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Lobbying Groups Tap Into Obama’s Twitter Town Hall

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Gretchen Hamel, executive director of the nonpartisan economic policy group Public Notice, said her organization already has a major social media presence and made sure to encourage its followers to tweet questions to the president.

“This is a great opportunity that we have with social media that we actually have to correspond with our elected leadership, including the president,” she said. “There are some serious things that need to be addressed here by both Republicans and Democrats.”

Her group’s Twitter feed at Bankrupting America, an educational project, offered several suggested tweets, including, “#AskObama What is your plan to ensure that we don’t face a debt ceiling crisis like this one again?” and “#AskObama What are some government programs that are efficient? What lessons can be learned from those programs?”

Even some odd bedfellows seemed to pose the same questions to the president. The AFL-CIO’s “Where are the jobs?” tweet, which was retweeted by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), was in sync with one of the Republican National Committee’s suggested questions: “Where Are The Jobs? #AskObama.”

Several other Members of Congress also posted questions to Obama. An analysis by Andrew Einhorn, co-founder and CEO of the media and technology firm OhMyGov Inc., showed that 77 percent of the Member tweets came from Republicans.

Obama quipped that Boehner needed to “work on his typing skills” when responding to the Speaker’s tweet, “After embarking on a record spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?” He then agreed with the Republican that U.S. job creation has not picked up as quickly as it needs to.

Obama mostly took questions from individuals, not the lobbying groups, but he did have a message for well-heeled interests. “The debt ceiling is not something that should be used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners or oil and gas companies that are making billions of dollars,” he said.

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