Thursday, August 21, 2014

DoD JAG guidance: Endorsement of "Ice-Bucket Challenge" not allowed under regulations

Above: Boston City Councillor Tito Jackson, right, leads some 200 people in the ice bucket challenge at Boston's Copley Square, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 to raise funds and awareness for ALS.

We have all seen the videos and photos--a person takes a bucket of ice water, and dumps it over their head. The act is followed by much cheering and fanfare.

Most of these challenges are meant to raise awareness for a worthy cause. This, along with what appears to be an online fad that is growing in popularity may motivate many service members to participate.

According to Art Kaff, Administrative Law Division of the Office of The Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army Headquarters, however well-intentioned this participation may appear, it is an impermissible endorsement of a non-federal entity.

The Standards of Conduct and the Joint Ethics Regulation (JER) are clear concerning such activities.  An officer or employee may not use his or her government position or title or any authority associated with his or her public office in a manner that could reasonably be construed to imply that the government sanctions or endorses the employee's personal activities or those of another.  5 CFR 2635.702(b).

An employee is also prohibited from using or permitting the use of his or her government position or title or any authority associated with his or her public office to endorse any product, service or enterprise.  5 CFR 2635.702(c); JER 3-209.

An employee may only engage in the raising of funds for a nonprofit organization in an official capacity where the employee is authorized to engage in the fundraising activity as part of his or her official duties.  5 CFR 2635.808.  The JER, at paragraph 3-210, makes it clear that (with very limited exceptions) DoD employees shall not officially endorse or appear to endorse membership drives or fundraising for any non-federal entity.

Fundraising done by government employees in their personal capacities should not use official time, resources or personnel in connection with the activity, nor should the individual's official title, authority or command be invoked in connection with the personal fundraising efforts.  In addition, employees engaged in personal fundraising may not personally solicit funds from a subordinate or from any other person known to the employee to be a prohibited source.  5 CFR 2635.808(c); JER 3-300.

The bottom line for full-time AGR or Title-10 Oregon National Guard members is to steer clear of these kinds of endorsements. M-Day or Drill Status Guardsmen should be okay, as long as they conduct these kinds of activities in a purely civilian status, without any references or representation to their National Guard affiliation. However, just to be safe, it is always best for everyone to seek guidance from their chain of command and/or direct supervisor.

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