples of the kinds of activities that faculty, students and staff may engage in as individuals on their own time with their own resources are:

• Donating money to support or oppose a ballot initiative or political candidate;

• Acting as a campaign volunteer by writing letters, making phone calls, knocking on doors, or distributing flyers in support of or opposition to a candidate or ballot proposal;

• Organizing or attending rallies in support of or opposition to a political candidate or ballot proposal;

• Writing letters to the editor or op-ed pieces supporting or opposing a political candidate or ballot initiative;

• Giving speeches and participating in debates for or against a particular candidate or ballot proposal; and

• Writing to elected officials to express personal opinions on a candidate or ballot initiative.

Examples of political activities not permitted under Michigan law are:

• Sending out a mailing using University stationery or postage or using a University-provided e-mail address to campaign for or against a ballot initiative or candidate running for office;

• Using a University copy machine to copy flyers supporting or opposing a ballot initiative or candidate;

• Conducting a political campaign from a University office or other University facility, or otherwise using University resources, such as a University-provided telephone, computer, e-mail address, etc., to conduct such a campaign; and

• Purporting to carry on a political campaign in the name of the University.

The law allows limited use of public resources for activities that would not constitute support for or opposition to a candidate or ballot proposal. These include:

• Conducting scholarly research on the effects of a ballot initiative on the University, state, economy, etc.;

• Compiling and assembling data and other factual information on the effects of a ballot proposal or on candidates' positions;

• Disseminating factual material and/or the results of scholarly research on a ballot proposal to news organizations and academic journals, or posting the information on a University Web site; and

• Planning conferences, fora, symposia or panel discussions, or inviting guest speakers (including, in some circumstances, candidates) to campus, to discuss campaign-related issues.

For further information, including frequently asked questions and answers, go to

Direct additional questions to Maya Kobersy in the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel at 764-0304 or

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