Apr 042010
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge and Kirsten Silveira

Citing what they said was an inherent bias against their campaign, student government presidential candidates David Ambrose and April Ragland plan to defend an appeal today to the body’s Supreme Court after they were ousted Friday for exceeding their budget.

They were the first candidates ever to be expelled from the race for overspending.

Ambrose, a senator in the Associated Students of CSU, and Ragland, director of Student Services, were booted from the election after a salvo of complaints alleged that they had overstepped university procedure in distributing campaign materials in the residence halls.

For the violation, the team was originally fined $50 during last Tuesday’s meeting for allegedly violating residence hall guidelines, but Ragland said when they were delivering the handbills, nobody asked for a permit.

Emily Malin, the committee clerk, motioned to revisit the complaint against Ambrose and Ragland following conversations with the Registrar’s Office, citing the price for mailing postcards at 28 cents each, or $1,260 for 4,500.

The elections committee determined that Ambrose and Ragland had exceeded their campaign spending limit of $2,000. Ambrose and Ragland had already spent $1,700.

But Ambrose said in an interview that the committee ignored the real fair market value of postage for the materials –– postcards advertising their campaign slogan –– which he said was as low as 9 cents per mailing for a bulk package, or $360 total.

Ambrose and Ragland are the only candidates who have been fined, although eight complaints were filed against Cooper Anderson and Jennifer Babos last week.

The committee overturned those complaints, which included trademark infringement for campaigning with an edited image that displayed the ShamWow logo and different price quotes for fair market value for campaign T-shirts.

Candidates Jack Becker and Darrie Burrage have not had any complaints filed against them nor have they filed any.

Ragland said this indicates a bias in the elections committee against her and Ambrose’s ticket.

“There’s obviously a personal bias here,” Ragland said in an interview. “… This is such a hard thing to prove, but Dave and I see it.”

Fines during a student government election are common, but ASCSU bylaws only give the committee the right to expel candidates from the race if they break a major law, exceed spending limits or are the subject of two major campaign suspensions.

“Kick them out of the campaign, if that’s what they deserve,” Malin said, becoming visibly upset during the elections committee’s discussion. “It’s sticking to the rules, and it’s telling people it’s not OK to go around the rules.”

She added that it would be unfair to take pity on the Ambrose/Ragland ticket because of the exorbitant postage price tag.

When asked by a Collegian reporter why Ambrose and Ragland were booted, Malin said she needed to consult Kevin Robinson, who sits as the chair of the committee, filed the complaint.

In a later phone conversation, Malin said the expulsion was a result of the campaign exceeding its spending limit, but declined to comment further, saying she was not involved in the investigation and acted only as the person who brought the original complaint back to committee.

But her participation in the meeting indicated that she was an examiner of the case, when she said, “The fact is that I did a little research because I didn’t really feel good about what happened.”

Malin deferred comment to ASCSU President Dan Gearhart, who later sent an official statement on behalf of the Elections Committee explaining the process of the expulsion and confirming that Ambrose and Ragland will not appear on the ballot.

Normally, student organizations obtain lists of addresses for dormitory residents through the Registrar’s Office, but Ambrose and Ragland established lists through Ambrose’s fraternity, which compiles addresses for recruiting.

The Registrar’s office, Malin said, had no idea the list would be used for anything other than recruiting and was upset that Ambrose and Ragland “skirted the rules.” Malin urged the committee to rule on a fair market value and assess the campaign a fine because their actions were “completely unethical and wrong.”

Ben Weiner, a campaigner for Ambrose and Ragland who has filed complaints against the Anderson/Babos campaign, drafted the appeal regarding the fair market value of the postcards, writing that Malin’s investigation was thin. He said it was easy to determine a lower price for mailing in bulk.

“… I would like to add that none of this information was especially difficult to obtain, and I can’t help but wonder why none of it was found by Emily Malin during her extensive investigations into the Dave and April campaign,” Weiner wrote.

During the complaint hearing against Ambrose and Ragland, Robinson had removed himself from the position, giving it up to Andrew Ives, the vice chair and the liaison between the committee and the Ambrose and Ragland campaign.

This move effectively took a vote in the decision away from Ives, who criticized the training process for elections officials.

The committee, Ives said, traditionally spends three weeks training for elections season, but, as a result of delays in the ratification process, only spent two weeks familiarizing themselves with the elections code and protocol and are interpreting the rules “on the fly.”

The Ambrose/Ragland campaign filed four other appeals, but the Supreme Court decided not to hear them.

Projects Editor Aaron Hedge and Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:24 pm

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