ASUC campaigns collectively cost $6,361 in the 2018 elections, almost $2,600 less than the $9,000 spent during the 2016 elections.
Between the two major ASUC parties, Student Action, which recently won a majority of senate and executive seats, spent about $2,663 on campaigning for the 2018 election, while CalSERVE spent $2,153. While some independent candidates have yet to disclose their campaign finances, of the top five most expensive independent senator campaigns, only two — Aaron Bryce Lee and Regina Kim — were elected into the senate.
The Defend Affirmative Action Party, or DAAP, spent about $158 on campaign spending for its four candidates, but it did not win any seats.
The ASUC has a two-part system for tracking how finances are spent, according to ASUC Elections Council chair Shirin Moti. Candidates are expected to fill out a finance audit form and upload photos of receipts, which helps ensure that the elections are a fair and equal system through public availability of these documents.
Candidates and party representatives upload receipts onto CalLink, which are later corroborated with the information parties and candidates input into the finance audit sheet, Moti said. Parties also need to report any current reserves that have carried over from the previous year — CalSERVE has $0.01 in reserves after this year, whereas Student Action has $3,081.20.
Candidates and parties each had a spending cap — parties could spend up to $1,000 publicizing their own party, senate candidates could spend up to $200, and executive candidates had a maximum budget of $650. The spending caps were lowered this year, according to Moti, to provide an equal opportunity for all candidates, especially those who run independently.
“We’re just trying to balance and level the playing field, so it’s fair for everyone to participate,” Moti said.
Student Action party co-chair Paul Iskajyan stressed the importance of tracking election finances for “public disclosure and transparency.” He noted that it was critical to see where the money was coming from and what it was being spent on.
According to Iskajyan, the biggest expense for Student Action is printed materials, which the party tried to cut down on this year in order to reduce the cost and the waste created in the campaign process. Digital advertising, such as Facebook and Instagram ads, also led to an increase in spending.
Student Action candidates also have to commit typically $200 toward financing their campaigns. If the amount is an obstacle for candidates, Iskajyan said the party works on getting alumni donations.
“In no way will anyone ever be denied from running with Student Action over financial issues, and we will always find a way to finance a candidate’s campaign,” Iskajyan said in an email. “We have been able to do this for at least every year that I have been involved with the party.”
This kind of support makes campaigning easier for party-backed candidates, according to Imran Khan, a campus sophomore who ran independently. Although Khan was endorsed by the Middle Eastern Muslim Sikh and South Asian community, he said he largely financed the campaign himself with the help of students and friends.
Khan recounted the difficulty of navigating the procurement of printed materials and social media advertising costs.
“Others already have a system and know who they get their materials from and how to get them,” Khan said. “I had to order a second (sign) because the first one didn’t print correctly and wasn’t the size that we wanted. We had to get other materials to make it work, so (it was) trial and error.”