Friday, June 27, 2008

Reading School Super Stands Behind Decision

Reading schools chief stands by decision not to charge Obama campaign
David Mekeel
Reading Eagle

Reading, PA - The Reading schools superintendent is standing by his decision not to charge Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama for a political rally in the high school in April.

Dr. Thomas R. Chapman Jr. renewed the defense Tuesday, a day after Republican board member William F. Cinfici challenged the fee waiver, saying it is possibly illegal and definitely unethical.

District Solicitor John C. Bradley Jr. said he would have a legal opinion by Thursday.

Chapman refused to say what he would do if Bradley said it was illegal.

"That's a hypothetical," he said. "I don't answer hypotheticals."

Cinfici said waiving the fees to use the Geigle Complex was an in-kind campaign contribution. He wants the district to bill Obama. (click link below for the rest of the article)

Cinfici said waiving the fees to use the Geigle Complex was an in-kind campaign contribution. He wants the district to bill Obama.

Chapman responded Tuesday: "Certainly I can understand Mr. Cinfici's questions or perspective. But I believe the decision to treat the event as an educational one is and was appropriate."

Lawrence M. Noble, a political attorney for the Washington, D.C., law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, said it isn't clear who is right.

According to Noble, the general rule is that the waiver might not have been a contribution if the district has a history of waiving similar fees for other organizations.

Cinfici conceded that the district has granted such waivers in the past, including for the inauguration of Mayor Tom McMahon.

Cinfici also rejected a suggestion that it was all right to waive a fee for Obama because his former opponent, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, also was offered free use of the Geigle Complex in the days before the Pennsylvania primary.

"We invited both likely presidential candidates to come to Reading (High School)," Chapman said. "My belief is that our children benefit from those types of events."

Clinton turned down the offer because Obama had reserved the April 20 time slot she wanted. She held her rally in Wilson High School on April 19 instead and paid that district $6,460.

Had Obama been charged, the bill would have been $6,500, Chapman said Tuesday.

Cinfici said he doubted it was legal for the district to excuse presidential candidates from fees other groups are required to pay.

And even if it is legal, Cinfici said, a waived fee is a political contribution.

He said he strongly doubted that the district is allowed to contribute to political campaigns and even if it is he still has two objections.

The first is that it is unethical to use taxpayer money to benefit a particular candidate. The second is the Obama campaign was not sent an itemized bill of the in-kind contribution for its campaign finance report.

Representatives from the Federal Elections Commission said they could not comment on the issue because if a challenge is filed, the FEC would have to hear it.


*******UPDATE*******

The School Board Solicitor has given an opinion! Click here to read the article in today's READING EAGLE.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

It most definitely is an in-kind contribution. If the City of Philadelphia can get away with billing the Boy Scouts, there is no way the Reading School District gets away with giving Obama a free pass.

And what's in it for the district anyway? The Obama campaign is flush with cash and Reading is certainly not one of the wealthier school districts in the state. Why give him a free pass when paying for use of their facility probably cost less than that $2,300 "max out" donation he gave Hillary today?

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