U.S. Diplomats Barred From Ice Bucket Challenge

WASHINGTON (AP) -

The charity stunt has lured athletes, celebrities and politicians and gone viral online, but don’t look for U.S. diplomats to get in on the fun.

Lawyers at the State Department have banned American ambassadors and other high-profile foreign service officers from participating in the ice-bucket challenge to raise money and awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

In a cable sent this week to all U.S. diplomatic missions, the lawyers say it runs afoul of federal ethics rules barring officials from using public office for private gain, “no matter how worthy the cause.” The unclassified cable, sent on Tuesday, was obtained by The Associated Press Thursday.

The cable said public health and disease prevention are some of the State Department’s highest priorities, noting U.S. funding for global programs to malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox and polio and recent efforts to combat the Ebola virus. And, it complimented the ALS Association on the success of its ice bucket challenge, which has raised more than $40 million and attracted a plethora of notable participants, including former President George W. Bush.

By the time the cable was sent at least one high-ranking diplomat, Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, had already participated and had challenged U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to douse herself with ice water for the cause. But by then, Power and the other ambassadors had gotten the memo.

Meanwhile, instead of pouring cold water over his head, Obama has poured it on the idea of becoming the highest-profile participant of the ice bucket challenge.

Ethel Kennedy, the 86-year-old Kennedy family matriarch, tagged Obama to participate after recently soaking herself at her family’s Massachusetts compound, knowing the president was vacationing nearby.

Obama participated financially by donating an undisclosed sum.