The two major student political parties have spent significantly more than third parties for ASUC campaign materials, and some candidates are in danger of exceeding spending limits if the cost of food from campaign events is included.
According to ASUC bylaws, if spending surpasses $1,000 per executive candidate or $200 per senate candidate, the ASUC attorney general is required to investigate “alleged violations” and prosecute alleged offenders before the ASUC Judicial Council, the legal branch of the student government.
Candidates are required to report all spending that falls under the category of “campaign materials” that has the “intent to contact voters publicly … or argues in favor of the election,” according to the bylaws.
Documents show Student Action has reported spending a total of more than $4,000 and CalSERVE has spent a total of almost $1,400. However, CalSERVE party chair Courtney McDonald said the party’s biggest expenses — campaign literature and buttons — had not been reported yet.
ASUC Attorney General Deepti Rajendran and Elections Council chair Pamudh Kariyawasam previously said in interviews that spending limits would include the cost of food. But candidates claim they were unaware food would count as part of their limit.
As a result, Rajendran said she and the Elections Council decided to meet and discuss the issue Thursday. Yet Sabina Del Rosso, a former ASUC senator and current party chair for Student Action, said in an email that the party has “confirmed with the elections council chair that food does not in fact count as a campaign expense.”
Kariyawasam said the council should make a decision within the next two days. He added that after independent consultation with the attorney general, a clause in the bylaws could make food not qualify as a campaign expense.
Rajendran said food has traditionally not been included as a campaign expenditure. She said the council planned to include food as part of campaign spending limits, but by “the time they got around to it, people had already started to order their stuff.”
“People didn’t factor it in,” Rajendran said. “The bylaws are vague.”
According to ASUC campaign finance forms, Student Action has spent $478.27 for each of its four executive candidates and $118.82 for each of its 18 senate candidates. In comparison, McDonald said her party had spent more than $80 for each of its 11 senate candidate and more than $110 for its four executive candidates.
Both parties spent money on sign materials, chalk, buttons and fliers, among other expenses. General party spending — such as party T-shirts and sunglasses — does not count under the bylaws, a point of contention for many third parties that say this spending gives an advantage.
Based on how much the Student Action candidates have already spent, if the cost of food is assessed at more than $81.18 for each senate candidate, they would exceed bylaw limits. A source close to the party who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak about the matter saved receipts showing one candidate spent more than $100 on food for a kickoff event.
For CalSERVE, if the cost of food is assessed at more than $120 for each senate candidate, the candidates will have exceeded spending limits.
The Defend Affirmative Action Party has spent almost $850 for executives and senators combined. SQUELCH! reported spending more than $160 for candidates, and no paperwork has been turned in for Students for a Democratic University, according to campaign finance documents.
Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.