Austin Fast

Candidates for the top positions in Associated Student Government (ASG) will be cracking open their piggy banks for elections this year, with spending limits now up to $1,500 thanks to new rules approved by student senate Tuesday.

The most notable change from last year is a sizeable increase in the amount of money candidates are allowed to spend while campaigning.

According to ASG president pro tempore Brendan Buholzer, candidates were allowed to spend $400 during primaries and an additional $100 for the general election in the spring of 2008.

For the spring of 2009, the amount jumps to $1,000, while candidates winning the primary can spend an additional $500 for the general election.

Doug Haynes, president of the senate, said the higher spending limit will result in more honest reporting of campaign spending.

“We want accurate spending reports,” Haynes said. “I don’t want people to lie to the committee. (The limit) is so high that you don’t need to hide how much money you’re spending.”

Several cabinet members and senators, including senior senator Meghan Kennedy, worried the increased limits would work to the advantage of wealthy students and scare off students not currently in ASG.

“This is an exorbitant amount of money that doesn’t need to be spent on a campaign,” Kennedy said. “Whether you’re going to use it or not, that doesn’t matter. It could deter someone from running and in a student body election, it should be fair for all candidates.”

Matt Forrest, secretary for on-campus affairs, added that the increased limits could give wealthy students a distinct advantage.

“There’s a lot you could do with $1,500 if mom and dad are willing to sign a check off,” Forrest said. “You could completely block off another candidate through door hangers, posters, signs and whatever else you could spend $1,500 on.”

Haynes disagreed, saying the increased limits would not exclude anyone from running for office.

“I don’t see it that way because frankly, it’s entirely possible to get over a 1,000 votes spending less than $100,” he said.

Elections committee member Nathan Zwayer said the goal of raising the spending limit was to encourage creativity and a higher voter turnout.

“We wanted to give the candidates more time and more money to better advertise the elections,” Zwayer said.

Kennedy disagreed with Zwayer’s statements that the increased cap would make candidates think more creatively while campaigning.

“Giving people more money won’t enhance the creativity of elections,” Kennedy said. “Lowering the cap makes people more creative.”

Other major changes from last year’s rules include allowing candidates to campaign together and share resources.

Open campaigning begins at midnight Jan. 16.

New legislation allows break funding for service orgs

ASG unanimously motioned to reestablish spring break funding, after last year’s funding committee stopped funding spring and winter break trips for service organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the African School Advancement Program.

“The main reason why was for monetary reasons,” said Jon McNabb, vice president of student organizations. “They cost so much money out of ASG’s budget that they increased the cutback to astronomical amounts.”

ASG denied Habitat for Humanity’s funding request for its annual winter break service trips last year for the first time in 18 years, prompting complaints from Habitat for Humanity’s then-president Brian Wellman and other members of the organization.

McNabb said that this year, ASG will closely review spring break requests to weed out less “fruitful” organizations.

The legislation included new guidelines that trips must have a “proven charitable purpose” and students must participate in an average of six hours of service per day of the trip.

McNabb estimates about five student organizations will apply for spring break service trip funding next January when the next funding cycle begins.

According to McNabb, these organizations can receive a maximum of $3,000 from an expected total of $10,000 set aside for spring break trips.

Buholzer praised the bill, calling it a “simple solution to a big question we’ve had for a while.”

Recognition of student organizations now moved to Office of Student Activities and Leadership

ASG senate also unanimously decided to transfer its role of recognizing new student organizations to the Office of Student Activities and Leadership.

“We’ll still have control of how the organizations are recognized-the office (of Student Activities and Leadership) follows our bylaws,” McNabb said. “I don’t think we need to have a direct role. We can still have that done without delaying student organizations.”

In the past, student organizations have been forced to wait for approval during weeks that ASG does not meet, mainly at the beginning and end of academic years.

McNabb said ASG has not seriously questioned a request for a new student organization in over two years.

“Really, it comes down to a legal issue that if they meet the criteria and they serve an educational purpose, we have to approve them,” McNabb said.

The legislation requires the Office of Student Activities and Leadership to submit a weekly report of newly recognized student organizations to the vice president of student organizations and the senate.