At the ASUC’s last senate meeting of the semester, senators unanimously approved legislation that aims to improve election transparency and limit party expenditures.
SB 196 establishes a $2,625 party-expenditure cap on ASUC elections. Along with the cap, the campaign finance reform bill requires full disclosure of what those campaign finances are being spent on, defines what party spending includes and creates a campaign finance audit committee.
The meeting started with a proposed $3,000 expenditure cap, which independent and third-party senators then attempted to lower in order to “even the playing field” in student elections, according to SQUELCH! Senator Jason Bellet, chair of the campaign finance reform committee.
“We’re coming to the table tonight to get the lowest possible spending cap,” Bellet said at the meeting.
However, CalSERVE and Student Action senators both urged against further decreases in the expenditure limits.
“All candidates spend money on campaigns, no matter the party,” said Student Action Senator George Kadifa. “In addition, their parties have a right to spend money in elections — $3,000 is a reasonable number.”
After three additional recesses, the senate was able to unanimously approve a cap of $2,625, a compromise between CalSERVE’s proposed $2,025 and Student Action’s proposed $3,000.
Independent Senator Sadia Saifuddin said the legislation, which was initially proposed three years ago, attempts to resolve campaign finance controversies that have been present for several years.
“Year after year, the senate has left this problem for others. But this year it became a dire situation — it’s now or never,” she said. “We aren’t afraid of tackling the big issues.”
Student Action and CalSERVE, two of the campus’s largest parties, spent $5,091 and $3,402 respectively on last year’s election campaigns, according to recorded campaign documents.
Smaller parties, such as Students for a Democratic University, Defend Affirmative Action Party and SQUELCH!, spent between around $470 and $1,600, while independent candidates spent a total of $300.
Despite their fiscal disadvantages, both Saifuddin and Bellet were among the top three vote-getters in the election last year.
“Our philosophy isn’t based on your economics but your quality. If there’s such a concern of money, I question your qualifications,” Saifuddin said.
Independent and third-party senators recognized that this expenditure would not make a significant difference in their campaigns, Bellet said. However, those senators considered Wednesday’s meeting a “win” due to its historic step in setting a limit and increasing campaign transparency.
“We felt it was more important to at least ensure some sort of accountability as opposed to none,” said Bellet. “This was a step in the right direction.”
Contact Alex Berryhill at [email protected].