Our capitalistic society revolves around money – earning it, saving it, and of course, spending it. So when posters, T-shirts and signs began appearing around campus as part of the recent Associated Students Inc. presidential campaigns, the first question on many students’ minds was – how much are they spending?
They might be surprised to learn that money matters were a top priority on the candidates’ minds as well.
Unlike last year’s ASI elections, in which the presidential candidates spent about $14,600 on their campaigns combined, this year’s candidates only spent about $4,000 combined. But why the drastic decrease?
Amanda Rankin, chair of the election committee for ASI, said the amount of money spent is completely up to the candidates. ASI has never had any type of spending limit, though it has been discussed each year, she said.
“The only thing that candidates have to do is turn in a financial statement listing the money that they received and spent at the end of their campaign,” Rankin said.
Though these financial statements are not due until May 30, by the candidates’ estimates, each spent less than $2,000 after making conscious decisions to keep their campaign budgets low.
Arvand Sabetian, who also ran for the presidency last year, saved money and resources by using items from his previous campaign.
“I probably spent about $1,000 to $1,500,” he said. “Most of it was mine, though I had some money donated. The campaign was supposed to be kept low budget at around $1,000.”
Though he spent about $7,000 on his previous campaign, Sabetian felt that the same amount of money was not warranted for this election.
“If you look at last year, or the year before, or even this year, you can see that money is an issue when there are similar candidates running and you need to differentiate yourself,” Sabetian said. “This year we didn’t have that kind of atmosphere going into it and money wasn’t as big of a deal; we had more diverse stances on the issues.”
Elected president Angela Kramer began her campaign with two goals – to keep her spending under $1,000, and to make it completely paperless to promote sustainability.
“In January, when my team and I met, I said I wanted to spend under $1,000 – no debate, and we were able to do it,” Kramer said. “I went everywhere, especially paint stores and hardware stores asking for any ‘oops’ paint or free wood.”
Her campaign cost approximately $900, which was mostly spent on sandwich boards and T-shirts, Kramer said.
“The whole reasoning behind keeping it low cost is that I want everyone to feel like they can run for president regardless of financial status,” she said. “It doesn’t take a person from a certain socio-economic background to be a successful president.”
“Last year, I felt like a lot of students lost respect for the campaign process, and I think we really recognized that this year. I tried to run a respectful campaign and I think people appreciated it.”
Melissa Lema said she spent roughly $1,900, and also set a limit for herself when starting her campaign.
“I worked hard over the past several summers to earn and save the majority of the money I spent on my campaign,” Lema said via e-mail.
“While I did receive a few donations from friends and alumni, I felt that it was important to keep my spending under $2,500, as last year’s election totals seemed a bit out of control.”
When it comes to campaign spending, however, Lema thinks a cap is unnecessary.
“I personally believe that it should be up to the individual candidate to run their campaign in the manner that they feel will best get them elected to serve the students,” Lema said in her e-mail.
“If that means spending extra money, that should be up to the individual.”
Regardless of a cap, it seems the candidates all took it upon themselves to keep their campaign spending under control this year, and promote democracy in a less expensive way.
“Angela only really spent money on shirts, Arvand used a lot of the materials he generated last year, and Melissa just had a couple of billboards and signs,” said Stephan Lamb, associate director of Student Life and Leadership.
“In my perspective, having monitored the elections for eight years, this was a pretty low-cost campaign.”