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If I were asked to design and maintain a website for a governor seeking reelection highlighting how his or her administration was helping the state to get by in "Tough economic times", would I be violating some written or unwritten rule that says the .gov TLD is primarily informational and non-partisan?

I've seen a lot of .gov website in the past few years that seem to push an agenda, but never before today have I seen one that so specifically tries to get a person reelected (or at the very least not recalled).

Here's an excerpt:

This has been a year of historic change in [my home state]. Facing a $3.6 Billion deficit, Governor [Chuck Norris] and state lawmakers got to work making the hard decisions to get the state's finances back on track. Their reforms gave local governments and school districts the tools they so badly needed to balance their own budgets without raising taxes.

Change is hard. As one school board member and small business owner recently told us, "It's not easy doing what you think is right."

The good news is, the reforms are working.

I do see a lot of this within these searches but they at least give a hint to what side of the aisle you're getting into, the site I'm asking for is not nearly as obvious.

I'm looking specifically for a reference as to the original intent of the .gov TLD and whether or not that's been broken down and ignored over the course of the lifespan of the Internet or if it's a relatively modern thing to just use a .gov website for purposes of reelection.

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This seems like a question for a lawyer who knows the ends and outs of election laws on the federal and state level. Speaking from personal observations, incumbants often use government paid newsletters, websites and even bus tours to subtly promote their reelection efforts but it can raise ethical questions from the press and opponents. –  jfrankcarr Oct 24 '11 at 18:03
    
@jfr I'll have to address that in an edit. I'm more interested in if there is a precedent or if ICANN cares. –  Peter Turner Oct 24 '11 at 18:06

2 Answers 2

From the "Gov Internet Program Guidelines" on DotGov.gov:

No Political or Campaign Information: The Gov Internet domain is for the operation of government, not the political, political party, or campaign environment. No campaigning can be done using .gov domains.

However, I'm pretty sure that GOP.gov doesn't put forth a purely unbiased viewpoint. In my experience, the people who run .GOV have a strict set of rules that they don't really enforce too strictly. Still, it's probably not a good idea to build a whole campaign around a shaky URL.

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Yes, GOP.gov seems to ignore the GSA guidelines against campaigning documented at dotgov.gov/portal/web/dotgov/program-guidelines. But I wonder if anyone has actually tried to complain about it. –  MετάEd Oct 24 '11 at 23:19
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Wouldn't any .gov domain run by an elected body be partisan by nature? Is not whitehouse.gov partisan and biased? –  Paperjam Oct 26 '11 at 18:35
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I'd point out dems.gov, too. I'm OK with that, I guess, but I see campaigns generally run off .org domains. –  VarLogRant Oct 28 '11 at 3:20

To your examples, some degree of partisanship would seem unavoidable if you're looking at sites for Democratic/Republican/whatever groups, for obvious reasons. At the same time, though, it'd probably be silly to then conclude that they can't have sites. So there are likely some guidelines or restrictions on what specifically .gov domains can and can't say.

This is the kind of thing you should probably just go straight to the responsible body for.
The .gov registration service has a help desk you can reach by phone or e-mail.

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