Although high campaign spending during ASUO elections has often been a source of controversy, this year’s election had significantly lower spending in comparison. During the 2015 ASUO election, campaigns spent a total of $9,123 to win students’ votes — a large decrease from last year’s $16,000 total.
We Are Oregon spent a total of $4,802.56, while UO Forward spent $3,891.49. Ducks F.I.R.S.T, which didn’t advance to the run-off election, spent a total of $429. Last year, there was a much steeper difference in campaign spending between the two run-off campaign slates. Mighty Oregon spent $10,668.81, while Ducks Like You spent $4,894.
The high expense of ASUO campaigns often comes from buying campaign T-shirts. In response to what it saw to be excessive spending last year and in order to avoid a T-shirt-for-a-vote interaction, the ASUO Election Board implemented a rule this election to disallow for the distribution of any material goods, such as T-shirts and flyers, which did not have a purpose of educating potential constituents of campaign goals.
Although T-shirts remained to be the highest item of campaign expenditures with UO Forward spending $3,095 and We Are Oregon spending $2,372, both campaigns were forced to limit expenses. We Are Oregon restricted its use of T-shirts to its candidates and volunteers. UO Forward printed their campaign platform on T-shirts, but due to its costliness, caused members to limit its distribution.
“We were hoping that those students would wear our T-shirts and start conversations with friends,” Shawn Stevenson, UO Forward campaign manager, said. “We were really trying to connect our materials with our message.”
In an email to the Emerald, Elections Board Coordinator Monica Nunan said that the T-shirt restriction was meant to combat campaigns buying votes. “All in all, I feel like the shirt restriction prevented the elections from turning into a money racket, total expenses were much more appropriate in comparison to previous. But that isn’t to say that it isn’t still an issue, as both of the higher spending campaigns garnered more support and moved on to the run offs.”
Not everyone was content with the new regulation.
“My understanding with putting this ban on passing out T-shirts was to keep campaign spending low, but when you then make a sub rule that makes the loophole to print educational material, it makes the T-shirts more expensive.” Taylor Allison, We Are Oregon campaign manager, said. “I think that the rule in itself should not have been implemented, I think that it limits students’ ability to run campaigns in the way that they see fit, and there are rules to protect against bribery, and exchanging T-shirts for votes. We have been using T-shirts as a form of getting out the name of our campaign for years.”
Allison has experience with four past campaigns, including when We Are Oregon which became the first campaign not to be named after the running president and vice-president. Allison thinks that the change made campaign T-shirts popular.
The 2015 ASUO campaign financial disclosures also contained funds that the presidential candidates raised individually. We Are Oregon presidential candidate, Miles Sisk, raised $2,650, while winning UO Forward presidential candidate, Helena Schlegel raised $850.
Unlike several other universities in the region, ASUO elections do not have a cap on both spending or financial contributions. This year, the Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU) continued to enforce its $1,000 spending limit on each campaign.