Ice-Bucket Buzzkill: Lawmakers, Government Officials Can’t Participate

By Scott Wilson

Aug 21, 2014 7:20pm
HT ted cruz jef 140821 16x9 608 Ice Bucket Buzzkill: Lawmakers, Government Officials Cant Participate

(Ted Cruz/YouTube)

Government officials may soon find themselves in hot water if they continue to insist on dumping buckets of ice on their heads.

Participation in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has swept the country in recent weeks–and has even reached the halls of Congress.

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From Sen. Ted Cruz’s theatrical ice bucket dumping to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s plunge into the frigid Alaskan waters, politicians across the United States are seizing the opportunity to get drenched for charity.

 

Even Vice President Biden tweeted about the ALS Challenge–though he opted out of the ice water.

 

But unfortunately for our nation’s charity-loving federal officials—it appears that promoting a private charity through official communications might be against the law.

Today the Associated Press obtained a State Department cable telling high-ranking officials that they are not permitted to participate in the ALS Challenge, because it violate ethics regulations.

“There are firmly established rules preventing the use of public office, such as our ambassadors, for private gain, no matter how worthy a cause,” the cable said. “Thus, high-ranking State Department officials are unfortunately unable to participate in the ice bucket challenge.”

And it’s not just diplomats who are being prevented from taking part in the challenge. According to the Military Times, the Department of Defense has barred all employees and all current service members from taking the ALS Challenge while in uniform.

The Department of Defense General Counsel told employees that “participating in this event is subject to concerns about implied endorsement”–the same concerns voiced by the State Department and even the House of Representatives.

Politico reported that the House Administration Committee sent an email alerting House Representatives that posting ALS Challenge videos to official accounts amounts to an ethical violation.

“No doubt, this is for an admirable cause. There is a prohibition in the Members Handbook and in the Ethics Manual on the use of official resources for the promotion or benefit of any private charitable cause,” the committee told representatives.

Either members of Congress don’t read their emails over August recess, or the warning did not have much of an impact.

Despite being notified that promoting ALS Association through official accounts is against the law, some politicians have proceeded to promote the charity anyway (though not explicitly soliciting donations for the cause).

 

The House Administration Committee did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The office of the Committee’s Chair Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., also would not comment on the matter.

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