Sunday June 03, 2012 | 10:17 AM

The Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency organization, has launched a new service that tracks and publishes the tweets deleted by members of congress (or more likely, their staffers).

The site, Politwoops, stores the 140-character missives if a member of congress or presidential candidate has second thoughts and attempts to send it to the trash. Politwoops then publishes the tweets on its site. The site is search-able and some more prominent public figures have been assigned RSS feeds. 

The site has captured some controversial tweets, including one by U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who asked, "Was Obama born in America?"

So far, Maine's congressional delegation has avoided such situations. U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, doesn't have any deleted tweets. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has three that appear to be linked to a third party service that automatically announces how many followers and re-tweets the congresswoman has accumulated. 

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has several deleted missives of varying content. One, which may have been intended to be a direct message -- Twitter's private messaging service -- contains a cell phone number. A reverse look-up shows the number is a private line based in Augusta. 

Collins' account also contains a few deleted statements related to the current scandal involving the U.S. Secret Service, including, "2 of the participants were supervisors - one with 22 years of service and the other with 21 ... Not a 1 time incident."

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, has deleted 11 tweets. Several link back to press releases on the congressman's website that explain his votes, while others announced his participation in a veterans event or parade.

Michaud deleted one tweet that announced his support for the bipartisan seating at last year's State of the Union address. The message gave a shout-out to the group No Labels, an organization championing bipartisanship. 

Politwoops has received national press and some members of congress have already figured out a way to manipulate the service to amplify their message. A story in Roll Call reported that U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., purposely deleted tweets to get more attention, including this one: "If you think twitter mistakes on #politwoops are bad, just wait until you see the regulatory mistakes of the Obama Administration!"

 

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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