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Facebook "Friends" Lead To Ethics Commission Fine

Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012

Beware who “friends” you on Facebook. Two Kansas legislative candidates found out the consequences of being “friended” by lobbyists: both were fined $100 by the state’s Governmental Ethics Commission.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a social media question,” according to Carol Williams, the executive director of the commission. “I think with the explosion of social media, this is something we’ll see far more.”

The posts were about fundraising events, a violation of the anti-solicitation laws of the state. One candidate, in defending the post, said although he listed the barbecue as a fundraiser, he didn’t give the location, or “specifically ask for money.” He said he was merely trying to find out how much food he would need.

The other candidate included a link to donate to her campaign on her Facebook page, but removed it upon hearing from the commission. She admits she “doesn’t know the occupations of all her Facebook ‘friends’ and hasn’t met some of them.”

Questions for discussion:

• As a public official, should you accept a “friend” request without knowing the individual or his or her occupation?

• Should candidates and officeholders keep separate Facebook accounts – family and friends in one, political activities and contacts in another?

• Do you think the individuals in this situation should have been fined?

Tags: Facebook

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