Undergraduate Senate passes exec campaign spending cap

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The 12th Undergraduate Senate passed perhaps its most divisive piece of legislation yet Tuesday evening, approving a bill authored by Executives Angelina Cardona ’11 and Kelsei Wharton ’12 instituting an executive campaign spending cap of $1,000.

The third annual attempt to cap spending, the bill will become part of the ASSU joint bylaws and affect spring 2011 elections if passed this evening by two-thirds majority of the Graduate Student Council.

The bill passed Tuesday with 11 senators in favor, two in opposition and two abstaining. Seantors Rebecca Sachs ’13 and Will Seaton ’13 voted in opposition while Khaled Alshawi ’13 and Carolyn Simmons ’13 abstained.

Cardona accepted several friendly amendments to the bill throughout Tuesday’s meeting, most notably an amendment equating the spending caps for publicly financed and non-publicly financed slates at $1,000.

The bill’s original form capped spending at $750 for publicly funded slates and $1,000 for non-publicly funded slates.

Under the Cardona-Wharton bill, slates would have to collect 300 petition signatures, including 100 each from the undergraduate and graduate student bodies, to be eligible for public financing — an increase of 100 signatures.

Sachs recalled the 1999 ASSU Constitutional Council case Hartke v. Young, which resulted in the ruling that campaign spending restrictions abridge free speech, violating Article I, Section 3.2, of the ASSU Constitution.

Cardona responded by citing Flint v. Dennison, a 2007 case in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled against Aaron Flint, a University of Montana student who surpassed school campaign spending limits, stating, “Educational interests outweigh the free speech interests of the students who campaigned.”

Senator Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13 questioned current ASSU financial manager Raj Bhandari about the auditing process of the itemized budgets all slates will be required to submit.

In the face of potential violations, the financial manager would turn evidence over to the solicitors general, who would present the case to the ASSU Constitutional Council.

Bhandari outlined the difference between exhaustive and sample auditing, saying the former would be “out of the question.”

Cardona acknowledged that more research is needed about the auditing processes at peer institutions to advise what will occur if spending violations are suspected.

After a straw poll and further questioning, the Senate moved to a roll call vote, passing the bill with 11 senators in favor, slightly over the required two-thirds majority.

After the bill passed, Senator Robin Perani ’13 suggested that campaign spending caps also be considered for Senate elections.

Following the meeting, Zachary Warma ’11, a senator last year, not present for the debate, described the bill as “a step in the wrong direction.”

Warma outlined his numerous concerns for the Senate last Tuesday when the bill was on previous notice.

“When…elections get more muddled, the 12th Undergraduate Senate will have no one but themselves to thank for it,” Warma said.

Warma added that the Constitutional Council only has the power to adjudicate cases concerning the constitutionality of actions by members of ASSU governing bodies, not the average Stanford student, calling any other conception “insane.” According to Warma, the Constitutional Council should deal only with issues concerning constitutionality, not elections.

Elections Commissioner Stephen Trusheim ’13 said in an e-mail to The Daily that “Article VI of the Constitution…gives overall authority to determine whether any type of election is valid to the [Constitutional Council],” citing sections 2.D.4 and 2.E.4.

Nominations Commission and Senate Committees

The Senate approved the Nominations Commission’s second and final round of nominees to University Committees Tuesday, also appointing this year’s solicitors general — Adam Adler ’12, Sam Corrao Clanon ’13, Lily Dinh ’12 and Steve Morris, Jr. ’12.

The Senate passed a bill yesterday shifting internal committee membership, following Senator Ben Jensen ’12’s resignation last week as deputy chair of the Appropriations Committee. Pat Bruny ’13 will replace Jensen on the Appropriations Committee, while Deputy Chair Madeline Hawes ’13 will fill Bruny’s position on the Student Life, Housing and Education Committee (SLHE). Jensen will continue to serve on SLHE only.

Bruny was named internal development chair for the Senate in a separate bill.

The Senate appointed Lina Hidalgo ’13 to the Executive Cabinet as co-director, alongside Hawes, of the ASSU Leadership Development Program.

The Senate passed all funding bills for the evening.

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