Temple Student Government Elections Commissioner Noah Goff wrote a letter of dissent to TSG leaders about the Elections Committee’s decision to lift Activate TU’s suspension on the last day of elections. In the letter, sent anonymously to The Temple News, Goff wrote that the decision set a precedent that allowed campaigns to overspend and “completely ignore the rules.”
The letter pinpoints several instances that “bothered” Goff about how Activate TU reported its finances, however none of those instances were violations of the elections code. Those instances, he argued in the letter, would have put Activate TU over the $1000 maximum spending limit. According to the letter, TSG Faculty Adviser Chris Carey and the Elections Committee — made up of Goff and three members of Parliament — met to discuss potentially disqualifying Activate TU for that overspending. The committee decided in a 3 to 1 vote to not count those instances.
Goff disputed the decision, writing that a coupon used to pay for an Instagram Poster from the Graphics Media Center, a Facebook advertisement posted by Student Activists Against Sexual Assault and flyers printed by students using their free printing allocations should have been counted as gifts, and thus a part of the campaign’s spending. The elections code limits campaign spending to $1000, and without these disclosures, Activate TU spent about $999, Connecting TU spent close to $950, Goff said.
The elections code does not define what counts as a gift toward a campaign — only that tangible gifts be counted toward the spending limit and that the Elections Commissioner is responsible for determining the value of those gifts. There is also nothing in the Elections Code that outlines whether coupons or printing allocations would change the value of a gift. The TSG Campaign Finance Guidelines only states that all spending by a campaign or “on behalf of a campaign” would be included in the $1000 limit. The guidelines do not specify when something would be considered spending on behalf of a campaign.
The requirement that gifts be counted toward campaign spending was a new rule after an incident last year, Goff told The Temple News on Sunday. The family of a campaign member had created water bottles with the campaign’s logo which were distributed to students, but not counted in the campaign’s logged spending.
Activate TU was suspended for an hour on April 6, just hours before voting for the Executive Branch and Parliament elections closed. The Elections Committee then delayed announcing the winner of the election for a day while it further investigated the campaign’s spending beyond the standard scrutiny both campaigns underwent.
TSG announced on April 8 that Activate TU won the election by 56 votes.
The letter from Goff was addressed to TSG’s Senior Leadership Team, Speaker of the Parliament and Carey.
“I’m not in a position to give details on the conversation that took place between members of the committee,” Carey wrote in an email to The Temple News. “I can say that each year, student leaders and I review processes and experiences to adjust based on what we learned during the course of the year. Accordingly, we will review the code and committee procedures to be the best they can be in the future.”
“With the revelation of how close the election was, Connecting TU has a compelling (and in my opinion, correct) complaint that the Elections Commission’s unfair decisions directly cost them the election,” Goff wrote in the letter. “Had Activate TU won by a large margin, then this simply would be a personal concern about the precedent regarding overspending. Now it must also serve as a warning about the intensity and potential validity of any Connecting TU complaints in the coming weeks.”
Goff said on Sunday that despite his personal views outlined in the letter, he will continue to represent the committee’s final decision.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules.