A CSU presidential campaign was cleared of any wrongdoing Friday after a formal complaint charged them with unfair promotion practices, including early campaigning and using an e-mail account paid for by student fees, to garner votes for the upcoming student government elections.
The ASCSU Elections Committee rejected three proposed violations against Jake Blumberg and Sean Abbey, each vying for president and vice president respectively.
The proposed violations charged the Blumberg-Abbey ticket with infringing on active campaigning rules by starting too early, not getting certain campaign materials approved and using student fees for campaign use.
“The committee decided that none of the potential violations were actual violations of the ASCSU elections, referenda and code,” said Audrey LaSalle, ASCSU elections manager.
The complaint was officially filed by Dan Palmer, a campaign staffer for the Katie Gleeson and Trevor Trout campaign, because he said the Blumberg-Abbey ticket was trying to harvest early votes before the official campaign start date of March 19.
“There has to be accountability to the rules,” said Palmer, a graduate student studying economics.
During discussion, committee member Whitney Bostick said she was wavering on her decision.
“It’s shady; it’s on the border line of a violation,” Bostick said.
Palmer said Blumberg and Abbey’s campaign was approaching students before the kick-off date – the first day back from Spring Break – using e-mails and physical meetings to ask for their support.
Blumberg and Abbey both acknowledge they were “thinking of potentially running” when they approached students about some of the things that concerned them on campus. In essence, the duo said they were forming ideas for a platform – not propagating it – and determining whether they should even run.
They also admit using an e-mail account that belongs to a student-funded organization for campaign correspondence.
“We do not feel like this is active campaigning,” Blumberg said. “We were trying to get information to help us decide if we should run.”
Abbey said the complaint process was used as a “weapon” by their opponents to hinder the Blumberg-Abbey campaign, who said if they were found in violation would have to fork over fines that could have potentially set them over the $2,000 spending limit and disqualified them.
Gleeson said she didn’t use the complaints as weapons, but rather wanted clarification on early campaigning rules from the Elections Committee.
“I absolutely respect the decisions of the Elections Committee,” she said. “We filed the violations to see what they thought; their decisions are final and lasting”.
The Elections Committee refused to turn over the official violations complaint to the Collegian and would not reveal the complainants identity. Palmer attended the hearing and confirmed he filed the proposed violations in an interview Friday.
According to ASCSU election rules, candidates and campaigns are prohibited from using items provided by student fee dollars in campaigning, including e-mail accounts associated with student-funded organizations.
In two e-mails documents obtained by the Collegian, a campaign volunteer with the consent of Blumberg and Abbey uses an e-mail account for the office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement (SLCE) to solicit issues important to two Greek organizations, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Delta Sigma Theta, prior to the official campaign start date:
“I am friends of Jake Blumberg and Sean Abbey who are thinking about running for ASCSU president and vice president .They would like to learn about the issues that are important to (you) . It is important to both Jake and Sean to know about the issues which are most important to you come campaign season,” the e-mails stated.
Students running for student body office are strictly given two weeks to campaign, no more and no less, according to ASCSU rules. Some insiders said this timeframe is too narrow and likely caused August Ritter, Gov. Bill Ritter’s son, to abandon any plans of a presidential ticket.
The timeframe is not only constricting, Abbey said, but it is also the reason for continuously low voter turnout during election season.
“How are you supposed to know issues as a student if you have to wait?” Abbey said.
Editor’s note: ASCSU Presidential candidate Jake Blumberg is a former employee of Student Media, including the Collegian
City editor James Baetke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.