Homeschoolers value their privacy, most especially in the midst of political campaigns. Minnesota US Representative and former presidential candidate, Michelle Bachmann, learned the hard way, along with her campaign staff.
Last year, a lawsuit was filed alleging that during the 2011-12 Republican Party’s Presidential Primary free-for-all, several of her campaign’s staffers misused an Iowa homeschool group’s e-mail distribution list by theft and cover-up.
Barbara and husband, Richard Heki, served on the Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) Board of Directors until November 29, 21011. As director, Barbara Heki had full access to the NICHE database list containing thousands of names and email addresses giving consent to receiving NICHE information.
Hecki took on an independent contractor position as the homeschool coalition director in the Bachmann campaign and asserts in her lawsuit that one of the defendants, Kent Sorenson, then Iowa chair of Bachmann’s presidential campaign, stole the NICHE email list from Barbara’s private computer in her Bachmann campaign headquarters’ private office. Heki charges the campaign then used the stolen NICHE database list to send two campaign mass emails in November of 2011. When NICHE discovered their list had been misused and questions were asked, the lawsuit alleges the defendants implicated to the media and public that Hecki had leaked the list, instead of owning up to Sorenson’s theft and campaign use of the database.
From the Iowa Republican’s Kevin Hall:
Former Staffer Sues Bachmann , Sorenson Over NICHE List Misuse
“I am confident that Kent Sorenson participated in the theft and I am confident that members of the senior staff were aware of it, certainly on or before December,” the former Bachmann aide said. “And they debated it for three weeks, the senior staff, what to do. Over loud objections, they let Barb take the fall for it.”
Barb Heki says that her personal and professional life has suffered serious damage as a result of the NICHE list controversy. Along with being removed from the NICHE board of directors after an 11-year tenure, the Hekis were ousted from a national organization of homeschooling leaders in which they were actively involved.
“It’s been horrible,” Barb Heki said. “I can’t even describe how horrible it’s been, when your name is maligned as a thief nationwide, your whole world is collapsing. There isn’t any waking moment when my bad reputation isn’t on my mind. It’s horrible. It’s affected our whole family.”
Because of the allegations of database misuse and their removal from the NICHE board, Hekis claim the “defendants’ libel and/or slander has caused damage to [their] reputation and status as leaders in the Iowa and national homeschooling community and as political leaders; impairing [their] current and/or future business opportunities; and causing Plaintiffs; severe emotional distress.”
Because of the Bachmann campaign’s actions, the NICHE group sent out an apology letter, notifying the email recipients they could very likely get even more political campaign emails from other candidates. The homeschooling group’s legal status requirements were compromised, so they asked the “Bachmann Campaign to pay for the reasonable value of that usage. Further, in accordance with the legal requirements, NICHE must allow the other campaigns the equal opportunity to pay for two similar e-mails to the contacts on the NICHE list. If the other campaigns decide to pay and send the two e-mails, NICHE will sent the e-mails directly without sharing or compromising our contact list in any way.”
Many homeschoolers submit email information to receive newsletters about current legislation and activities from various state-wide organizations, even while not being a group member. In this case, the homeschoolers and other parties gained nothing but campaign promises and loss of privacy if their information was in that database. We could only hope there was more integrity in other campaigns.
We can wish, can’t we? The case is still being investigated by Iowa police.