Executive Slate Campaign Finance Regulations
The ASSU has passed a new set of by-laws that limit the amount of money candidates may spend as part of the Executive election. These regulations have been approved by both branches of the ASSU legislature and will be enforced fairly and impartially by the Elections Commission during the 2016-2017 Spring Quarter General Election.
What are these spending caps?
The spending caps state that any slate seeking Executive office may spend a maximum of $1000 on their campaign. If enough students from both the graduate and undergraduate populations support the slate when it is petitioning to be on the ballot, up to $500 of that money may be reimbursed from the budget of the current president and vice president.
Why is campaign spending during elections being capped?
The ASSU Executive, the Undergraduate Senate, and the Graduate Student Council feel that equal access to the office of Executive is important to the student body, and wish to ensure that candidates without significant financial resources have an equal opportunity to show the student body their platform. In another light, campaign spending caps make candidates focus on how they can help the student body — not on buying the most merchandise to gain name recognition.
What happens if a slate goes over the cap?
Slates that go over the cap can be disqualified from the election, and may not seek office until the next school year.
How are these spending caps enforced?
Every slate seeking Executive office must submit a budget before "Campaign Week" starts, and must submit receipts that corroborate that budget by the time the polls close. A slate's budget may be modified as the campaign continues, but must stay under $1000. As well, all slates are required to keep a digital record of their campaign expenditureswith the Financial Branch.
What's to stop candidates from just not reporting their spending?
Three things: the Fundamental Standard, a new campaign regulations pledge, and audits from the ASSU Financial Manager.
Doesn't restricting candidates' spending violate their right to free speech?
No; while election spending caps do nominally impact each candidate's individual speech during a campaign, the limitations are minimal, do not limit the content of candidates' free speech, and serve to promote the interests of students as a whole.
Broadly speaking, the right to free speech is not unlimited, and limiting excessive spending during "Campaign Week" does not place any restrictions on what a candidate may say — only on how they may say it. These types of regulations are commonly seen as fair; we regularly accept the fact that dorms can set their own flyer policies, that vandalism (even political) is bad, and that it's illegal for telemarketers to call us in the middle of the night. As a community, we accept these limitations on free speech primarily because the net effect is positive.
For many of the same reasons, the ASSU Executive, Undergraduate Senate, and Graduate Student Council all feel that there is a compelling reason to limit the way candidates may campaign, as all students benefit from "calmer" elections focused not on spending, but on important issues.
Please also note that it is not the duty of the Commission to defend the Constitutionality of this policy; rather, as an independent and impartial body of the ASSU, the Elections Commission will enforce elections regulations, as written, equally for all candidates. This explanation is provided as a statement of fact.
Is it Constitutional (under the ASSU Constitution) to disqualify candidates who violate these by-laws?
Yes. No place in the Constitution directly conflicts with these new by-laws, and Article III §3.2 states that "provisions for nominations shall be specified in the Association by-laws" — so when the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council adopted these by-laws that revoke the nomination of (i.e., disqualify) candidates who violate spending caps, the by-laws became part of those Constitutional rules.
Why are there no spending caps on Undergraduate Senate candidates, GSC candidates, or undergraduate class president candidates?
Actually, there are. These spending caps are $100 for Undergraduate Senate and GSC candidates, and $400 for undergraduate class president candidates.
Is Stanford the only school that caps campaign finance?
No. Spending caps exist at Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Georgetown, UPenn, UC-Berkeley, Claremont McKenna, USC, and all other schools that the Elections Commission has analyzed. In fact, the only school in the country with higher election spending caps than Stanford is USC, at $1,500 per candidate.