Campaign disclosures highlight heavy spending in ASUO campaigning

Campaigns spent more than $16,000 to win your vote in this year’s ASUO elections. High price tag elections are nothing new for the University of Oregon.

The Mighty Oregon campaign spent a total of $10,668.81. The Ducks Like You campaign spent $4,894. Thomas Tullis’ short-lived Fresh Start Oregon campaign spent $470.

The campaign financial disclosures published on the ASUO Elections site show the amounts contributed by and on behalf of members of ASUO campaigns. The sum of money that presidential candidates raised — different from the total number, which reflects the contributions of other members is significantly higher than those raised at other schools. The Mighty Oregon presidential candidate Taylor Allison raised $5,290, while the Ducks Like You presidential candidate Beatriz Gutierrez raised $1,666.

Fundraising is crucial for ASUO campaigns. Those running for office solicit donations from friends and family members. The emphasis on donations in order to run for ASUO office creates an advantage for students with personal wealth or connections.

“Having thousands of dollars less was a disadvantage,” Ducks Like You Campaign Manager Helena Schlegel said. “Mighty Oregon clearly bought more T-shirts and freebies to hand out.”

With big budget elections comes big budget drama. T-shirts have been an issue in past two ASUO elections — grievances have been filed citing campaigns giving away T-shirts as bribery.

“I think it has really become a trading T-shirts for votes (situation) and I think that’s really unfortunate,” Senator Elect Andrew Lubash said. “People, a lot of times, don’t know what side is supporting which policy or what the campaign platform is, and that’s really the purpose of democracy.”

The ASUO has no caps on campaign spending or contributions.

Many other universities set campaign spending limits. The Associated Students of Oregon State University sets a $1,000 spending limit per campaign. The Associated Students of the University of Washington limits campaign spending to $540 for presidential candidates running on a ticket and a $630 limit for presidential candidates running independently.

The University of California Los Angeles Undergraduate Student Association Council requests that candidates sign a voluntary spending limit, which is $600 for presidential candidates. Public notice of a campaign’s participation in the voluntary spending cap is then published in the UCLA newspaper, the Daily Bruin, along with the total expenses of each campaign.

The voluntary spending cap then becomes a binding contract. Failure to abide by it can result in sanction or disqualification. The system is not without flaws. A recent editorial published by the Daily Bruin discusses a lack of incentive for candidates to agree to the voluntary spending cap.

The ASUO senate recently created a working group to discuss potential elections reform, like campaign finance reform. The working group was created after Former Mighty Oregon Vice Presidential Candidate Austin Palacios addressed the need for elections reform.

“It’s exciting to know that the ASUO is putting together a working group to address the reformation of elections,” Palacios said. “We as a student body have this beautiful opportunity to mitigate what has made it difficult for students to be involved in and have their voices be heard.”

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Alexandra Wallachy

Alexandra Wallachy

Alex is a head correspondent at the Emerald focusing on higher education and student government. She is also a producer for the Emerald Podcast Network and a huge fan of the Daily Show.