GSC approves campaign spending cap

Nov. 4, 2010, 2:01 a.m.

At this week’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) meeting, members discussed new programming ideas, approved a bill for ASSU executive campaign-spending reform and prepared for the council’s weekend retreat. Over the weekend, the group hopes to clarify its position with regard to annual budgetary and ethical issues and to work on reestablishing its role as voice of the graduate student population.

Co-chair Justin Brown started the meeting by swearing in third-year law student Tom Spahn as the GSC’s law school representative. Spahn had been in attendance at the GSC’s most recent meetings; last week, after Spahn articulated his reasons for pursuing the position, voting members approved his nomination.

ASSU President Angelina Cardona ’11 updated the group on Undergraduate Senate events and discussed the executive campaign-spending bill she and Vice President Kelsei Wharton ’12 introduced last week, a bill the Senate approved on Tuesday. Cardona clarified particular amendments to the original bill and asked for the GSC’s approval of the measure.

Concerns about the bill’s potential to limit freedom of speech were raised, and council members expressed varying levels of comfort with the bill. Spahn hedged against the bill, arguing that such spending caps might too closely monitor an individual’s freedom to spend money as he or she chooses.

“You are taking away [the candidates’] ability to spend their money, and you are affecting their right to free speech,” Spahn said. “This is no different from telling people you can only put up X number of flyers.”

Spahn suggested offering a voluntary cap, in which candidates would agree to spend within a set of pre-determined parameters, but other members disagreed with him. Many thought that a voluntary cap would not realistically encourage student candidates to spend less on their campaigns, and some felt the mandatory cap would be necessary to level the playing field among candidates with varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Social science representative Salvador Zepeda argued in favor of an outcome that would please the most people, regardless of the method.

“I think we should vote on principle rather than the mechanism,” Zepeda said. “I do think that the cap limits the ability for students to spend their own money. I think the [bill] promotes the social optimum. And I think I have to vote in favor of the social optimum.”

The group’s discussion of the bill came to a close when Brown reminded the group that certain smaller measures of the bill could be amended even after it saw approval from both the undergraduate and graduate governing bodies. The bill passed by consensus, and the group moved on to discuss the Stanford Student Enterprise’s progress on a new store in Tresidder Union.

Engineering representative Joanna Lankester, who also heads the GSC’s programming committee, expressed a desire to make the reimbursement process for student group checks public. In response to the slow turnover of checks as they are processed by administrators, Lankester suggested that a website specifically designed to track the reimbursement process be created.

“If we could have some sort of system by which reimbursements can be tracked, it would be a really efficient way to see that information without people sending a bunch of e-mails,” Lankester said.

The council decided to discuss the issue in the future. It approved all funding bills.

Contact Anna Schuessler at [email protected].

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