Only four of the 23 candidates complied with voluntary campaign spending caps during this week’s Undergraduate Students Association Council election.
To even the playing field and limit unnecessary spending, USAC should create incentives for candidates to adhere to these caps.
The USAC Election Board requests that presidential candidates sign on to a $600 campaign spending limit, and that all other candidates adhere to a $400 campaign limit. Candidates can sign on to these caps at the campaign orientation meeting, which takes place in early April.
This year, the non-presidential candidates spent an average of $795.59, almost double the voluntary spending cap.
Only one of the presidential candidates met the cap. Bruin Alliance presidential candidate Taylor Bazley, whom this board endorsed, spent $580.31. John Joanino of Let’s Act spent $782.60, and Carly Yoshida of Bruins United spent $1,164.05, according to Election Board records.
Currently, there is no incentive to comply with this voluntary limit, and no publicity is given to candidates who choose to stay under the cap.
Additionally, candidates who sign on to the voluntary cap should be able to receive an Election Board sticker, or some sort of demarcation for their flyers and posters, that publicizes their adherence to the Election Board’s request for responsible spending.
We realize that a just seeing a sticker might not sway a voter, so the Election Board could also consider other solutions, like allowing candidates who adhere to the cap to start campaigning a day early.
Campaigns for ballot initiatives should also be held accountable for their funding – there is currently no voluntary cap for initiatives. The Bruin Diversity Initiative campaign has spent more than $4,900, and this is comparable to the amount initiative campaigns have spent in the past.
To hold initiative campaigns to the same standard as candidates, the Election Board should examine past initiative campaign expenses and evaluate them to come up with a reasonable cap.
Caps for candidate funding used to be mandatory, according to Daily Bruin archives. USAC voted to change the caps to be voluntary after a district court ruled in 2003 that imposing mandatory spending limits on student government campaigns is unconstitutional, according to Daily Bruin archives.
Though this board does not support trying to reinstate a mandatory cap, we do think that the voluntary caps for candidates and initiatives should be taken seriously. Standardizing spending across the board both creates an even competition and forces candidates and voters alike to focus on the platforms themselves, instead of how they are being promoted.