Throughout the ASUC election season, candidates have run their campaigns with personal contributions, donations or without any funding.
According to ASUC Elections Council chair James Weichert, the expenditure limit for senate campaigns is $200. For executive candidates, this limit is $500, and for ballot propositions the expenditure limit is $1,000. In addition, parties may spend up to $750.
Campus junior and independent ASUC Senate candidate Gabriel Alfaro said he has spent about $120 of his personal money on expenses including graphic design and Facebook advertisements. He added that his expenditures may have differed if classes were not online for the rest of the semester to prevent the spread of COVID-19, more colloquially known as the coronavirus.
“I don’t think I would have done Facebook ads,” Alfaro said. “This has definitely changed the way money is being used in these campaigns.”
Weichert added that campaign expenditures above $25 are documented by candidates through CalLink and in a spreadsheet created by the elections auditor. Expenditures below $25 are reported solely on the spreadsheet. Violating these regulations is punishable by the elections prosecutor, Weichert said.
Campus sophomore and independent ASUC Senate candidate Dhruv Krishnaswamy, who served on the ASUC Elections Council in spring 2019, said the financial processes for last year’s election cycle were “a lot more disorganized” compared to this year. Candidates have three phases to report their finances this year. According to Krishnaswamy, this segmentation encourages consistent reporting.
According to the ASUC elections bylaws, candidates may contribute freely to their campaign until the set limit. Other individuals can give a campaign up to 10% of the expenditure limit, and candidates cannot accept donations from registered student organizations or other organizations.
Campus junior, ASUC candidate and Defend Affirmative Action Party/Fighting for Immigrant Rights and Equality, or DAAP/FIRE, chair Stephanie Gutierrez said her party funds a campaign for its entire slate rather than individual candidates.
“DAAP/FIRE receives funding through donations from members of our (registered student organization), the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and any other donations made by students or people in the community,” Gutierrez said in an email.
However, not all parties fundraise for campaigns. Augusto Gonzalez, campus junior and founder of the newly established People’s Party, said the party has not been able to fundraise due to the circumstances caused by COVID-19.
Co-founder of the newly established REBUILD coalition Varsha Sarveshwar said her party asks candidates to fund their own campaigns. Sarveshwar added that campaigning online is “much cheaper” than campaigning in normal elections.
“I think there’s a degree to which finances are a bit more equitable this year,” Sarveshwar said in an email. “Normally I think this process significantly advantages wealthier students and parties with wealthier constituencies.”
Krishnaswamy said he has not spent any money on his campaign yet but plans to spend about $20 on Facebook advertisements.
“I feel that social media and the internet in these trying times is a democratizing force for people to contest the ASUC elections,” Krishnaswamy said. “It lets you reach out to a lot of people even if you don’t want to spend money.”