Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Twitter Account Term Limits

There's a common theme when serving in a position of public trust and that is that you don't take advantage of your position or title for personal gain.  This means not just financial gain, but also any kind of gain pertaining to right or privilege.  I would argue this also includes the Twitter following you stand to gain when you serve in public office.

We all know that a position of elected office is not an honor you are born with, but something you have to campaign for.  You accept that position with an understanding that you server for a specified term and then your term is over and, depending on the term limits, you might be able to run for re-election or you can move on.

What's interesting is how these Twitter accounts that should have otherwise "died" continue to be used after the account holder has left office.

Retired US Senator Tom Harkin nicely illustrates what a Twitter account that has reached the end of its term might ideally look like:

Harkin even included his farewell speech, but what's important is that nothing was posted after his final day in office, which was on January 3, 2015.  You wouldn't find it acceptable for Harkin or any other elected official to continue using government letterhead to send written communications after leaving office or for them to sneak into their old office to use the phone to make phone calls?  Well, that's what is happening with the public Twitter accounts they create.

For example, US Representative Ron Paul posted a few tweets after his final day in office on January 3, 2013.  He wanted to inform readers how to follow him on his private @RonPaul:

Unfortunately, not all elected officials are so wise about the use of their public account.  Here's a list of just a few people I've noticed that created a Twitter account to be used in their official capacity, but continued to use that same account despite the fact they are no longer serving in that position:

@SenCarlLevin - US Senator from Michigan (1979-2015)
@Jim_Moran - US Congressman from Virginia (1991-2015)
@GabbyGiffords - US Representative from Arizona (2007-2012)
@villaraigosa - Mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013)
@mayormcginn - Mayor of Seattle (2010-2014)
@GregNickels - Mayor of Seattle (2002-2010)
@DaveEHeineman - Governor of Nebraska (2005-2015)
@VincentIgnizio - New York City Council Member (2007-7/2015)

Special recognition goes to:
Former Governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley!

@GovernorOMalley served as Governor of Maryland from 2007-2015.  He's currently running for President and he's also benefiting from the same public @GovernorOMalley Twitter account he used while in office.  Look closely and you will notice that he has deleted his entire tweet history and unfollowed any users he may have been following from his public account.  Visitors to the page are instructed to visit @MartinOMalley, which is his current Presidential campaign account.


It's disturbing that O'Malley would delete his entire tweet history. The @GovernorOMalley account was public and the tweets he posted were his to create, but not to destroy.  Visit this link to learn more about the state of Maryland's Public Information Act.

I found it interesting that  during the time O'Malley served as Governor The White House Blog site repeatedly published his private @MartinOMalley account in several government blogs:

President Obama Joins Elected Officials and Student Leaders to Urge #DontDoubleMyRate 
President Obama Delivers Remarks on Immigration 
What They're Saying: The President's Action on Cuba Policy

I would advise the White House staff that it's best to use the public contact information of an elected representative in official government publications.

For further evidence of O'Malley's misuse of Twitter I've provided a examples of how Governor O'Malley used his private @MartinOMalley account to post public tweets all while serving in office:

If you are one of the people that questioned Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct official business, then you should also be questioning why a public official would use a private Twitter account to reach out to constituents.