Paul L. Caron

Saturday, December 31, 2011

What If the IRS Asked Website Visitors to 'Like' President Obama on Facebook?

Facebook LikeMary O'Keeffe (Union College) agreed to let me share her interesting post today on the TaxProf email discussion group with the broader tax community:

I was shocked when I went to the (normally sedate) New York State Tax Department website this morning. About 20% of the real estate on their front page was given to a rather garish promotion from Gov Cuomo's office concerning issues that had little to do with tax policy (a press release about the upcoming State of the State message and an announcement that the governor is reopening the ice skating rink near the State Capitol for public skating.)
Most egregiously, there was an instruction to "Like" Gov. Cuomo on Facebook. ... I was taken aback at the notion that the NYS Tax Dept would tell me to "like" the governor.
One can only imagine the outraged reaction if the IRS website frontpage encouraged taxpayers to "like" President Obama and used up 20% of the space on the page to promote him!
The equivalent at the state level seems equally inappropriate to me.  I am interested in whether others agree.

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I assume the Republican's "outraged reaction" would serve as proof of their racism.
Who are we kidding, as a Democratic President and Obama to boot, there would be no major newspaper or TV coverage and the story would just go away.

Posted by: lobo | Dec 31, 2011 6:09:13 PM

Thanks, you just gave the Obamatrons an idea.

Posted by: amenjohnson | Dec 31, 2011 6:34:54 PM

That's just creepy. I'd be very uncomfortable with it, even if the governor in question was someone with whom I agreed politically.

Posted by: Wacky Hermit | Dec 31, 2011 6:38:04 PM

Agree with O'Keeffe. The instruction to "like" the governor (or the president) would not be so objectionable, however, if Facebook offered a "detest" option.

Posted by: Jake | Dec 31, 2011 6:42:36 PM

I agree.

Posted by: Darren | Dec 31, 2011 6:42:46 PM

You know why they haven't asked us to "like" BHC? They hadn't thought of it!

Posted by: Steven | Dec 31, 2011 6:48:24 PM

Only if included a prominent picture of Governor Dearest.

Posted by: M. Report | Dec 31, 2011 6:50:41 PM

I agree, that's pretty creepy.

Posted by: Zilla | Dec 31, 2011 7:01:52 PM

No. It would have been inappropriate if President George W. Bush had done it. It will be inappropriate if some future Republican president does it. But it would be totally appropriate, and way cool, too, for President Barack H. Obama to do it.

In fact, President Obama is so awesome that Facebook should automatically have each of us "like" him and "friend" him, and they should put the opt-out options on the IRS website.

Posted by: Murgatroyd | Dec 31, 2011 7:08:15 PM

If they had a "dislike" option they might get more response...

Posted by: Phil in Englewood | Dec 31, 2011 7:13:01 PM

Mary is right to be shocked. Whether at national, state, county, or city level the "government" at that level should be totally neutral to their elected leader. Anything else is breaking through the traditional separations of three branches inherent in many of these tiers of government.

Go get 'em Mary!

Posted by: Frank M | Dec 31, 2011 7:24:54 PM

Actually, the White House website almost does just that.
Sometime this year the WH changed the frontpage of their government/taxpayer owned website. First time visitors are now greeted with a signup asking you for your e-mail under the heading Stay Informed. If you don't want to give your email you click the No Thanks- Go to the Website button on the lower righthand corner. They put cookies on your computer so you only see it once unless you remove your cookies. I tried to publicize this but no one seemed to care.

Posted by: Granny Jan | Dec 31, 2011 8:05:57 PM

This "outrage" reminds me of 1995 when people rightly worried there would be ads everywhere on the Internet, So don't use facebook?

Posted by: TomH | Dec 31, 2011 8:27:49 PM

They should ask if we "liked" tax hikes.

Posted by: Woody | Dec 31, 2011 8:41:58 PM

Facebook is a Web-based fad.

And the more it is used - and abused (ala Myspace) - the madness of the crowd will quickly fade like a plucked summer-dry pink rose.

Other than that - yes - it is creepy & sad that a public official would request on-line support.
Why it must be lonely and tough spending other people’s money...

Posted by: Zexufang | Dec 31, 2011 9:32:02 PM

The underlying question is deeply misleading:

"there was an instruction to "Like" Gov. Cuomo on Facebook." That is simply untrue. Posting a link is not an "instruction". It is an option to link to Facebook.

The implication of "instruction" is that you are directed to become a supporter of Gov. Cuomo. And that's not the case at all.

It appears that the New York State Department of Taxation is an executive agency, with a direct reporting structure to the Governor. So whats the problem with posting content from the Governors office?

Posted by: danheskett | Dec 31, 2011 10:00:45 PM

The people who would "like" Obama don't pay taxes, so it would be a waste of space to put it on the IRS site.

Posted by: Diggs | Dec 31, 2011 11:29:26 PM

I have no problems with an "instavote" and that's because I don't fear voting "negative."
If someone wants persecute me for that, then I consider myself blessed.

Posted by: Anga2010 | Dec 31, 2011 11:32:01 PM

Sounds like Gov Cuomo is just the kind of person we DON'T need in the White House.

Posted by: teapartydoc | Jan 1, 2012 6:57:52 AM

Diggs wins the award for the best comment.

Posted by: Woody | Jan 1, 2012 8:30:18 AM

It's not just the state Department of Taxation and Finance. The Governor's people have placed what appears to be a widget on many state agency web sites, including the Department of Labor, the Department of State, etc.

So people who were concerned that this was only going on at Taxation and Finance can rest easy...the Governor's people are using all of state government's resources to promote his agenda.

This is somewhat ironic, coming from an administration whose slogan is "WE WORK FOR THE PEOPLE."


Posted by: Biff | Jan 1, 2012 9:13:32 AM

We shouldn't be supprised at this he runs all kinds of Tv adds to promote all kinds of crap that Joe Bruno set up. He vilanised state employee's denied them raises only to give the higher paid manegmentconfidential a5% raise along with his cronnies.

Posted by: e bitt | Jan 1, 2012 9:28:50 AM

The NY Department of Corrections website has a photo of Cuomo, but no way to "like" him on Facebook.

Posted by: Bob | Jan 1, 2012 10:40:31 AM

Yes, creepy.
They are supposed to be working for us, right?

Posted by: tyree | Jan 1, 2012 10:46:24 AM

Indiana's Department of Revenue has a prominently displayed link at the top to the home page of Governor Mitch Daniels, where you can find YouTube videos of the non-Presidential candidate.

Posted by: Bob | Jan 1, 2012 11:00:19 AM

Is this a legal use of public resources? Seems like the governor's campaign apparatus has seized the home page of a public resource site to promote the otherwise unrelated doings of an incumbent.

Posted by: John | Jan 2, 2012 7:52:53 AM

This is outrageous but I wonder if the Govenor even knows about it (not that I am in any way defending him).

Posted by: mark | Jan 2, 2012 10:15:18 AM

One would have to be quite hard up for friends to like with President Obummer or the IRS.

Posted by: Steven M Harris | Jan 2, 2012 3:18:39 PM