Campaign spending limits draw mixed opinions
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 23:02
Behind the minimal increases this year in the Student Government Association campaigning budget limits is a careful consideration of the nature of campaigning on campus.
The budget increased from $1,800 to $2,000 for SBP candidates and from $150 to $200 for student senators. Additionally, student senators running as co-candidates can increase their personal budgets by $50 for each additional candidate involved.
Christopher Russo, speaker of Student Senate and participant of the Student Senate committee in charge of setting campaign budgets, said the reason for the budget bumps was in part to account for inflation and to combat marketing disadvantages toward senators running as co-candidates.
Russo said when candidates decide to co-brand themselves, all parties involved must deduct costs from their budget. Under this system, Russo said if five co-candidates spend $50 dollars on fliers then the effective cost is $250.
“There was a concern that co-candidacy was a disadvantage in marketing especially for fliers and things like that,” Russo said. “So we gave candidates a little more money total if they work on co-candidacy, just so it wouldn’t be so much of a penalty.”
Russo said the rules and regulations committee considers the competitiveness of the races and the relative perceived impor portance. The concerns of college government budgets mirror the debates surrounding national U.S. campaigning budgets with the exception of corporate and super PAC influence, he said.
Election commissioner Allison Krenzien said budgets for campaigning vary widely throughout the SEC schools. Krenzien said the University of Florida student government allows for unlimited funds and student body president campaigners spend upwards of $20,000 on campaigns while Ole Miss only allows $500-$1,000 on campaigns.
Russo said the Texas A&M limit strikes a balance.
“We think that $2,000 for a SBP election is a reasonable amount that most people who want to run can find a way to run or can at least find enough supporters to help them raise that sort of a budget, whereas something in the order of $20,000 or $40,000, which is what you see in University of Florida, is just way out there,” Russo said.
Much like the national debate, Russo said the argument for keeping funds unlimited rests on the notion that people’s money and time are their own property to use as they see fit.
“If they really have a desire to be in a leadership role in which they serve students and they have the resources and the time to devote to spending that much money on a campaign, then you know, who are we to stop them. That’s the argument on the other side.”
While student body president candidate Gus Blessing said he was able to pay for campaign costs with the money saved up from a summer law firm internship, he said the limit might still price some students out.
Student body president candidate Kasey Kram said he was able to pay for the campaign through his livestock operation.
“My family owns a beef cattle ranch, so I own a small percentage of the cattle on it,” Kram said. “So I have a small cow-calf operation and so I sold three of my own calves, which paid for my campaign.”
Kram said these sales were not enough to reach the budget limit, but his campaign staff was in part afraid of going over the limit and facing fines or disqualification.
While some candidates have to ask for funds from supporters, Kram said he was glad he was able to pay for his own campaign.
“Why shouldn’t I, when I am easily able to pay for it by myself? Students and student organizations said ‘Hey, I’d like to chip in,’ but I said ‘No, I just want your time. You do not need to put in a monetary contribution.’”