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Slates raise thousands for USAC elections

By Amanda Schallert

May 8, 2013 2:26 am

The campaigns for 23 candidates and two ballot measures expect to pour about $23,300 into this year’s undergraduate student government elections.

Of the three slates running candidates for office, Bruins United has ran the most expensive campaign this year, spending about $1,160 on each of its eight candidates. LET’S ACT! spent about $780 on each of its 10 candidates. And Bruin Alliance, which is running just two candidates, spent about $600 per candidate.

Supporters of the Bruin Diversity Initiative have spent about $4,900 on their campaign, while the Bruin Bash Referendum campaign has not spent any money. Supporters of the referendum did not see the need for funds to publicize it, said Tamir Sholklapper, a fifth-year neuroscience student and co-chief of staff in the Undergraduate Students Association Council president’s office, who actively supports the referendum.

This year’s spending is not uncharacteristic of contested USAC elections. In 2011, Bruins United spent about $10,400 in total, while Students First! used about $9,600, according to Daily Bruin archives.

A majority of the offices in last year’s election were uncontested, and Bruins United was the only slate to run candidates. The two independent candidates, Lana El-Farra and Taylor Mason, spent about $2,800 each.

There are no formal spending caps to regulate campaign finances in USAC elections, but candidates can volunteer to adhere to a spending limit set by the USAC Election Board, said Dana Pede, USAC Election Board chair. The voluntary caps range from $400 to $600 per candidate, depending on the council office, she added.

Only two candidates – Jessica Kim, the uncontested candidate for campus events commissioner, and Omar Arce, the uncontested candidate for community service commissioner – agreed to adhere to the voluntary spending limit, Pede said.

The Bruin Diversity Initiative campaign raised its nearly $5,000 in campaign funds by reaching out to about 10 student organizations on campus and individual students for donations, said Emilio Hernandez, a fourth-year history student and member of the initiative’s campaign.

Rohit Maharaj, a fourth-year political science student and member of the initiative’s campaign, said the campaign focused on students involved in cultural student groups and groups who support access retention programs – such as the Vietnamese Student Union, Asian Pacific Coalition, Afrikan Student Union and Samahang Pilipino. He added that this is because funds generated by the initiative would affect their programs and it was easier to reach out to those students first with the limited amount of campaign time.

Funding for the Bruins United campaign, which cost about $9,300, stemmed from corporate sponsorship, private donations and contributions of $300 from each of its candidates for office, said Ken Myers, a third-year mathematics and economics student and Bruins United chair.

Bruins United candidates volunteered to contribute $300 each and invested money from work or other personal sources in their campaigns, said Norma Boster, a third-year human biology and society student and internal chair of the slate.

The other two slates, LET’S ACT! and Bruin Alliance, ran their first campaigns this election.

LET’S ACT! funded its more than $7,800 campaign by throwing multiple fundraisers and asking friends, alumni and family members for financial support, said Matt Abularach-Macias, a fifth-year Chicana/o studies and political science student and member of LET’S ACT! About half of the money came from the individual donations and the other half from about five larger fundraisers and multiple smaller events, Abularach-Macias said.

Bruin Alliance, the smallest slate, secured about $1,200 for their campaign through T-shirt sales and private donations from alumni, a leadership institute and other individual campaign supporters, said Scott Shepard, a first-year chemistry student and a Bruin Alliance campaign manager.

The three slates spent most of their campaign money on T-shirts, flyers, stickers and signboards on campus. Some students said they think the disparity in campaign finances between the three slates could affect election results, although money is not the sole factor in determining student votes.

Tim Yu, a second-year cognitive science and economics student, said he thinks money plays an important role in branding slates and candidates during the elections, but multiple factors like affiliation with student groups influence student votes as well.

“A good number of people are not well-versed in or aware of the issues, so publicity affects their choices,” he said. Yu said he thinks Bruins United has had the most presence on campus.

Students can vote in the election on MyUCLA until Thursday at 6 p.m. The USAC Election Board will announce the results of the election on the steps of Kerckhoff Hall at 11 p.m.

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Amanda Schallert
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