Is a Facebook post a campaign contribution? In an extremely troubling ruling in Colorado over a charter school posting an article on their Facebook page about a school board candidate in a different area, posting to social media is now considered a tangible campaign contribution that breaks the law.
Those of us who believe in the Constitution and who understand social media realize that this is insane. Unfortunately, candidate Pam Howard’s campaign manager Gil Barela either doesn’t have these understandings or was hoping that administrative law judge Matthew E. Norwood was ignorant about the realities of social media. As a result, ignorance did prevail and the Constitution was pushed aside.
University of Colorado law professor Scott Moss felt like it was simply a matter of the judge being uneducated about or inexperienced with social media. According to the Coloradoan:
Moss described the judge’s understanding of social media as having “a Grandpa Simpson element” with “a tone of amazement and befuddlement about social media and opinion.”
Here’s how it all went down. Liberty Common School posted an article on their Facebook page about a student’s mother, Tomi Grundvig, who is running for school board in nearby Thompson School District. The post was shared by principal Bob Schaffer who called Grundvig an “excellent education leader.”
The judge ruled that it was an illegal campaign contribution. Yes, in America, a school sharing an article about a student’s parent is now considered to be an illegal campaign contribution. Nevermind that no actual contribution was made. Nevermind that the post was about a student’s parent. Nevermind that the vast majority of people following the page weren’t even in the school district in question.
These are the types of seeds that give political abusers the precedent and ammunition they need to make the common people fearful of consequences. In this case, the consequences were small, but the seed has now been planted. The message: if you receive funding from the government, your social media posts are now fair game for attack from bitter rivals to the perspectives that you communicate.
This post from the campaign that filed the complaint screams of irony in light of the ruling:
I don’t know a thing about the candidates, the district, or the politics behind it. The post above on Howard’s page seems to be giving the right message, but the actions by the campaign to attack the First Amendment don’t seem to match the rhetoric. They have set a precedent that can be used as a loophole to prevent political speech. The sad part is that this was a post from a completely different school district supporting the parent of a student. It would be different if there was clearly a contribution made by the school to a campaign. Forcing the classification of news sharing on free social media channels as “campaign contributions” is ludicrous.
We are blessed to live in a country that gives the ability to individuals to influence the course of laws that govern the land. Even a local school board candidate can make a huge impact. It’s unfortunate when this blessing has been abused in a way that tramples on the very political speech that we are granted.
There’s probably a lawyer in Howard’s camp right now typing up some sort of legal argument against this post. The destruction of freedoms always start small.
It isn’t prudent to endorse any candidate without knowing their politics, but we’re endorsing Tomi Grundvig in this case simply because she’s the candidate who isn’t trampling on the Constitution. If you happen to live in Thompson School District and you value freedom at all, we’d recommend you do the same.