Governance, Ethics and General

Political Activity and Lobbying

Section: Governance, Ethics and General Policies
Policy Name: Political Activity and Lobbying
Policy Owner: Vice President and General Counsel
Responsible University Office: Office of General Counsel
Origination Date: December 2, 2020
Legacy Policy Number: New
    The University of Delaware (the “University”) is committed to the full, open, and civil discussion of a broad range of ideas, perspectives, and opinions and encourages members of the University community to be active and engaged citizens, to express political views, to exercise their right to vote and to participate in the electoral process.

    At the same time, the University’s Charter states the University shall never be managed or conducted in the interest of any party, sect or denomination, and as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the University is prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to all campaigns, including campaigns at the federal, state, and local level, and is absolute. Violations of our stipulated policy on Political Activity could result in the University losing its tax-exempt status.

    The University engages in a limited amount of Lobbying Activity as permitted by law and subject to the oversight and approval of the Office of Federal Relations and the Office of Government Relations.  Any Lobbying Activity on University matters must be authorized by the relevant University government relations office.  Violation of the rules regarding Lobbying Activity could result in the University being subject to financial penalty or, in extreme situations, loss of its tax-exempt status.

    It is important to remember that the prohibition on Political Activity and the restrictions on Lobbying Activity apply only to the University and persons acting for the University, not to the activities of individual University Community Members in their private capacities.  Indeed, this policy is not intended to restrict free expression on political matters or matters of government policy or legislation by University Community Members as individuals independent of their formal roles and responsibilities at the University.  Similarly, the policy does not prohibit the University from having contact with individuals who are candidates for public office.  However, the policy does impose significant limitations on the University or those acting in official capacities on the University’s behalf and the use of University Resources to support or subsidize such activities.

    It is the policy of the University that Political Activity by University Community Members, as individuals on their personal time, should be encouraged. Moreover, every individual associated with the University has the right to organize and to join political associations and to advocate and publicize political opinions on their personal time, so long as they do not use University Resources or act in a manner that might suggest that they are speaking for the University.

    Due to the University’s Charter and statutory restrictions placed on Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, the University may not engage in Political Activity, and University Resources may not be used in any way to suggest University endorsement or support of or opposition to any candidate for public office or any political party.

    Individual Political Activities of University Community Members, including campaigning for or against candidates, must be kept separate and distinct from work or educational activities by University Community Members conducted for or on behalf of the University.

    The University is permitted to engage in Lobbying Activities and to encourage others to do so, within certain limits with no risk to its tax-exempt status.  The University’s Office of Federal Relations oversees all Lobbying Activities related to U.S. and foreign governments and agencies.  The University’s Office of Government Relations oversees all Lobbying Activities related to State and local governments and agencies.  In order to comply with Federal (IRS and Congressional) and State limits and reporting obligations for Lobbying Activities, the Office of Government Relations must approve all Lobbying related to State or local matters and the Office of Federal Relations must approve all Lobbying Activities on behalf of the University connected with the U.S. or any foreign government or agency.  These Offices will ensure that any approved Lobbying Activities and lobbying expenditures are tracked for required reporting.

    University Community Members may be asked by their professional associations or community groups to participate in Lobbying Activities. In such cases, unless the Lobbying Activity is approved as described in the preceding paragraph, University Community Members must ensure that others understand they are acting solely as an individual or on behalf of a professional association or community group and that they are not acting on behalf of the University.

    In the event that a University Community Member’s University title or affiliation is to be listed in any publication or communication that is part of a Lobbying Activity, a disclaimer should be added to the publication or communication that states “University titles or affiliations are listed for identification purposes only; the identified individual does not speak for the University.”

    The University will not provide any financial support or University Resources for unapproved Lobbying Activities.

  3. POLICY STANDARDS AND PROCEDURESWhile the federal tax law prohibition on Political Activity does not apply to University Community Members as individuals, it is essential that any individual activity not be attributed to the University. University Community Members or other individuals who choose to engage in Political Activity must do so on their own time and with their own resources. It is also essential that Lobbying Activity conducted on behalf of the University be authorized and tracked as described in this policy. All University Community Members are responsible for adhering to the policy statement above and policy standards and procedures identified in the remaining sections of this policy.
      1. No one may use University Resources in connection with Political Activity which is defined under the Internal Revenue Code as directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office. In other contexts, Federal Election Law and State laws may have other definitions of Political Activity that will apply depending on the activity.
      2. No one may engage in any political fundraising activities while on University premises and no one may use University Resources to make or transmit personal campaign contributions, including in-kind contributions of services (g., copying, postage) or facilities.
      3. As part of an educational activity in a course, faculty may include assignments for students to become involved with political campaigns or policy groups. Such academic activities are permissible so long as the activities are truly educational, students have the option to choose the candidates they work for, and the University does not control their campaign work.
      4. University employees (faculty, staff, or student employees) who desire to participate in Political Activity during normal working hours must follow established University policies (for their type of employment) to seek approval for personal leave to do so.
      5. Anyone associated with the University who wishes to assume an official position with a campaign (e., treasurer, member of a campaign advisory committee, etc.) or run for or hold political office must:
        1. Notify their supervisor, Human Resources, as well as the Office of Government Relations and the Office of Federal Relations in advance;
        2. Make it clear that such participation is in their individual capacity by using their personal contact information (personal email, cell phone, and/or home address) for campaign-related correspondence;
        3. Request that the campaign make no reference to their position with the University;
        4. Must use vacation time for conducting any campaign activities during normal working hours; and
        5. Ensure that no action should be taken that might implicate the University, as an organization, in Political Activity.
      6. Links to candidate websites or other partisan political organizations are prohibited from being provided on the University’s website, except as part of curricular materials that are nonpartisan and through career services offered to students in a nonpartisan manner. The IRS considers information posted on the University’s website, including a link to other websites, equivalent to the distribution of printed material, oral statements, or broadcasts even if the University does not have control over the content of the linked site.
      1. Before engaging in any Lobbying Activity on behalf of the University, approval must be obtained from (1) the Office of Government Relations for lobbying state or local governmental entities and (2) the Office of Federal Relations for lobbying federal or foreign governmental entities.
      2. Before approving a Lobbying Activity, the Office of Government Relations or the Office of Federal Relations may consult the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, the Provost, and/or the Vice President and General Counsel, as necessary.
      3. The Offices of Government Relations and Federal Relations will ensure Lobbying Expenditures are tracked for required reporting.
      4. It is the responsibility of the University employee to provide information and reports to the relevant government relations office as requested, including filing a quarterly internal web form to account for time spent on Lobbying Activities and any expenses associated with Lobbying Activity.
      1. To avoid being characterized as Political Campaign Intervention, University communications and statements on advocacy issues should not:
        1. identify any candidates for a given public office;
        2. express approval or disapproval for any candidate’s positions and/or actions;
        3. be delivered close in time to the election;
        4. make reference to voting or an election; or
        5. focus on an issue that has been raised as distinguishing between candidates as a means of implicitly endorsing or opposing a political candidate.
      2. Ideally, the communication should be part of an ongoing series of communications on the same issue that are made independent of the timing of any election.
      3. Communications on matters of public policy may be considered Lobbying Activity. For example, if timing of the communication is close to a non-electoral event such as a scheduled vote on specific legislation by an officeholder who also happens to be a candidate for public office, the communication will likely be considered Lobbying Activity.
      4. The University needs to be vigilant in its efforts to ensure that both the University and University Community Members (when acting in a capacity of representing the University) remain Nonpartisan with respect to all political candidates and not evince bias favoring one candidate over another, oppose a candidate in some manner, or engage in actions that have the effect of favoring or opposing a specific candidate or group of candidates in an election.
      1. Students, faculty, and staff of the University may display political signs in their University-owned residences (including in windows), provided such display complies with other University policies governing display of posters or signs on campus, as applicable.
      2. Display of political signs on or in University-owned property (including buildings, grounds, campus roadways and sidewalks, and vehicles), other than in student, faculty, or staff residences on campus, is not permitted.
      3. For purposes of this policy, political signs include signs, posters, banners and any other written communication that directly or indirectly support or oppose any: candidate for elective public office; ballot initiative, referendum, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure; or legislation by federal, state, or local governing bodies (including acts, bill, resolutions, or legislative confirmation of appointive office).
      Nonpartisan Political Activities such as properly organized voter registration activities, voter education programs, and candidate debates may be permissible if they do not evidence a preference for or opposition to a political party or to candidates who have taken a particular position.
      1. Requests for Rentals of University Facilities by University-related Organizations.
        University-related organizations composed solely of University Community Members may sponsor or utilize available University building space to engage in partisan political campaign activities within the University community if the following conditions are satisfied:

        1. A disclaimer must be made at the beginning of any on-campus political event (and in any printed materials or advertising) that the University does not support or oppose candidates for political office, that the opinions expressed are not those of the University, and that a University-related organization has sponsored the event.
        2. University or college banners may not be displayed; University-related group banners may be displayed. All plans, publicity, and other information relating to the use of University marks must be approved in advance by the University’s Office for Communications and Marketing.
        3. Admission to speaker appearances must be open to the University community and, if the sponsoring organization chooses (in compliance with other applicable University policies), the general public, without regard to the attendees’ party affiliations or support of any particular candidate. Admission may not be controlled by speakers, campaign staff, or any other person or organization not affiliated with the University.
        4. A candidate’s appearance or presentation cannot be used to collect campaign or other political contributions or commitments from members of the audience.
        5. The University may allow representatives of the news media to be present during a speaker’s appearance, but only if access is permitted in a politically neutral manner. Media coverage may not be directed or controlled by speakers, campaign staff, or any other person or organization not affiliated with the University.
      2. Requests for Rental of University Facilities by Outside Political Groups or Campaigns.
        Under limited circumstances, University facilities may be used by groups outside the University community provided that such use does not interfere with the normal activities of the University.Rental of University facilities by outside political groups or campaigns for speeches, rallies, or fund-raisers is subject to the same rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and fees associated with any other contractual rental. No non-standard discounts or privileges may be granted to political campaigns or candidates who rent University facilities.  In addition, if approved, the below conditions must be complied with:

        1. If facilities are made available to one candidate or political party, the facilities must be made available to all others on equal terms and conditions, which include any limitations on the availability of particular facilities, due to the scheduling of other events, at the time a candidate or party makes a request.
        2. No University logos, banners or backdrops identifying the University shall be visible in front or behind any candidate. Further any podium used shall not identify the University.
        3. Announcements and advertisements of the appearance must bear the name of the sponsoring organization and must clearly indicate that the University does not support or oppose candidates for public office and the opinions expressed at the appearance are not those of the University.
        4. Admission must be open to all University Community Members. Admission may not be restricted in any way on the basis of the political affiliation or views of attendees.
        5. Candidate appearances on campus will be limited to the designated speaking/meeting site.
        6. A candidate’s appearance or presentation cannot be used to collect campaign or other political contributions or commitments from members of the audience.
        7. The University may permit the presence of news media personnel during the appearance, but only if media access is permitted in a politically neutral manner. Media coverage and management must be coordinated with the University’s Office for Communications and Marketing.
        8. If additional assistance is needed or required from University staff in the University Police Department; Campus and Public Safety; Facilities, Real Estate, & Auxiliary Services; or Information Technology, or other offices beyond what is normally encompassed in the base rental fee, an appropriate fee for this staffing will be charged.

      If the University or a University-related organization invites a candidate to speak in a non-candidate capacity, it must ensure that:

      1. The candidate is chosen to speak solely for reasons other than candidacy for public office;
      2. The candidate speaks only in a non-candidate capacity;
      3. Neither the candidate nor any representative of the organization makes any mention of the individual’s candidacy or the election;
      4. No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate’s attendance;
      5. The organization maintains a nonpartisan atmosphere on the premises or at the event where the candidate is present; and
      6. The organization clearly indicates the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and does not mention the individual’s political candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate’s attendance at the event.
    As used in this policy, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated.

    1. “Lobbying Activity” is, in general, the attempt to influence the formulation, modification, or adoption of Federal, State, local or foreign legislation (including legislative proposals); and the formulation, modification, or adoption of a rule, regulation, Executive order, or any other program, policy, or position of a government or government agency. The definition of lobbying differs for purposes of the University’s compliance with the Internal Revenue Code from its compliance with U.S. laws on lobbying of Congress and the Executive Branch.  With some exceptions, lobbying includes direct and grassroots (indirect) efforts.
      1. A direct lobbying contact is any attempt to influence any legislation through communication with: (i) any member or employee of a legislative body; or (ii) any government official or employee (other than a member of employee of a legislative body), including members of the executive branch, who may participate in the formulation of the legislation, but only if the principal purpose of the communication is to influence legislation.
      2. Grassroots lobbying is any attempt to influence any legislation through an attempt to affect the opinions of the general public or any segment of the general public. Key elements of grassroots lobbying include a reference to specific legislation or government rule, reflecting or stating a point of view on the legislation’s or rule’s merits, and encouraging the recipient of the communication to take action with respect to such legislation or rule, such as by contacting legislators or regulators.
      3. Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. Legislation does not, however, include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.
      4. “Lobbying Expenditures” means any expenditures paid or incurred for Lobbying Activity. The specific inclusion or exclusion of expenditure can vary based on relevant lobbying laws.  For example, under Internal Revenue Service regulations, lobbying expenditures include paid time spent on Lobbying Activities as well as allocable overhead and administrative costs.
    2.  “Nonpartisan” and “Nonpartisan Political Activity” refers to activities or events that offer balanced, neutral, or impartial viewpoints and perspectives on issues of public concern and do not evince a bias for or against a particular political party or candidate.
    3. “Political Campaign Intervention” or participation in a political campaign refers to engaging in an activity that supports or opposes one or more candidates for public office at the federal, state, or local level, such as political campaign contributions made by a 501(c)(3) organization or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. These activities would be considered clear instances of prohibited political intervention and by engaging in them, the organization would clearly put its tax-exempt status in jeopardy. Depending on the facts and circumstances, however, an organization can also be found to have participated or intervened in a political campaign through such actions as providing facilities or other assets to a candidate or campaign, lending employees to serve as campaign volunteers, engaging in voter registration efforts, or hosting debates or candidate forums.
    4. “University Community Members” includes:
      1. All University employees, including faculty, staff and student-staff, when working for the university or otherwise engaged in activities that are in the course and scope of their employment;
      2. Individuals who perform services for the University as volunteers, including alumni, trustees, and others;
      3. Students; and
      4. Other individuals or entities who represent the University.
    5. “University Resources” refers to all University assets of any kind, including but not limited to:
      1. The name, logo, or other identifying marks of the University;
      2. University-owned, leased, or rented facilities or vehicles;
      3. University services (g., mail, procurement, catering);
      4. Supplies or services purchased with University funds (g., paper, university letterhead, office supplies, postage, consultant or contractor time);
      5. Mailing lists, printers, photocopiers, telephones, email systems, computers, websites, databases, or other information technology resources that are owned, leased, or rented by the university;
      6. Faculty, staff or student-staff time, when they are working for the university or are otherwise engaged in activities that are in the course and scope of their employment;
      7. University or monetary resources such as budgets, designated or carryover funds, gift or grant funds, petty cash, or monetary deposits or receipts; and
      8. The University’s sales tax exemption for purchase of goods or services.