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Politics and Government

What the Twitter accounts of Colorado’s nine members of Congress can tell us about them

Republican Lauren Boebert has more followers on her personal account than the rest of the state’s congressional delegation combined. She’s used that large following to fundraise.

(Unsplash photo)
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Three months into the 117th Congress, first-year U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert is the most visible and vocal of Colorado’s nine members of Congress, at least when it comes to Twitter.

The Garfield County Republican tweeted more often than any of the other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation. Her 775 tweets, most sent from her personal account, represent 23% of the posts sent from the entire delegation since Jan. 1.

Boebert also has more followers on her personal account than the personal accounts of the rest of the delegation combined. She frequently encourages those followers to donate to her campaign.

But the posts haven’t come without controversy, criticism and even legal scrutiny. 

Boebert is being sued in federal court by a constituent who was blocked by the congresswoman’s personal Twitter account. While Boebert is fighting the legal action, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, another first-year congresswoman, settled a similar lawsuit earlier this year. 

Greene agreed to pay $10,000 and stop blocking people from her personal Twitter account.

Only about 23% of adults in the U.S. use Twitter, according to a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this month, and less than half of users visit the site daily. But Annelise Russell, a political scientist at the University of Kentucky, said the Twitter audience is important for politicians.

“Twitter allows you to have a conversation with activists, journalists, influencers,” Russell told The Sun. “What you’re relying on is that journalists, influencers, special interests take that message and convey it further.”

Check out Colorado’s congressional delegation on Twitter.

A Google search on Boebert and Twitter brings up more than 100,000 news articles, many centered on the controversial nature of her typically partisan tweets. Those tweets get plenty of attention, often receiving thousands of likes and retweets. Some are even the subject of news stories.

Nora Benavidez, a lawyer who directs U.S. free expression programs for nonprofit PEN America, said that amplification is the idea.

“The nature of social media is to engage, and the more controversial content is the more engagement it gets,” Benavidez said. “It’s just a vicious cycle, where to boost your own visibility as a leader or influencer, you often will use more incendiary language that can seem polarizing.”

Seeking cash for future campaign

Congressional rules prohibit members from using official social media accounts for personal, political or campaign purposes.

The vast majority of Boebert’s 775 tweets in the first three months of the year – 599 – came from her personal account.

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And Boebert was the only member of the Colorado delegation to use Twitter to solicit donations in the first three months of the year. She shared a link to donate to her campaign 17 times from her personal account. And she reported raising more than $800,000 in the first three months of the year.

The first solicitation for money came on Jan. 5, two days after she was sworn into office, and a day before an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Republican former President Donald Trump. 

“I’m fighting with everything I have to defend our 2A rights!,” Boebert wrote. “I’m standing STRONG for election integrity & objecting to the Electoral College certification! The Democrats want me GONE.”

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert discusses oil and gas policies during a press conference with local news outlets at the Chamber of Congress in Grand Junction on Feb. 19, 2021. (McKenzie Lange, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Boebert’s fundraising in the first three months of the year is equivalent to 28% of the nearly $3 million she raised for her 2020 campaign.  

The haul pales in comparison to the $3.2 million raised by Greene, a conservative colleague of Boebert’s. Greene also uses Twitter to connect with conservatives, but she has 200,000 fewer personal Twitter followers than Boebert. 

This news first appeared in The Unaffiliated. Subscribe here to get the twice-weekly political newsletter from The Colorado Sun.

Greene asked those followers for campaign donations only four times in the first three months of the year.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Kerry Donovan, one of Boebert’s Democratic opponents in 2022, requested campaign cash 14 of the 370 times she tweeted from her personal account during the first three months of the year. Donovan raised more than $600,000 in February and March.

Tweeting politics and/or policy

The Colorado congressional delegation’s second most frequent tweeter is U.S. Rep. Ken Buck.

The Windsor Republican sent 415 of his 530 tweets in the first three months of the year from his congressional account. Colorado Springs U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, the other Republican in the delegation, sent the fewest tweets, 138, all from his congressional account. He hasn’t used his personal account since 2012.

The University of Kentucky’s Russell noted differences between tweets from Boebert and Buck, who is also the former Colorado GOP chairman.

“It’s very much attacking Democrats, calling out political opposition,” Russell said of Boebert’s tweets. For Buck, she noted, “there’s still a lot of rhetoric on Twitter about Democrats in opposition, but there is some policy thrown in there, like talking about tech companies, Google, Apple.”

Russell added: “I think these are probably strategic choices that reflect what their priorities are and how they see their political goals borne out on social media.”

Russell contrasted U.S. Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse’s Twitter style with Boebert’s. “You see a lot more policy, a lot more various constituent-specific rhetoric. It tells how they see themselves within sort of the political landscape and how they see their path forward as far as either longevity within the institution or their political future even outside of the institution.”

The Sun examined the number of times certain terms showed up in tweets from Colorado’s delegation from Jan. 1 through March 31, finding that 440 of the 3,372 tweets mentioned new Democratic President Joe Biden. Of those, 167 came from Boebert and 115 came from Buck.

Former President Trump was mentioned 234 times, 55 by Boebert and 52 by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, attends a news conference with Olympians and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, on June 17, 2019, to announce legislation to create a U.S. Olympic Committee oversight panel. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The nine members of the state’s congressional delegation mentioned Colorado in their tweets 371 times, led by Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet with 92 tweets mentioning our state. He was followed by Jefferson County Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter at 59 and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, at 58. 

COVID or coronavirus drew 236 mentions, with 49 from Perlmutter and 40 from Bennet.

Boebert accounted for 40 of the 56 tweets mentioning guns, firearms or the Second Amendment. 

Boebert also led the delegation in deleted tweets at 99, based on a review of ProPublica’s Politwoops site. In recent days, she’s claimed that Twitter is “hiding” her tweets from her followers.