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USAC candidates weigh pros and cons of campaign spending

A pile of dollar bills is pictured. Undergraduate Students Association Council candidates discussed the affordability of running a USAC campaign. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

By Dylan Winward

May 11, 2023 11:59 p.m.

Candidate campaign spending details from the Undergraduate Students Association Council elections were published last week, leading some candidates to express concerns about the affordability of running for office.

Across candidates, thousands of dollars were spent on various campaign materials, including funding items such as water bottles, campaign sign boards, stickers and poster printing, according to published campaign expense sheets.

Each candidate was allowed to spend up to $500 on their own campaign and could apply for a grant of up to $75 from the elections board to reimburse their costs, said Tushar Roy, the elections board finance director. Candidates typically spend their campaign money on advertising to try to reach new voters, he added. According to the elections code on the elections board website, donated materials must also be declared at the value it would cost to buy them on expense forms.

Roy, a fourth-year business economics and statistics student, also said some candidates self-finance their campaigns and do not use the $75 grants.

In April, the council added $2,000 of additional funding for the grants beyond the elections board’s initial budget to allow students to be reimbursed for up to $75 of campaign expenses rather than a lower amount, said Carl King Jr., the incumbent president of USAC.

According to his campaign’s filing, King, a third-year business economics student who is running for reelection, spent nearly $500 on cell phone wallets, water bottles and hand sanitizer to hand out to students.

Ethan Ferrara, a candidate for general representative, spent $372, including $120 on Instagram advertising. The first-year political science student said he spent several months saving money in anticipation of campaigning.

Eva Jussim, a candidate for internal vice president, said she spent money on stickers, shirts and flyers to attract visibility toward her campaign. She added she felt spending money on the campaign gave candidates a significant advantage in the elections.

“It (the stickers) kind of is the gateway for me to give them my flyers, which have the actual information that I want them to look at,” the third-year political science student said. “Spending the money on the stickers did give me an advantage in so that it draws attention on Bruin Walk.”

Jussim, who spent more than $400 on her campaign, said she feels allowing candidates to spend their own money can have negative impacts on the accessibility of running for USAC. She added that she felt some potential candidates might have been deterred from running because of the cost.

“From an equity standpoint, the candidates that aren’t spending as much – they might not get the same visibility as other candidates who are,” she said.

Adam Tfayli, a candidate for international student representative who did not report any campaign expenditures, said he feels the election board’s campaign funding system gave an unfair advantage to wealthier students because campaign grants only cover a small portion of the potential cost.

He added that he was a signatory of the United Bruin Movement slate, which builds support for candidates with similar goals and values in order to compete with more well-funded candidates.

“Underprivileged students make up a big population of both UCLA and the world population, so it’s important that they’re both represented in USAC,” said Tfayli, a first-year biology student.

Hiyab Misghina, a candidate for external vice president who did not report any campaign spending, said she felt spending money was not necessary to run a successful campaign. Instead, she said she has visited community organizations such as those in Greek life and the Black Bruin Resource Center to campaign, adding that she has also used social media platforms such as TikTok.

Misghina, a third-year political science student, said she felt choosing not to spend money on her campaign created a more equitable basis for the elections because people who have more money to spend have an advantage.

“I do promote the ideals of fairness and transparency and accessibility in my platform, so I want to be a true example of that in my everyday campaigning,” she said.

Jean Pierre Etcheverry, a candidate for general representative, also did not report any expenses to the election board. The first-year undeclared humanities student said he felt spending money was not essential to an effective campaign because other strategies, such as using word-of-mouth and meeting potential voters, are more effective.

“It definitely gives an advantage, but I don’t think it’s an advantage that can’t be overcome in other areas of campaign strategy,” he said.

Jussim said that even though running for office was expensive for students like her, who are funding their own education, she felt it was worth it.

“If by me spending this money, I can get elected and help Bruins like myself who are financially supporting themselves through college and making it a more affordable university, that’s money that I want to spend,” she said.

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Dylan Winward
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