by Paul Bowers
Sheri Few, president of S.C. Parents Involved in Education and a candidate for S.C. Superintendent of Education, says it was "just an innocent mistake" that led a Twitter account for her tax-exempt nonprofit organization to send out messages promoting her as a political candidate.
"Apparently a volunteer for the nonprofit mistakenly linked the Stop Common Core Facebook page to the SCPIE Twitter account. We've been extremely careful — or at least I have attempted to be — to keep the campaign separate from the nonprofit," Few says.
Since early this year, the Facebook page Stop Common Core in South Carolina has been posting links and messages supporting Few as a candidate for superintendent. And the SCPIE Twitter account, @scpie, has been tweeting out links to those Facebook posts.
But Few says the Stop Common Core in South Carolina Facebook page, which is linked from the SCPIE.org homepage, is not associated with SCPIE, but is run independently by an unpaid SCPIE volunteer named Johnelle Raines. (According to a guest speaker event listing, Raines was at one point director of SCPIE's Upstate chapter.)
"She's been active with SCPIE as a volunteer, but she's also been active in the Common Core battle even before SCPIE got involved with the issue," Few says.
As for the person who set up the @scpie Twitter account, which until recently was also titled "Stop Common Core SC," to tweet out messages from the Stop Common Core in South Carolina Facebook page, Few says it was a "young volunteer" for SCPIE who made a mistake. The tweets from @scpie endorsing Few have been deleted, and Few says the Twitter and Facebook accounts have been unlinked.
"It was just an innocent mistake, and I fully understand the law," Few says. "I've worked really hard for 15 years as a nonprofit director, and I want to do everything I can to protect the nonprofit that I've built over this time period."
Few says SCPIE has done nothing illegal because the volunteer who linked @scpie to the Stop Common Core in South Carolina Facebook page is unpaid. "If there's no funding involved, then no law has been violated," Few says.
In response to an e-mail inquiry about the SCPIE mix-up, State Ethics Commission Deputy Director Cathy Hazelwood wrote the following:
"You're not going to find anything in the Ethics Act about Facebook or Twitter. If it's a non-profit, then she needs to be mindful of the IRS. A non-profit can lose that designation if it is involved in partisan politics."