Senators address campaign finance ‘mess’

April 11, 2012, 2:25 a.m.

In its regular Tuesday meeting, the ASSU Undergraduate Senate approved next year’s ASSU Financial Manager and appointed a new member to the Constitutional Council. The senators also settled their muddled three-week debate surrounding the distribution of public campaign financing and the existence of a campaign spending cap.

The senators approved Ireri Hernandez ’15, nominated by current ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12, to serve on the Constitutional Council. Hernandez served as a chair on her high school student council. Though she said she has yet to read the ASSU Constitution, she was appointed unanimously to the post.

Due to conflicting records and information from senators, Elections Commissioner Adam Adler ’12 has, over the past three weeks, disseminated sometimes conflicting information to students running for the ASSU Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council (GSC) concerning a spending cap on campaigns.

“It wasn’t at all clear which bill was controlling in terms of the spending caps and public financing,” Adler said. “There were probably four or five different versions of the bill that I saw… There was no clear documentation supporting which one passed and which didn’t pass.”

He noted that the bills that were passed by this year’s Senate might conflict with regulations passed in 2009. Several senators characterized the situation as “a mess.”

Adler said that the Elections Commission will not be enforcing spending caps this election cycle.

Adler also reported that the extension that the Senate approved last week for candidates who missed the public financing deadline will not have its intended effect, since only one of the seven exempted students submitted a budget by the new deadline.

Senators emphasized the importance of confidentiality for public financing applicants and expressed hope that future Senates and Election Commissions will learn from the messy execution of this year’s program. The body then approved public financing for the total four Senate candidates who submitted budgets.

With only 21 candidates remaining in the race, Ben Laufer ’12 and Janani Ramachandran ’14 expressed disappointed that the offer of public campaign financing did not encourage more students to run.

The senators concluded their debate over the reappointment of Neveen Mahmoud ’11 as ASSU Financial Manager and CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE). Although several senators had voiced concerns last week over the performance of SSE and Mahmoud’s leadership, they unanimously approved her appointment following her responses to their questions over the past week.

“I’m quite pleased that Neveen … put some time and thought into this response to email,” Ian Chan ’14 said in support of her candidacy. “A lot of things…are outside of her immediate control and they’re working on [them], and I’m pretty confident that she is aware of the issues that we’ve been talking about for the past couple of months and will do a good job.”

With their terms coming to a close, the senators discussed the transition to the 14th Senate, which will be elected on Thursday and Friday. They agreed to plan a transition retreat, establish a mentoring relationship between outgoing and incoming members. The current Senate will have its last meeting during week five of the quarter.

Cruz and Senate Chair Rafael Vazquez ’12 both noted that next year’s ASSU budget must be approved by the current Senate. The GSC and Senate will hold a joint legislative meeting next week to discuss the budget. The senators entertained the possibility of canceling their weekly meeting for next week but decided against it when several, including Laufer and Chan, suggested that having a regular meeting is important for teaching new senators about the structure of meetings.

“Unlike last year… I think we should really focus on the transition, because they have a lot to learn and we have a lot to teach them,” said Alon Elhanan ’14.

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