Examining a Questionable Political Tweet by the AIA
@AIALobbyist’s Twitter page.
On Sunday, the American Institute of Architects’ branch devoted to governmental issues and advocacy tweeted its congratulations to Newt Gingrich on winning the South Carolina GOP primary. The @AIALobbyist tweet read: “Congrats to #Newt on SC win . . . But more importantly, go #Giants!!!” This was the first time @AIALobbyist had congratulated a specific candidate.
A lot of people tweet about political candidates. The issue here, however, is that the AIA’s Washington D.C.-based lobbying arm represents the professional interests of nearly 90,000 members. And while the @AIALobbyist Twitter feed is managed by one person—Andrew Goldberg, the institute’s chief federal lobbyist—the feed presumably represents the general opinions of the AIA.
So is the AIA now endorsing political candidates? When this question was posted on Twitter on Sunday night, @AIALobbyist responded that the “AIA does not endorse candidates; aialobbyist does endorse giants." In another tweet, @AIALobbyist stated: “Just to reassure congrats 2 santorum 4 ia, romney 4 nh, obama 4 winning dem primaries, and alabama for natl title.” When I contacted the AIA on Monday for further comment, John Schneidawind, AIA’s director of media relations and public affairs, told me that Goldberg had no comment about the tweets.
According to Schneidawind, the AIA as an official body does not endorse political candidates, including presidential ones. “We just try to make sure our members are aware of all the issues that could impact our profession,” he says. “We never endorse candidates, no matter what level.”
The AIA's CEO and executive vice president, Robert Ivy, was not available for comment, but spokesperson Scott Frank characterized the tweet as a joke. “You can congratulate somebody on a marriage even though you think it’s a bad idea,” he added. “It’s certainly not an endorsement.”
The AIA does, however, contribute money to U.S. congressional candidates, for both the House and Senate, through its bipartisan political action committee, ArchiPAC. A few well-known recipients of ArchiPAC contributions for the 2009-2010 election cycle included Rep. John Boehner (R.), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.), Senator Harry Reid (D.), and Senator Ken Salazar (D.), who later joined the Obama Administration as Secretary of the Interior. Due to Federal Election Commission rules, the PAC cannot make contributions to presidential campaigns.
So, while the AIA doesn’t officially endorse candidates, it does support congressional leaders through its PAC. And that tweet about Newt? I suppose it was about the Giants, after all.
Guy Horton is a contributor to Architectural Record, Archinect, GOOD Magazine, and other publications. His book The Real Architect's Handbook: Things I Didn't Learn in Architecture School was published in 2011. You can follow him on Twitter at @guyhorton.