ASUC Votes Down Bill On Campaign Spending Limits

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The ASUC Senate failed a bill last night that would have let students decide if candidates seeking elected office should have spending limits.

The bill, which sparked an hour-long debate, would have created a proposition in the next student elections asking voters if the first amendment to the ASUC constitution should limit spending for candidates to $1,000 for executive officers and $200 for senators.

Currently students are allowed to spend an unlimited amount of money during their campaign.

A proposition passed by the student body in last spring's elections made it mandatory for candidates to predict how much they will spend and then limit themselves to that amount. Failure of the student government body to enforce these rules would violate election bylaws.

"I think there is a gap in accessibility with the ASUC, and that gap is largely because of the ridiculous amount of money people are spending," said Senator Kevin Sabet, who authored the bill. "I don't want to see a handful of select individuals running and winning when other individuals may be just as competent with thinner wallets."

Sabet added that the monetary limits are not very strict and should be sufficient for anyone seeking a senate seat.

"If you look at other schools and student governments, no one spends this amount of money - most spend less than a tenth of what this bill calls for," he said. "You don't need big money to win campaigns; you need big ideas."

Todd Dipaola, a former senator, said limiting spending would break down barriers between students and their government body.

"The issue is how students view the ASUC and how people view the campaign processes as a waste," said Dipaola, who authored last year's proposition.

He added that many senators changed their stance on the issue after students voiced their support for reform.

"I found it funny that the senate was almost universally opposed to it," he said. "I struggled to get it on the ballot and then a huge voter turnout in favor of it changed what they thought were important voter issues."

Senator Ivan Jen said he agreed with Dipaola but said senators should vote the way they want to rather than trying to please students.

"This is one of those questions where people want to say yes, but (I think) there should be no restriction," he said. "It's up to them how much they want to spend."

Jen added he did not believe money was an issue in campaigns and did not determine who was elected.

"I really believe that money makes a difference only up to a point," he said. "There should be no limits. If someone tries to buy a campaign students won't be dumb enough not to see and will judge accordingly."

Larger parties have more money, a greater variety of resources and are less hurt by campaign limits, said Senator Ben Birken.

"Restricting money hurts smaller parties and independents," he said. "Two hundred dollars may not be enough to overcome the effective political machineries of CalSERVE or Student Action."

Questions also rose about the use of "soft money," contributed to a political party rather than a specific candidate, and the definition of campaign material.

Senator Jarod Buna said the issue was too complicated to put to a simple vote.

"It will be impossible to enforce," he said. "It hasn't been done in the past and it is a more complicated issue than you could ever imagine."


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