Abercrombie’s Social Network Links Called Illegal

Gov. Abercrombie's Official State of Hawaii SiteIn his first and only post on the Daily Kos, blogger ZachEdwards calls out seven state governors for breaking laws with their social networks. The assorted web links posted on the sites and profiles of Gov. Neil Abercrombie were singled out as among the “most egregious,” and he was the only Democrat in the bunch.

“I analyzed the official websites of all the governors and their social networks and determined that seven of them are breaking the law by promoting their political campaigns with taxpayer resources,” ZachEdwards explains in a comment on another post. He points out that prominent Politico blogger Ben Smith linked to his analysis as proof that “it’s not total crap.”

While laws in each state are different, ZachEdwards says “common sense ethics laws” require a separation between websites and social network accounts used during campaigning and fundraising, and those used as an elected official. If brand new accounts are not created, existing accounts need to be “scrubbed of all references to their political campaign.”

Under “Democratic Governors linking to campaign social networks from their taxpayer-funded official websites,” he writes:

Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie is clearly in need of someone informing him that state resources can’t be used for his political campaign – I don’t know where to start. His official website links to a campaign Facebook page that was “transitioned” to his official page, but it still contains links to his campaign website and a tab to donate to his political campaign. The official website also links to a “transitioned” campaign Twitter account that has his campaign wallpaper and a link to his campaign website, as well as a dormant campaign UStream account. Governor Abercrombie’s campaign YouTube account has now apparently been “transitioned” to an official account, so there is a mix of campaign videos and his official videos as governor— it’s a big mess. The YouTube account also has a link to his political campaign. To his credit, Governor Abercrombie is now linking to an official Flickr account.

To be sure, Gov. Abercrombie and his staff probably have significantly more pressing matters to deal with than updating websites, Twitter accounts, and Facebook profiles. And as ZachEdwards notes, handling the “transition” from candidate to public servant is immensely complicated in the digital realm. But Abercrombie’s campaign had prided itself on its social media savvy, which was credited with helping him win the election.

Is ZachEdwards making a mountain out of a molehill, with outdated websites a perennial and unavoidable problem throughout government? Do social networks and concepts like “personal branding” simply conflict with laws that require a clear separation between two sides of the same person?

Ryan Ozawa

Ryan Kawailani Ozawa has immersed himself in new technologies and online communities since the days before the web. From running a dial-up BBS in the early '90s to exploring today’s dynamic world of "Web 2.0" and social media, he has long embraced and evangelized the ways in which technology can bring people together.