Higher spending elected for MSA campaigns

by Tracy Ellingson

The All-Campus Election Commission has come up with a response to last year’s accusations of overspending in Minnesota Student Association campaigns: raise the spending limit.
The 12-member commission has reviewed last year’s election rules and proposed guideline changes for this spring’s elections. MSA will vote on the changes and make decisions about any proposals of its own this afternoon at its forum.
Undergraduate students vote every spring for their student body president, vice president, representatives and senators. Candidates from several of the five MSA presidential tickets last spring accused each other of spending more than the suggested limit.
Under the proposal, two-member presidential tickets would be urged to spend no more than $1,200 on campaign expenses. Candidates running for other positions would be asked to limit spending to $300. Last year, candidates were asked to confine their expenditures to $800 and $200, respectively.
Commission member Kristen Burke said the group decided to increase candidate spending limits this year because it would more accurately reflect the amount candidates have likely spent in recent campaigns. If approved, it will be the first increase in three years,
“We knew that $800 just wasn’t a realistic amount,” said Burke, who said several commission members have worked on campus campaigns in the past. “We wanted to keep a limit in place, but we wanted something that reflected, more realistically, the spending of candidates.”
Candidates who exceed the limits, however, face mild or no penalties. If the commission found winning students to have overspent, they could lose their seats, though this is unlikely. But losing candidates who overspend could not be penalized under the current or proposed rules.
Election adviser Denise Tolbert said last year that the spending limits are in place to keep a level playing field. None of the presidential tickets reported spending more than $800, but four reported more than $795.
All candidates are required to turn in spending reports after the election. Failure to do so results in a forfeit for a winning candidate.
Added to the finance rules is a breakdown of how the candidates can spend their campaign dollars. Advertising expenses can make up as much as 80 percent of candidates’ expenditures.
Other categories mentioned in the rules include supplies, donations — in the form of goods and services and miscellaneous expenses.
If MSA members approve the amendments, fee-receiving student organizations would no longer be allowed to contribute funds to candidates, and candidates would have three, rather than five, school days after the election to file their campaign-expenses reports.