NationNation Now

State Department throws wet blanket on Ice Bucket Challenge

U.S. Department of StateRoman CatholicismGovernmentGeorge W. Bush
High-ranking officials 'unfortunately unable to participate' in Ice Bucket Challenge, State Department says

U.S. State Department officials have put a damper on high-ranking officials who might be getting swept up in the Ice Bucket Challenge frenzy currently being tapped to raise money for ALS research.

“High-ranking State Department officials are unfortunately unable to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge,” said spokeswoman Marie Harf at a State Department press briefing Thursday. “

“Federal government ethics rules prevent us from using our public offices ... for private gain, no matter how worthy the cause is,” Harf said, adding that, “This is, of course, a worthy cause.”

Harf's comments came after reports of a diplomatic cable that was sent to all U.S. missions, which highlighted the department's global mandate to fight disease. "It is often difficult for us, as concerned citizens, to pick and choose among many worthy charities," the memo read. "It is even more difficult when high-ranking State Department personnel with high-profile positions are asked to participate" in fundraising.

Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, was one of the State Department officials who apparently participated in the challenge, though a video of his ice bucket soaking has since been set to private. Harf said she doesn’t expect Shapiro or others to face disciplinary action.

The challenge involves participants dousing themselves (or their friends) with buckets of ice water on video and posting them to social media. The idea is to challenge others to do the same or else donate money to research for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. (Many of the ice bucket dunkers have been donating, anyway).

After the movement picked up steam last week, the ALS Assn., one of the organizations raising funds for the cause, has reported raising more than $41 million.

Celebrities and politicians alike have participated in the challenge, although some politicos have taken to scrubbing evidence of their Ice Bucket Challenges from the Internet, according to an archive of deleted tweets compiled by Politwoops.

Other famous bucket dunkers include former President George W. Bush, and Kennedy family matriarch Ethel Kennedy, who in turn challenged President Obama.

Obama declined to participate, a spokesman told the Associated Press, but instead made an undisclosed donation to an ALS organization.

The State Department is not the only organization trying to dampen participation in the challenge this week: A Roman Catholic diocese in Ohio said it would not donate to the ALS Assn., saying that while the organization “does many good works,” it supports embryonic stem cell research, a research method many Catholics oppose.

On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s schools superintendent did participate in an Ice Bucket Challenge, but donated the money instead to a medical research institute that does not use embryonic stem cells.

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
U.S. Department of StateRoman CatholicismGovernmentGeorge W. Bush
  • White House intruder arrested after entering front doors
    White House intruder arrested after entering front doors

    An intruder scaled a White House fence and made it all the way into the building Friday evening before he was caught and wrestled to the ground by security officers, the Secret Service said. President Obama and his family had already left for Camp David when the incident occurred.

  • Man who killed daughter and grandchildren had violent past
    Man who killed daughter and grandchildren had violent past

    Don Spirit, a Florida grandfather who fatally shot his daughter Sarah Lorraine Spirit and six grandchildren before killing himself, had a long history of domestic violence — at one point pushing his pregnant daughter against a refrigerator and assaulting and threatening his former...

  • Rain pounds Texas: A sign the drought is ending?
    Rain pounds Texas: A sign the drought is ending?

    In Texas, where the governor once urged the public to pray for rain, this week’s torrential storms might finally be a sign of lasting relief for the state plagued by years of drought. Or maybe not.

  • For many in Congress, a first test on issues of war
    For many in Congress, a first test on issues of war

    Lawmakers' votes this week on whether or not to train and equip Syrian opposition forces in the fight against Islamic State were arguably the most consequential after nearly two years in which Congress is likely to set a new low for productivity.

  • Egyptian militant admits links to 1998 U.S. embassy bombings

    A longtime Egyptian militant with ties to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden admitted in federal court Friday that he had links to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, a surprise guilty plea that the judge sharply questioned because it reduces his prison time from a potential life sentence to...

  • Four takeaways from the vote in Congress to arm Syrian rebels
    Four takeaways from the vote in Congress to arm Syrian rebels

    What was supposed to be a no-drama final session of Congress before the campaign season turned into anything but as President Obama's new strategy to combat the threat from Islamic State resulted in a wrenching vote that is likely to reverberate through the midterm election and...