ASG passes sanctions against College Democrats

Steph Yiu

College Democrats are guilty of financial misconduct, the Student Activities Finance Board announced at Wednesday’s ASG meeting.

SAFB recommended two sanctions against the group, which the Senate approved unanimously without much debate.

For the rest of the school year, the College Democrats’ adviser will have to authorize all of the group’s spending, and they will need to send weekly e-mail updates to SAFB.

The College Democrats received $71,000 during funding last spring, specifically to invite a speaker such as former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for an event in Cahn Auditorium.

The group tried repeatedly to find a speaker over the summer, but was unsuccessful and instead decided to split the honorarium and invite multiple speakers.

In order to split the money or change the venue, the group is required to re-petition with SAFB. Officials from College Democrats said they were unaware of this rule and invited Paul Begala, former adviser to Bill Clinton and former host of CNN’s Crossfire to come to campus Oct. 2 as the first of three smaller speaker events. SAFB notified the group of their error Oct. 1.

“The moment I found out I had to file that petition, I had it done in under two hours,” College Democrats President and Weinberg junior Ryan Erickson said. “I admit we’ve made a mistake.”

The College Democrats’ SAFB account was frozen after the beginning of the school year because they violated multiple SAFB requirements, including failing to meet fundraising guidelines set by SAFB.

But despite having a frozen account, by Oct. 2, the group signed contracts with Begala and former CIA officer Valerie Plame, who is scheduled to speak Nov. 12. The group also was planning today’s event featuring syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, co-sponsored with Students for Environmental and Ecological Development as part of their speaker series.

SAFB rejected the petition for the Plame event, and will be hosting her speech with their contingency funds in order to honor Plame’s contract. The College Democrats had not yet signed the contract with Huffington, and so they had time to get proper SAFB approval to co-host today’s event.

After a full investigation, the group was found guilty of financial misconduct on three counts: not petitioning to change their venue, having a frozen account while hosting an event and not hosting a speaker of the same caliber as promised in their spring petition.

Associated Student Government Financial Vice President Aneesa Arshad said the speedy vote in Senate was appropriate.

“The College Democrats’ demeanor throughout the whole process has been very professional and cooperative,” the SESP senior said. “I think they also realized that our sanctions are appropriate and not too harsh. Hopefully they can move forward, and even their account executive is recommending they apply for supplemental funding so they can pull off a good event in the spring.”

Reach Steph Yiu at [email protected]