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US officials are destroying evidence that they accepted the ice bucket challenge

  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The ice bucket challenge—a charity stunt using viral video and social media to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—has spread to some influential places. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Vogue editor Anna Wintour have doused themselves in icy water to raise funds for research on the fatal neurological disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Former US president George Bush took a bucket to the head from his wife, and nominated his West Wing predecessor, Bill Clinton, to accept the challenge after him.

But current president Barack Obama has steadfastly declined to participate in the spreading trend. And the State Department circulated a memo on Aug 19, mandating that others in government leadership positions do the same:

High ranking state department officials are unfortunately unable to participate in the ice bucket challenge.

This because, the note explains, publicly supporting one charity cause over others, as a high-profile public official, would be using public office for private gain—even if the private gain is charitable.

Similarly, elected officials in Congress are restricted from using official resources to accept the challenge, as per the House ethics manual, which lists a series of limitations on charity endorsements:

Penalties for violations of the code may range from “[d]enial or limitation of any right, power, privilege, or immunity of the Member” to “dismissal from employment, reprimand, fine, or other appropriate sanction.”

A few elected officials had jumped on the ice bucket bandwagon early, sharing YouTube videos of themselves taking the challenge and tweeting out their nominations.

Only to then delete some of the videos and the tweets nominating others for the challenge:

Screen shot via Politwoops.
Screen shot via Politwoops.

But while the videos are mostly gone (Pete Sessions’ is still up on his campaign channel, though his tweet was deleted, for instance) the tweets were harder to expunge from the internet (see the aphorism about pee and swimming pools). Here are some of the deleted tweets, complete with date and time of deletion, via the Sunlight Foundation’s Politwoops archive.

Screen shot of

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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