Katie and Alex campaigners allegedly establish phishing website, hack Ben and Lamar campaign

Photos by Michael Ciaglo and Nate Barrett

Serious allegations were made against members of the Katie and Alex campaign this weekend after members of the other campaigns uncovered potential evidence of tampering with campaign materials.

The Ben and Lamar campaign filed a grievance saying someone from the Katie and Alex campaign sent a phishing website to obtain access to the email information of people included in the ASUO elections. This includes vice presidential candidate Lamar Wise and the YES campaign, which focused on the EMU/SRC referendum.

The grievance states that on March 28, former OSPIRG Board Chair and member of Katie and Alex’s campaign Charles Denson created a phishing website in order to gain access to Wise’s email. According to Wise, the website appeared to be a “Google Calendar integration tool” that required a Google username and password to enter. Once he logged into the site, his email stopped working and he was unable to access it for five days.

“I feel like I let my team down because I wasn’t careful enough to see it was a fraudulent site,” Wise said.

According to the grievance, Denson allegedly tampered with phone numbers that Ben and Lamar were going to use to solicit calls for their campaign by using “find and replace” to slightly change every number in their phone list of around 12,000 people.

When volunteers began to call, none of the numbers were correct. The grievance states that the campaign intended to get at least 780 votes through phone-banking, which would have moved them forward to the general elections. It also says that hundreds of volunteer hours were wasted trying to make the calls.

“I am shocked and ashamed by the act of sabotage that was committed against our team,” ASUO Sen. Ben Bowman said. “This is exactly why I ran for president — so these things don’t happen.”

Also, the grievance explains that Denson allegedly made copies of the phone records and gave them to the Katie and Alex campaign.

The document goes on to say that when asked by Ben and Lamar’s management team, at least five members of Katie and Alex’s campaign came forward with this information and all showed remorse except for Denson.

“I would like to bring justice for the people who worked so hard on my slate,” Wise said. “I don’t want any harm done to the people who did this to me, but I do want a fair process.”

Former ASUO president and YES campaign director Sam Dotters-Katz @@[email protected]@sent an emergency memorandum to the Chief Justice of the Constitution Court Nick Schultz,@@[email protected]@ stating that his email was tampered with as well. The YES campaign supports the renovation of the EMU and Student Recreation Center.

“The YES vote’s critical campaign documents were hacked into and either damaged or destroyed, in an unprecedented act of cyber espionage by ASUO Vice President Katie Taylor’s campaign,” Dotters-Katz said.

The memo states that items from the campaign plan were altered or deleted and that general contact information was destroyed, including a list of the student leaders who were in favor of the campaign. Dotters-Katz also claims that Denson planned the event but then reached out to current ASUO University Affairs Coordinator Manny Garcia@@[email protected]@ to go forward with the phishing scam.

“Students deserve to be heard with regards to the EMU and SRC renovations, yet unfortunately the ASUO Executive is wholly committed to silencing student voice and supplanting their own political agenda in its place,” Dotters-Katz said.

ASUO senator and presidential candidate Laura Hinman@@[email protected]@ was astonished by the development but hopeful for the future of elections.

“If the allegations turn out to be true, I would be shocked that candidates would use illegal tactics,” Hinman said. “I hope students come out to vote, and Nick and I are looking forward to running a campaign of integrity.”

Bowman echoed Hinman’s thoughts.

“I want to run a fair campaign and I hope the Elections Board and Constitution Court make the right decision,” he said.

The elections rules state, “Egregious campaign violations shall consist of but are not limited to: … tampering with another campaign’s materials with malicious intent.”@@

Some of the consequences of egregious violations could lead to suspension of campaigning, removal from ballot or removal from office.

The Ben and Lamar campaign is calling for an immediate injunction on the election. The grievance asks that until the phone-bank lists are returned, the election should not take place.

In response to these allegations, the Katie and Alex team released a statement penned by Taylor.

“We made it a standard to run a clean campaign and I am extremely disappointed that this isolated incident has occurred where two individuals exercised extremely poor judgment,” the statement said. “It saddens me immensely that this has occurred, as the rest of the Katie and Alex team, as well as the Ben and Lamar team, ran an amazing outreach drive to engage students on extremely important matters. The individuals responsible for this have been removed from the campaign.”

UPDATE (12:10 a.m.): The ASUO Constitutional Court has responded to the grievance in question, as well as an additional one submitted Sophie Luthin, the current campaign manager for Ben and Lamar. Con Court Chief Justice Nick Schultz asserted the grievances would be adjudicated by the ASUO Elections Board. “Consequently, the Election scheduled to begin tomorrow morning ought to proceed as planned until the ASUO Elections Board has issued its rulings on these claims,” Schultz wrote in a press release late Sunday night. “However, the Court asserts its authority to retain appellate jurisdiction over the rulings of the ASUO Elections Board.

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Nate Barrett

Nate Barrett