The Post-Election Politwoops of 2012


The three twoopsters on the Sunlight Foundation's Politwoops site.‘Tis the season to lick election-loss wounds by covering your tracks. Since the November elections, our Politwoops project has kept an eye on how members of Congress and candidates communicate with the public through Twitter. We catch the tweets they hoped you didn’t see and surface any deletions that aren’t simply a mispelling, broken link or a retweet that the original person removed. We do this to comply with Twitter’s terms of service, but also to keep the site a clearly moderated window into the messaging world of political campaigns and power in Washington.

Throughout 2012 campaigns amassed followers and utilized Twitter as another medium to encourage votes for each candidate. Following the election these accounts take any number of turns, some becoming campaign accounts of the newly elected members, some transitioning to personal accounts for unsuccessful candidates and others deleted completely. As the 113th Congress is sworn in, let’s review a few fun examples.

Many losing campaigns took the easy way out with an unceremonious deletion, wiping any and all trace of unsuccessful bids for office. These include:

  • Brendan Doherty (Republican candidate, RI-1) – deleted account @Doherty2012 on December 8th
  • Dan Sebring (Republican candidate, WI-4) – deleted account @NoMoore2012 on December 9th
  • Dr. Syed Taj (Democratic candidate, MI-11) – deleted account @TajforCongress on December 9th
  • Jamie Wall (Democratic candidate, WI-8) – deleted account @WallforCongress on December 11th
  • Pat Kreitlow (Democratic candidate, WI-7) – deleted account @PatKreitlow on December 15th
  • Rep. Denny Rehberg (Republican candidate, MT Senate) – deleted account @Rehberg2012 on December 16th
  • Rep. Denny Rehberg (Republican candidate, MT Senate) – deleted official account @DennyRehberg on December 16th
  • Matt Doheny (Republican candidate, NY-21) – deleted official account @Doheny4Congress on December 22nd
  • Rep. Mary Bono Mack (Republican candidate, CA-25) – deleted official account @Rep_BonoMack on December 28th

Sometimes even winning candidates remove their campaign accounts, as Angus King, the successful independent candidate from Maine, did to his @AngusKing2012 account, still linked to on his campaign site, on December 3rd. Shortly after Election Day, the official @TeamRomney account retweeted a question “Is Anton in the Cool Room?” that was quickly removed, but not before we poked around and found this photo of said “Cool Room.”

Screenshots of Paul Sadler's twitter account changing from his campaign @SadlerTX to @ForwardTX.The Sunlight Foundation was instrumental in getting franking rules changed to allow members of Congress to tweet and we’re fascinated to watch political messages get crafted and reshaped. One noteworthy shifting of shapes occurred when Paul Sadler, the unsuccessful Democrat who ran for Senate from Texas, slowly deleted his campaign tweets one-by-one and then changed his Twitter handle from @SadlerTX to @ForwardTX, which is now billed as “Progressive opinion and news from the greatest state in the nation” and allowed him to transfer his followers to this new venture. Notice the similarities in the screenshots to the left. In keeping with the Twitter terms of service, since @SadlerTX actively deleted each individual tweet we are able to surface all of his tweets before the makeover – check them out here.

Politwoops was honored as one of the Best Websites of 2012 by TIME Magazine and we look forward to continuing the project in 2013, who knows what deletions will surface! We’ll be removing members of Congress who are no longer in power and adding all the new members as soon as possible. Please let us know if we missed anyone!