ASUU funds political student group

By Niccolo Barber, Staff Writer

What began as a standard meeting of the Associated Students of the University of Utah General Assembly became a heated debate Tuesday night as student representatives considered how to appropriate funds to a political student group.

The debate began when members of the Students for Garrett Clark group proposed a bill for a political event they planned to host. Because the U is a nonprofit organization, state campaign laws prohibit the university from contributing directly to a political campaign.
U alumnus Garrett Clark is the Republican candidate for House District 25 seat in the Utah State Legislature8212;an area that includes the U.

“Our involvement is important to the school (because we will discuss) budget cuts that have been proposed for the U,” said Keith Chalmers, a member of the group. “This party will be completely about those types of issues.”

According to members of the group, the event will focus on early voting and increasing awareness of issues involving students and the U. Most importantly, the event will be nonpartisan and incumbent Christine Johnson, Clark’s Democratic opponent, would be invited to the event.

Johnson said she does not believe this is a wise appropriation of ASUU’s funds. She said the Clark campaign told her the non-partisan party will take place for a few hours between classes, rather than on a weekend or an evening when more students would be able to attend. Johnson believes that because of the awkward time of the event, the funds would be better used elsewhere.

Johnson said she plans to attend the event, even though she will have to take time off from her job.

“Of course I’ll show up,” Johnson said. “I show up to everything, including debates.” Johnson said Clark has been absent from recent community events.

The debate in the Assembly arose when representatives asked if materials from the Clark campaign would be present at the event. Initially, the members of the student group said Garrett Clark logos would be used, but later retracted that idea in hopes of appeasing some Assembly naysayers.

Assembly representatives were split in their opinions. Some questioned why members of Clark’s campaign would throw a nonpartisan event yet insist on the possibility of wearing their Clark T-shirts.

Andy Murphy, a former director of ASUU’s Presenter’s Office and Clark’s campaign manager, assured the Assembly that the event was not simply for the campaign’s benefit, but for those who attend.

“As a campaign we don’t need money,” he said. “We would like the funds to go to students for an event that promotes early voting and awareness.”

Still, some representatives were not convinced. Assembly representatives worried that if ASUU gave money to the group for the event, they would be inadvertently aligning themselves with a specific candidate.

Other representatives encouraged the Assembly to pass the bill since the student group said it would take all Clark supplies and logos out of the event.

After extended questioning and debate, the Assembly passed the bill with 26 yes votes and 22 no votes, and appropriated $569.50 to Students for Garrett Clark.

The student group said it was grateful the bill was passed and that the party will take place sometime before the early voting dates, which are Oct. 21 to 31.

“I knew at the end of the day that the Assembly is full of sane and logical people, so I had faith that our bill would pass,” Murphy said.

Students for Obama, another political student group, has also presented a bill to the Assembly, but without the luck of Clark’s campaign.

Sarah Day, director of Students for Obama, is frustrated that her group has yet to receive funding from ASUU.

“It’s all up in the air right now,” Day said. “It’s still possible that we could receive money, but I’m not counting on it.”

Members of ASUU are more confident that Students for Obama will receive funding. Liz Peterson, ASUU finance director, would like to have the group propose a bill to the Assembly next month. Even though this would be toward the end of the campaign, the Assembly offers reimbursement to student groups.

Assembly Vice Chair Derek Hoffman is hesitant to close the doors on Students for Obama prematurely.

“I would say that what happened to Students for Garrett Clark last night will set the precedence for what will happen to Students for Obama,” Hoffman said.

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