Student body officer candidates add up campaign finances

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    As the voting period for student body officers comes to an end, candidates have been busy putting together financial reports from the last few weeks of campaigning.

    According to the 2013 Election Handbook, each candidate for a student body officer position has a maximum spending limit of $500 on a campaign.

    All student body officer candidates are required to submit a report detailing their full expenses, Jansen Harrison, the elections and regulations chair, said.

    “We don’t tell the candidates how to spend their money, but at the end of the campaign they will turn in an item-line expense report that I will check,” Harrison said.

    Harrison said he and the other members of the elections committee pay close attention to each candidate’s campaign products to check the accuracy of each candidate’s report.

    However, he said as long as he has been on the committee, the candidates have always been completely honest about disclosing their finances, even when they run slightly over the $500 limit.

    “It is an honor system until the end when they turn in their report and their receipts for their campaign materials,” Harrison said. “I have faith that the people running for SGA positions will have the integrity to be honest.”

    Kim Turner, faculty adviser to the elections committee, said in an email that financial accountability is always a challenge.

    “There is a certain level of trust that has to exist between SGA and the other party and a commitment to transparency from both parties,” Turner said. “This doesn't mean that SGA shouldn't or doesn't follow up on expense reports and financial documentation, it just means that tracking every single penny of money spent by a student or a student organization is easier said than done.”

    According to the Election Handbook, if a candidate knowingly exceeds the campaign spending limit of $500 or misstates their campaign report, he or she is subject to a fine determined by the Elections and Regulations committee.

    Harrison said the fines are predetermined by the elections committee in order to reduce the risk of bias in punishing acquaintances within SGA.

    However, the fine amounts are not disclosed in order to prevent a candidate who is willing to pay the fine from choosing to exceed the spending limit, Harrison said.

    “Expenditures have never been a big deal,” he said. “The candidates have always been really honest when they turn in their receipts.”

    In the three years Harrison has been involved in SGA, he said there has never been a candidate caught purposefully misstating campaign finance records.

    Turner said she does not remember any concerns that have been raised over campaign finances in the seven years she has served as a faculty adviser.

    The $500 spending limit was set by the House of Student Representatives in a vote several years ago, Turner said.

    Harrison said the spending limit was a good amount because it allowed enough spending for candidates to campaign sufficiently.

    However, he said any increase in the limit could disadvantage some students who do not have the same financial resources as others.

    Some of the candidates running for officer positions in the current race said they were comfortable with the spending limit and with following the election committee’s campaign finance regulations.

    Graham McMillan, a junior running for student body president, said the $500 limit is good, but he just wished for “more detailed guidelines” as to what goes into the spending.

    “For example, if I play music, do I have to expense the songs I purchased?” McMillan said.

    McMillan said he was not worried about exceeding the $500 spending cap. Most of his expenses were planned in advance.

    “I looked at [the finances] last night to make sure, but I don’t think I’ll exceed the limit,” he said.

    Cody Westphal, who is also running for student body president, said he has yet to add up his campaign expenses, but he thinks they will be close to the limit.

    “A few days ago I had them counted to right around $400, and I have all my receipts, so I think that’s enough,” Westphal said.

    Running unopposed for student body treasurer, Zach Madel said he has yet to spend any money on his campaign.

    “I am campaigning strictly through social media,” Madel said