It's easy to get into trouble on Facebook: Post a picture of yourself with a margarita in one hand and a beer in the other, and you might lose that promotion; change your status from "in a relationship" to "it's complicated," and you might lose that significant other; friend your ex while you're drunk — well, don't even ask.
But politics can get messy, too. Take Mayor John Hickenlooper, who announced on January 12 that he was running for governor. Three days later, a message appeared on his Facebook fan page that read, "If you are interested in working for my campaign for Governor, please send your resume to [email protected]."
But who maintains that Facebook page, and when?
"If a city employee is spending official city time updating a Facebook page that the mayor is using to campaign, for lack of a better word, they have to be careful," explains Colorado Secretary of State's Office spokesman Rich Coolidge. "Careful about using pubic monies, which could appear as campaigning efforts."
"The Internet is an area that hasn't been addressed formally by campaign finance law," says newly appointed Hickenlooper campaign manager Mike Melanson, though there have been efforts in some states. For instance, can a state legislator post a photo to her re-election website with a state-issued cell phone? Can a city councilman link his official e-mail address to his Twitter account and then tweet about a fundraiser?
Hickenlooper has had his fan page since June, when city staffers shut down his personal Facebook page. At the time, a mayoral spokeswoman said the change was made because Facebook doesn't allow people to have more than 5,000 friends and the mayor had more than 6,000; fan pages, on the other hand, are limitless. The move also frees staffers from having to manually respond to each friend request.
Melanson, a veteran Democratic strategist who managed Mark Udall's winning U.S. Senate bid in 2008, says he's fairly certain city staffers would have only added the resumé message after-hours or on vacation time. "They've been really good about that. I'm pretty sure these guys are following it by the book."
And, in fact, city attorney David Fine issued a reminder to city employees on January 14 — two days after the mayor declared — about campaign rules. It reads, in part, "No city funds should be used by way of a direct contribution to any political campaign or to purchase advertising or other promotional materials in support of a campaign; no in-kind contribution of city resources should be made to any political campaign...do not use city-owned property, supplies, facilities or equipment in support of a campaign; officers and employees should not participate in a campaign during their regular working hours."
So who posted the hickenlooperresumes note? Mayoral spokesman Eric Brown says he did it on a day when he was taking vacation hours to deal with media calls about the gubernatorial campaign. "This is an issue that we are very aware of," he says, adding that the page normally has only information about Hickenlooper's city business.
As of yet, there is no official Hickenlooper for Governor fan page (although there are at least three unofficial ones), but Melanson says the campaign may take over the mayor's existing fan page "once we have a communications person."