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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Establishing the Commission on Political Activity of Government Personnel.

October 04, 1966

I HAVE TODAY signed S. 1474, a bill which establishes a Commission on Political Activity of Government Personnel.

The Commission's task is to study existing Federal laws--most particularly, the Hatch Act--which limit the political activity of Federal and certain State officers and employees.

The Commission must help us resolve three important questions:

(1) How strictly should the Government limit the political actions of Federal employees?

(2) How tightly should the Federal Government control the political activities of State employees who work primarily in programs financed by Federal funds?

(3) What penalties should be attached to violations of the political activity statutes?

Our answers to these questions must reflect the great value we attach to the integrity of the career civil service and the efficiency of Government administration.

These issues are as old as the Republic itself. They have demanded and received much attention, but no more than they warrant. The political structures which are so vital a part of our system have been strengthened by protection of Government employees against undue political influence and unwise political activity.

President Thomas Jefferson promulgated the first restrictions on the political activity of executive branch personnel in 1801. Our Government was nearly a century old when, in 1883, Congress enacted the Civil Service Act creating the Civil Service Commission and the Civil Service Merit System. In 1939 Congress passed the Hatch Political Activities Act, which is now the principal statute limiting the political activity of Government employees.

The 27 years which have passed since the enactment of this law have been years of unparalleled progress and growth. There have been changes in governmental problems and relationships. There are many who believe that these changes may well have affected or altered the purposes and requirements for limiting partisan political activity of Government employees. The Commission established by this bill will help us to find out whether these advocates of change are right.

The Commission will consist of 12 members. The Speaker and the President of the Senate will appoint four each, and I will appoint the remaining four; not more than half of the members will be from one political party. The bipartisan composition of the Commission and the joint executive-legislative appointments provide the basis for an objective study.

I stated in my letter to Congress transmitting the proposed Election Reform Act of 1966 that "Public confidence in the elective process is the foundation of public confidence in Government." That bill, which could change our present method of financing political campaigns, would be one step in building such confidence. This administration is also undertaking a thorough review of regulations regarding solicitation of political contributions from Federal employees by other Federal employees. The Commission established by this bill will afford us yet another means by which the democratic process and the confidence of the people in that process can be strengthened for the benefit of the entire Nation.

Senator Brewster, the sponsor of S. 1474, deserves great credit for his interest in and dedication to this subject.

Note: As enacted, S. 1474, approved on October 3, 1966, is Public Law 89-617 (80 Stat. 868).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Establishing the Commission on Political Activity of Government Personnel. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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