Colorado judge rules that a Facebook post is an illegal campaign contribution
I agree with the law professor who said this could be troubling for free speech. I worry about the precedent that it creates, and about the possibility of it eventually being expanded to any kind of political speech that anyone makes on the internet.
USA Today reports:
Judge: School’s Facebook post a campaign contribution
DENVER — A Colorado judge has ruled that a charter school’s Facebook post amounts to an illegal campaign contribution to a school board candidate.
In August, Liberty Common School in Fort Collins, Colo., shared a newspaper article about a student’s parent running for a board seat in a neighboring school district. Liberty Common’s principal, former Colorado GOP Rep. Bob Schaffer, then shared the post and called candidate Tomi Grundvig an “excellent education leader” who would provide “sensible stewardship” of Thompson School District.
An 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 in his Oct. 14 ruling, which became public Wednesday. “It was given indirectly to her for the purpose of promoting her election.”
Law professor Scott Moss of the University of Colorado called that point troubling for its implications on political speech.
“I don’t buy that under the First Amendment speech about a candidate can be deemed a contribution,” Moss said after reading the ruling. “Is speech valuable? Yes. But that’s not a basis for restricting core political speech.”