Two separate meetings held by both the Cornell Democrats and the Cornell College Republicans have led to accusations that potential Student-elected Trustee, Student Assembly (S.A.) and University Assembly candidates violated election rules.
Election Campaign rule Part 3-4a states that candidates may not campaign until Monday, Feb. 26, after the Meeting with the Candidates takes place and official candidates are announced to the public.
Criticism of the Democrats’ Feb. 14 meeting, which occured the day before petitions to run for office were due, contend that the proceedings — part of the Democrat’s endorsement process — violated this rule. The Republican’s Feb. 19 meeting garnered the same criticism.
Student-elected Trustee and Director of Student Assembly elections, David Mahon ’01 said he “was at both endorsement meetings” and that candidates did not violate the election rules because they were not soliciting votes; they were only soliciting support.
The Democrats “used the meeting to discuss S.A. elections, but we won’t officially announce endorsements until the 26th,” said Cornell Democrats President Michael Moschella ’02. The Democrats’ executive board has already decided their endorsements — the organizations’ intention to support a slate of candidates or an election platform — though they will remain private until Monday, he said.
“We were very, very clear on the basis of not stating [students who spoke at the meeting] were candidates but that they were interested in running,” Moschella said. “Because it was people asking them questions … their responses aren’t necessarily campaigning.”
If they had waited until the official candidate announcements, he said, it would not have given students enough time to put forth an effective platform.
“Because the candidates didn’t know the results and still don’t know the results of the endorsements, they don’t know they’re endorsed. There was no endorsement,” Moschella said.
“I don’t consider it campaigning because [the candidates] do not know whether or not they are going to get the endorsement,” Mahon said. “The key thing about this is that [the executive boards’ endorsements] were not done publicly.”
“I can’t prove that they broke any rules,” Mahon said. The groups are violation free, he said, because they did not make public the endorsements.
S.A. representative Mike Kalogiannis ’01, a member of the Student Assembly’s board of elections admitted that a fine line exists between campaigning and petitioning to campaign.
However, others felt that the Democrat’s endorsement process was clearly campaigning.
“When I found out about the Democrat’s meeting, I was kind of flabbergasted. I think when you seek an endorsement it’s campaigning,” said former S.A. President and election board member Emanuel Tsourounis II law ’03.
“That means there were a lot of people who violated [the election rule] — we’re talking about 50 people,” said David Chippernoi grad, who attended the Democrat’s meeting. He said that besides prospective S.A. candidates, four of five students who turned in petitions to run for Student-elected Trustee spoke at the meeting.
The endorsements are especially contentious because the Student Activities Fee allocation process will take place next fall, and student organizations receiving by-line funding are paying close attention to endorsements, noted Chippernoi.
Todd Justo ’01, former President of the Cornell Democrats, also raised questions about the legitimacy of the Democrat’s endorsement process and said he considered it campaigning. He questioned the fairness of the meeting since all the candidates were not necessarily aware of the meeting and endorsement process.
Last Monday at their regular meeting Cornell’s College Republicans also provided an open forum to discuss Student Assembly issues. Eight students running for office participated and also commented on what they thought to be the ideal S.A. candidate, according to Ryan Horn ’02 chair of the College Republicans.
“These people did not discuss their platforms. They did not discuss what they would do as members of the assembly,” Horn said. “They discussed what they thought the issues would be.”
“[Potential candidates] gave us an idea of who they are so after the [official] announcement the [Republican’s] executive board can make an informed decision,” said Jessi King ’02, secretary of the College Republicans.
No other meetings will be held with the official candidates though the Republicans will announce their endorsements next week, according to Horn.
Horn added that Mahon and Kalogiannis both attended the meeting and voiced no objection to the process.
“Getting the endorsement of an organization is not campaigning, because campaigning is reaching out to the general public,” Kalogiannis said.
Archived article by Christen Aragoni