Sunday, May 29, 2011

Has the White House broken the Hatch Act?

Is Twitter campaigning?

It's a question the FEC might want to probe. Barack Obama has a Twitter feed.

No we're not a sitcom actor or Arianna Huffington -- meaning we're not stupid enough to have ever believed Barack Obama does his own Tweets. So when the news broke in November 2009 (here for Marshall Kirkpatrick reporting it at that Barack had declared in a townhall that "I have never used Twitter," we weren't at all surprised.

But the Twitter feed, started after Barack became President of the United States, has managed to fool 8,309,213 people -- or help the fools delude themselves -- that he Tweets.

The White House has used the feed to communicate to citizens. But, uh-oh, you gotta' draw a line between government service and campaigning.

Barack's Tweets

Some might find that third Tweet -- congratulating Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul on her win -- as problematic. Our focus is on that second Tweet, the one right above it, the one that reads: "2012 Battleground States Director Mitch Stewart gives a video briefing on our summer organizing strategy. http://OFABO/8WKBaU" Where does it go?

The re-election page of the Barack Obama presidential campaign (see below).

barry campaign

To a page where you can sign up to volunteer on his campaign or you can click on a button and donate.

Does no one remember the furur over Al Gore using a phone in the White House to fundraise?

March 5, 1997, Democracy Now! (link is audio) addressed it. Then-Vice President Al Gore is quoted, from his March 3, 1997 press conference on the issue, stating of his fund raising efforts, "On a few occasions I made some telephone calls from my office in the White House using a DNC credit card. I was advised there was nothing wrong with that practice. The Hatch Act has a specific provision saying that while federal employees are prohibited from requesting campaign contributions, the president and the vice president are not covered by that act because obviously we are candidates."

David Rabin, then of Public Campaign, explained on the program, "He's accused of soliciting monies from a government office building I think that's the gist of the allegation and he is basically saying that his attorney has advised him there's no controlling legal authority that prevents him from doing that." Rabin said the problem is an appearance of impropriety. But he repeatedly noted he didn't want to talk about the issue of whether or not a crime was committed, he had (he thought) bigger fish to fry and wasted it on a (generic) lecture about campaign financing.

October 6, 1993, then-President Bill Clinton signed the Hatch Act and he declared:

The Federal Employees Political Activities Act, which I'm about to sign, will permit federal employees and postal workers on their own time to manage campaigns, raise funds, to hold positions within political parties. Still, there will be some reasonable restrictions. They wouldn't be able to run for partisan political office themselves, for example, and there will be some new responsibilities, which I applaud the federal employees' unions for embracing and supporting.

While we restore political rights to these millions of citizens, we also hold them to high standards at the federal workplace, where the business of our nation is done will still be strictly off limits to partisan political activity. Workers on the job won't even be allowed to wear political campaign buttons. At the same time, the reforms will maintain restrictions on the activities of workers in the most sensitive positions -- in law enforcement and national security.

That means the Twitter of Barack Obama's is going to need a few changes.

First off, no more Barack Obama pretense. Now that the Twitter feed is being used as a campaign tool, the American people need to know who is writing the Tweets to ensure that the Tweets are not being written on the tax payer's bill or at the federal workplace.

It was never a good idea for the president who has quickly become synomous with lying to pretend he did a Twitter feed. Now that his presidential Twitter feed is being used for partisan campaigning, it's, in fact, dangerous, and possibly illegal.
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