Lane Community College's Student Newspaper

Presidential candidates begin campaigns, politicking

Posted on April 17, 2014 | in Features, News | by

Michael Weed

Fundraising puts campaign under scrutiny

Nearly two months ago, Lane student government Sustainability Coordinator Michael Weed announced his intention to run for student government president.

He asked “for your support,” according to records of a crowdfunding page obtained by The Torch.

Candidates are prohibited by student government by-laws from “campaigning” until April 14, and the elections packet identifies electronic media as a vector for campaign materials — but neither the committee’s regulations nor the bylaws define “campaigning.”

Gofundme.com, the site Weed used to ask for support, is a crowd-funding website. Since the page went live on Feb. 25, he’s amassed $342, including Weed’s own donation of $100.

Weed insisted he broke none of the student government’s regulations.

Fellow presidential candidate Senator Francisco “Kiko” Gomez disagrees.

Weed violated the bylaws, Gomez said, but he will not submit a formal complaint to the Associated Students of Lane Community College Elections Committee.

“Campaigning would be advertising yourself as running for office,” Gomez said.

Weed said he couldn’t understand how the page, which included an account of his motivations for running and a request for donations, could be construed as campaigning. He believed for it to qualify as pre-campaigning, though, his statement had to be a focused effort to persuade Lane students to vote for him.

Weed said he tried to ensure nobody from Lane saw the gofundme.com page until it was time to go public. Instead, he had hoped to raise funds from family and friends.

The gofundme.com page, which was accessible to anyone who searched Google for Weed’s name, had been shared six times on Facebook prior to April 14.

Weed said members of his family did share a link to the page, but he immediately asked them to delete the posts.

“How are you supposed to fundraise if you are not allowed to talk to people?” Weed asked.

Weed revised his gofundme.com page on April 14 to include a campaign poster and a different statement describing “Team Titan Time” that no longer included his reasons for running.

According to Associate Students of Lane Community College President Paul Zito, who advised Weed on fundraising strategies, the only language that could be construed as pre-campaigning on Weed’s gofundme.com page, prior to the April 14 revision, was the first sentence of the final paragraph: “Which brings me back to the reason that I am here today, to ask for your support.”

“When you are planning this far ahead … you’re toeing a line. And when you’re toe- ing that line, you don’t know when you are going to cross it,and it is going to be up to that Elections Committee to decide whether you have crossed it,” Zito said.

The ambiguous definition of “support” is Zito’s concern.

He said Weed made it clear he was asking for financial support and not for people to vote for him later in the paragraph.

Zito said he was hoping an issue with campaign fundraising would arise so that student government could address its policy on how campaigns are conducted.

The student government needs to address candidates’ fundraising needs, Zito said, and there should be a planned-for time period reserved for fundraising so candidates can be prepared and not risk accusations of early campaigning.

Zito blamed low voter turnout partly on campaigns hamstrung by a lack of money.

Ratthasing and Weed split fundraising efforts.

Ratthasing said the donations are supplementing their out-of-pocket campaign spending.

“Quite honestly, I had no recollection of what was going on because I was … try- ing to figure out ways to have my own funds to get started so that we don’t have to go (under scrutiny) — just to be safe,” Ratthasing said.

ASLCC Vice President Rebekah Ellis said pre-campaigning would include asking for votes or telling them why they should vote for candidates before the official campaign period begins, and she would like to bring the issue before the Elections Committee.

“There were no official rules,” Ellis said. “It’s kind of a gray area because it is not clearly outlined in the bylaws, and it never has been.”

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