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Judge: School's Facebook Post is a Campaign Contribution (coloradoan.com) 86

schwit1 writes: A Colorado judge has ruled that a Facebook post by Liberty Common School amounts to an illegal campaign contribution to a Thompson School District board candidate. In August, the Fort Collins charter school shared with its Facebook followers a newspaper article about a parent of a student running for a board seat in the neighboring school district. Liberty Common's principal, former Colorado Congressman Bob Schaffer, then shared the post and called candidate Tomi Grundvig an "excellent education leader" who would provide "sensible stewardship" of Thompson.

The campaign manager for Grundvig's rival filed a complaint, and it had to be settled by the courts. Administrative law judge Matthew E. Norwood called the violation "minor," and ruled that "no government money of any significant amount was spent to make the contribution." He also focused on the post to the school's specific page, not Schaffer's personal page. "The school's action was the giving of a thing of value to the candidate, namely favorable publicity," Norwood wrote.

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Judge: School's Facebook Post is a Campaign Contribution

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  • Seems fair (Score:4, Interesting)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @11:20PM (#50800665)

    I would think that using an official government organization Facebook page to promote a candidate would be a minor violation but a violation none the less.

  • I wonder if this ruling would equally apply if the same piece of information was shared by word of mouth through the 'grapevine'. That's technically also a 'thing of value' if it sets off a wildfire of gossip.

    And what is the threshold for 'value'? If someone gives their old newspaper clipping to someone else and says, "please pass this on when you're finished". Is that also sufficiently 'of value'?

    I'm not trying to be sarcastic here. It is a legitimate concern in how to measure 'campaign contributions', and

    • by RichMan ( 8097 )

      If some famous person endorsing a presidential candidate has value then so to does you recommending a movie to a friend. There is no threshold for value only scale. Every positive or negative valuation exchanged would then have value theoretically creating taxable events.

      "Nice car" -> you just increased the value of his car.
      "Your lawn needs mowing" -> decreased the value of the house.
      "You look good today." -> contributed to their self worth. Equivalent to time with a therapist.

      Speech must always re

    • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @12:27AM (#50800883)

      I think you missed the main point. The problem is a government entity, the school, endorsing a candidate. The same person who made the school post shared that post along with an endorsement. Every time anyone sees the school post they will also see the endorsement. He could have placed a separate post on his page and there would be no problem. Endorsements are very valuable. A government agency is not allowed to contribute anything to a political campaign.

      where the threshold falls where the guarantee of freedom of speech for one person crosses

      Government entities do not have free speech.

      • I think you missed the main point. The problem is a government entity, the school, endorsing a candidate.

        A public school would be a government entity. A charter school may be a private entity, depending on the state. In Colorado, it is publicly funded, but it is an entity founded and operated privately. Whether a charter school's endorsement of a candidate constitutes a government endorsement is highly debatable. My opinion is that it does not.

        • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @12:01PM (#50803341)

          A school thet is 90% funded publicly and uses both US and Colorado flag on their home page is acting like a government entity.

          Here is their description of a Charter School;

          A charter school is a public school operating within a public school district. A contract with the local board of education allows a charter school to operate free from specified district policies and state regulations thereby allowing more flexible and innovative ways of educating children.

          A " public school operating within a public school district" funded by the government sounds pretty much like a government entity to me.

          • A school thet is 90% funded publicly and uses both US and Colorado flag on their home page is acting like a government entity.

            The flags are irrelevant. Anyone can put a flag on their webpage without becoming an agent of the government that flag represents. The MONEY and the LAWS are the relevant parts.

            • They are funded by the government and are under contract to the government. How much more government do they have to be?

              • I wrote that the flags on a webpage are not relevant, only the money is. What in that statement makes you think I'm saying they are not a government facility?
                • This thread is about whether or not the school is a government entity. Since you all you did was contest my argument I assumed you has the same opinion as the other person I was talking with. How about you state your opinion at to whether or not the school is a government entity.

                  • This thread is about whether or not the school is a government entity.

                    I know what this thread is about.

                    Since you all you did was contest my argument ...

                    Your "argument" was that a school that does A and B is a government entity. I told you that B was not relevant, but A was. (This is now the THIRD time I have told you that, and yet you still don't get it.) The "and B" part of your argument is a waste of time and a red herring. That's not "contesting your argument", it's correcting it to be more concise and correct. Notice that I disputed nothing about your A condition or the conclusion it leads to.

                    ... I assumed ...

                    Yeah.

                    How about you state your opinion at to whether or not the school is a government entity.

                    If you cannot

                    • Good job living up to your user name. I should have looked at that first before replying. Why should I have to figure it out your position when you could just as easily state it? Just because something is relevant does not mean you interpret it the same way I do.

                    • Why should I have to figure it out your position when you could just as easily state it?

                      Because my original comment wasn't intended to state a position, only correct your argument to exclude useless conditions and the confusion it displayed.

                      Just because something is relevant does not mean you interpret it the same way I do.

                      The Point was, and still is, that having a flag on a webpage is IRRELEVANT. Had I wanted to debate your conclusion I could have; you think it is so vitally important that I express complete agreement with it, not I.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well yeah if say the principal of the school held a speech to the students promoting said candidate.. you get it or not?

      using the school funds to fund billboards would have been pretty blatant, but essentially the same thing happened. but since it didn't cost the school money it was just minor.

    • A poster would be a better analogy. There's a difference between putting up a poster endorsing a candidate in your front garden and on the front of the school. I on case, it's simply the individual endorsing the candidate, in the other it's implicitly the school's endorsement. I'd say that canvasing would count the same way. I wouldn't have a problem with the principle, off school property, talking to voters and asking them to support the candidate of his choice. I would, if he did so wearing a badge s
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        I would, if he did so wearing a badge saying 'Principle of Liberty Common School', or if his endorsements started with 'Well, as Principle of Liberty Common School, I think that...' He can endorse whoever he wants, but he can't use his position as an appeal to authority when he does so and he can't do it using school resources.

        In principle I agree with what you said, but wouldn't a badge saying principal be better?

    • I wonder if this ruling would equally apply if the same piece of information was shared by word of mouth through the 'grapevine'.

      If the "word of mouth" was over the school's PA system, then it probably would apply. If the "word of mouth" is the principal talking to a bunch of people at a party at his friend's house, then probably not.

  • Not surprised (Score:2, Informative)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 )
    Bob Schaffer, is part of the criminal GOP pack that runs around in Larimer and Weld County. Schaffer and his ilk were always fairly shady.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 26, 2015 @12:14AM (#50800853)
    I think Bob Schaffer should have clearly done his post from his personal account and not the schools and I hope the judges ruling does not have larger negative effects on political speech in the USA. The bigger local issue is the current group of terrible board members that got elected in the last election seem to be much more interested in the "culture war" in the US than actually running the district efficiently. I really enjoy knowing that 300K of our tax dollars was spent so the school board could hire their buddy from Colorado Springs to be their own lawyer specifically to start a pissing match with the teacher union that from all evidence seems to have basically no point. It's not like this is some big city school district with an all powerful union. Actually pay and benefits in the district are below many of the other districts in the area.

    Additionally Bob was not very good in Congress and was even tied to the Jack Abramoff corruption scandals; so I am not too sure how much his endorsement is worth anyway these days. The other big take away is that he is endorsing a parent who, by being a parent at his school, does not send their kids to the very district they are running to be on the board. . I know if I already decided to not use the services in my district for my kids, I would not go out of my way to be in charge of what happens to other people's kids.

    • by groebke ( 313135 )
      Yes, Brad Miller (http://www.bradmillerlaw.com) is part of the Neo-con fantasy team of school busting (which starts by going after the teachers), "reformers," that are a Colorado who's-who of wealthy, "business-people,": Steve Schuck, C. Edward McVaney, KEith King, Ralph Nagel, and Alex Cranberg, among others. Their idle hands have been directly involved in school district politics in Douglas, Colorado Springs (both District 11 and District 8), Jefferson, Greeley-Evans, Mesa Valley and Thompson school distr
  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @12:20AM (#50800863)

    Notice that the judge only had a broblem with the post on the school page.

    Schaffer posted on behalf of the school, a government entity, a link to an article about a political candidate. The post was non-partisan, and factual and probably would not be an issue. He then shared that post in a completely partisan manner where he endorsed the candidate. Because he shared the post there is a link from the government post to the endorsement. Had he just created a new post on his page rather than sharing the original post there would be not problem. Schaffer knew what he was doing. Schaffer is a pretty smart man but not smart enough.

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      At first I was thinking, maybe he did it because he's attracted to the candidate he supported. But then I saw her picture. She looks like one of the owners of the "Women and women first" library in Portlandia.

  • Why not? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @12:28AM (#50800885)

    Citizens United made a movie. People seem to want that to be called a campaign contribution and regulated or prohibited or punished. How is a movie different than a Facebook post?

    Perhaps we should all just agree to some law or something to protect free expression?

    • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Informative)

      by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @01:05AM (#50800991)
      This was the ACLU's argument.
    • It's not about free expression. It's about government expression for or against a candidate.
  • The school's action was the giving of a thing of value to the candidate, namely favorable publicity," Norwood wrote. click [blogspot.com]
  • this is charter/scam school correct? the name sounds like it. whoever supports charter schools is engaging in treason.
  • Everyone knows that votes must be bought fairly and squarely. None of this recommendation of good character for free stuff.
  • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

    Why is this news for nerds, because it started with a FB post?

  • Citizens United determined that money is speech. Therefore, speech must also be money. That seems rather straightforward to me in a time where ideas and terminology are so malleable that they can be made to mean anything by the parties in power.
    • Citizens United determined that money is speech. Therefore, speech must also be money.

      No. Therefore, the money spent on the salary for the school employee who made the post to the school facebook site is money.

      And CU said nothing more earth-shattering than it requires money to have effective free speech. Getting a message someplace where it has some chance of being seen takes money these days. Protesters made quite a deal of the attempts to corral them in "free speech zones" when they were protesting things, even though such restrictions did not prevent them from "speaking", only from spea

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