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At the moment the president election campaign in the US is in the full swing. As a foreign national I am a bit surprised that current US president (Obama) seem to actively participate in agitation. Just as a side note in Russia such behavior is prohibited by law since it is assumed that current president could have too big influence over the people's minds thus it would give too big advantage to specific candidate which he or she supports.

So, can anyone clarify for me please if US have some laws which cover participation of current president (or some other higher-level government member) in the election campaign and agitation?

  • Unfortunately, relevant American laws were written well before Presidents were comfortable with the role of being the President of only the 51% of the country that voted for them at the expense of the rest. Back then, the whole idea of "factions" (what later became parties) was contrary to the country's design – user4012 Jul 18 '16 at 17:46
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    I point out there was a time when presidents did not even campaign for reelection. – user3344003 Jul 18 '16 at 23:18
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The Hatch Act is probably the most relevant law here. It forbids most federal employees in the Executive Branch from supporting any candidate while in on duty (but not while off duty) and forbids soliciting political contributions for a candidate at any time, among other things. However, it specifically excludes the President, Vice President, and certain other high level members of the Executive Branch.

Given that the US has a two party system, the opinion of the current President has only so much impact - voters in the country mostly vote along party lines anyway. The biggest challenge for political parties in the US is not so much to try and sway voters to their side, but rather to try and get voters of their party to show up in bigger numbers on Election Day than voters of the other party - the incumbent President probably has a fairly equivalent impact on both sides in this regard, since he will encourage voters that already support him to vote for his candidate and voters that do not support him to vote for the candidate he does not support.

  • Interesting answer, thanks. Forgot to consider 2-party system which seems as the most important part of the equation – Maksim Khaitovich Jul 18 '16 at 22:22
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    @MaximHaytovich - Yeah... the lack of viable third parties does weird things to our election system. "I'm going to hold my nose and vote for ______" because of party affiliation is unfortunately a thing, among others. – Bobson Jul 18 '16 at 23:46
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    Also worth noting that the Hatch Act doesn't prohibit off-duty support or endorsements by federal employees. – LearnWorkLearn Jul 27 '16 at 20:55
  • I seem to remember a scene in The West Wing where President Bartlett was adamant that he would be making calls pertaining to his ongoing reelection campaign after he was in the Whitehouse residence, and not while he was in the Oval Office, as a matter of ethical principle (even though the practical difference was insignificant, those rooms being a mere staircase apart). – Eikre Aug 1 '16 at 10:54

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