Rep. Rick Larsen fires staffers for drinking on job...and tweeting about it


by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News & Associated Press

Posted on December 9, 2011 at 7:03 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 9 at 7:32 AM

SEATTLE -- U.S. Representative Rick Larsen fired three staffers who apparently chronicled on-the-job drinking exploits on Twitter, including posts about taking shots of Jack Daniels while hiding behind a desk.

Larsen, a Democrat serving Washington's 2nd Congressional District, fired the three Thursday, about an hour after learning of their Twitter activity, said Larsen's spokesman, Bryan Thomas.

"Neither Congressman Larsen nor his other staff were aware of the actions by these three staff members before today," Thomas said. "Congressman Larsen is disappointed by their actions and takes this very seriously. He has made it clear that he will not tolerate this kind of behavior."

The Northwest Daily Marker, a conservative political blog in Washington state, first compiled and posted about the tweets.

Kathy Gill, a professor at the University of Washington who analyzes social media trends, sounded off on the behavior.

"Regardless of whether or you not you tweet about it, the fact that you thought it was okay to drink at work kind of blows my mind," she said, noting that she was a former staffer on Capitol Hill.

As for the online posts, she conferred with other social media experts:  "We think that it may be generational, that there is a stream of consciousness 'As-I-think-I-shall-tweet' [mentality] that would explain why they were talking about this behavior publicly."

Jolene Jang, a consultant who runs Seattle-based, called it professional "suicide."

"Let's say if I'm the employer," she said. "They're damaging my brand simply because they're associated. I wouldn't have it at all."

The Daily Marker identifies the three former staffers as legislative assistants Seth Burroughs and Elizabeth Robblee and legislative correspondent Ben Byers.  All worked in Larsen's Washington, D.C., office.

Their Twitter accounts had been deleted by Thursday, and other efforts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.

But the Daily Marker caught screen grabs of the tweets.

In one tweet Dec. 1, Burroughs -- whose Twitter handle was "TheRocketShip1" -- describes a co-worker taking a shot "crouching" behind his desk.

"We have unabashedly given up on just about all things work related," he tweeted.

In another tweet, Burroughs calls Larsen his "idiot boss."

While the staffers' drinking got them fired, the nascent blog, the Northwest Daily Marker, saw its Internet traffic soar, thanks to links from sites such as the Drudge Report. The post had 52,000 visits by Thursday afternoon.

"You have a congressman that wasn't really paying attention to his own office. I think to me that's the nut of the story," said Bryan Myrick, who founded the blog in May.