ESB

Student Government president and vice president candidates Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland listen to their defense given by senior Kent Kasischke to the Election Supervisory Board regarding a complaint filed by finance senior Danny Zeng.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Updated (3:10 p.m.): Thursday afternoon, the election supervisory board released an opinion to dismiss the complaint brought against the Rady-Strickland campaign. At a hearing Wednesday night, Danny Zeng, finance and government senior, accused the alliance of committing privacy violations by sending him unrequited emails.

The board dismissed the complaint on grounds that there was a direct connection between Zeng and Rady-Strickland worker Joshua Tang, a history major.

Tang and Zeng both said they had a direct connection to each other through their involvement in Up To Texas, a case competition to raise awareness about the national debt deficit.

According to the opinion released by the board, “the executive alliance acted within campaign guidelines when collecting the plaintiff’s e-mail.”

Updated (11:40 a.m.): Thursday morning, the Election Supervisory Board determined the Villarreal-Wilkey executive alliance in the Graduate Student Assembly elections was guilty of sending of unsolicited emails and ordered the alliance to cease all campaigning until 5 p.m.

According to the board's opinion, “the worker, though ignorant that her actions were in direct violation of the Election Code, was found to be the source of mass emails sent to multiple, substantial academic listservs within graduate departments.”

The board determined the executive alliance committed a Class B violation and must remove all campaign material and cease all campaigning until 5 p.m.

The board released opinions on three of the four complaints it heard late Wednesday night. A resolution regarding the Rady-Strickland hearing in Student Government executive alliance elections has not been released.

ESB chose to dismiss the second complaint involving the Villarreal-Wilkey campaign. Their opposing candidates accused Villarreal and Wilkey of using platform points that were not their own. The board dismissed the case stating there was not enough proof to make a decision.

“We concluded that we could not determine any possible similarities between the platforms were a result of coincidence or not,” the opinion stated.

The board also dismissed a complaint against University Co-op Board of Directors candidate Ben Tillis in a case involving destruction of campaign property. The board determined there was not sufficient enough evidence.

Polls close at 5 p.m. Thursday and results are announced at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Building.

Original Story: Late Wednesday night, after the first day of voting, the Election Supervisory Board heard four allegations of misconduct, including one that the Rady-Strickland executive alliance campaign had violated students’ privacy by adding students to an email listserv without permission.

The hearings, which began at 10:30 p.m. and continued on past 1 a.m., also addressed two charges filed against Graduate Student Assembly executive alliance Villarreal-Wilkey including allegations they were campaigning on platform points that were not originally their ideas. The board also heard complaints from two candidate for the Co-op board of director position who claimed an opponent had torn down their fliers.

Danny Zeng, finance and government senior, accused Student Government presidential candidate Kori Rady and running mate Taylor Strickland of unauthorized use of his email address.

“I really don’t know the scope and reach of this operation,” Zeng told the board. “I just know my privacy is being intruded from the negligence on their part.”

History senior Joshua Tang and Kennon Kasischke, a biology and psychology senior, represented the Rady-Strickland campaign at the hearing. Tang, who is registered as a worker for the Rady-Strickland campaign, said he was not speaking in any way in his capacity as SG administrative director.

Tang said Zeng was added to the campaign’s listserv after Rady and Strickland asked their agents and workers to contact the leaders of the student organizations in which they held membership. Tang and Zeng both said they had a direct connection to each other through their involvement in Up To Texas, a case competition to raise awareness about the national debt deficit.

“The emails that I submitted were sent to people I know are engaged on political matters on campus,” Tang said.

Kasischke, a Rady-Strickland agent, said he felt the campaign team was selective in choosing whom the emails were sent to, and kept well within the boundaries of the guidelines about email messaging in the board’s code.

“If your team is using the directory to email someone you know, you need to have someone on your team to have a direct connection to him,” Kasischke said. “We developed a list of 668 emails.”

Zeng said he felt the campaign should not have assumed he wanted to get the campaign email.

“I appreciate what they said, but in this country, with mass marketing, we have an opt-in system rather than an opt-out,” Zeng said.

Tang asked the board to have the case dismissed. Board Chairman Ryan Lutz said the board was required to release a resolution and would have the response within 24 hours.

The board also addressed two separate complaints filed against Graduate Student Assembly presidential candidate David Villarreal and running mate Brian Wilkey. Their opponents, presidential candidate Frank Male and running mate Virginia Luehrsen, filed a complaint against executive alliance Villarreal and Wilkey over “misleading campaign activities.” Luehrsen said the duo claimed other candidates’ platform points as their own.

“Misrepresentation of facts and the work involved is damaging to our campaign and to the Graduate Student Assembly,” Luehrsen said. “If students did this in my class, I would report them to Student Judicial Services.”

Villarreal said he was alarmed by the lack of specifics the opposing candidates brought forward.

“We fundamentally believe it is our job to campaign for ourselves,” Villarreal said.

A second hearing was called to address allegations against Villarreal and Wilkey concerning an economics graduate coordinator forwarding an email to several departments endorsing their campaign.

Economics graduate student Anna Klis accused a worker of sending a Villarreal-Wilkey endorsement email to the economics graduate coordinator, which was then passed along through graduate departments in the College of Liberal Arts. Klis said she believed the email could be confused by graduate students as an endorsement by the college.

“In a case like this — this is almost cause for disqualification,” Klis said.

Villarreal said the worker had been his close friend for several years, and said she was likely unfamiliar with UT student election codes. Wilkey said if his team had been aware of the worker's plans to send the email, he and Villarreal would have prevented her from doing so.

“We apparently have a rogue agent — we are upset about this,” Wilkey said. “There may be no way to rectify this.”

The board also addressed allegations made by business senior Alexander Bryan and undeclared freshman Christian Trudeau, both candidates for the Co-op board of director position. Bryan and Trudeau claimed that finance sophomore Ben Tillis, who is also running for the position, removed their campaign fliers in the McCombs School of Business.

Bryan said he and Trudeau could not offer proof Tillis had torn down the fliers because they did not have video camera footage, but said he knew of at least nine fliers that had disappeared that were at one point clearly visible in McCombs.

“It seems like somebody was directly targeting [Trudeau] and I’s campaign,” Bryan said.

In response, Tillis said his fliers were also removed from their original locations and encouraged the board to check security footage. ESB chairman Ryan Lutz said he would consult with McCombs representatives Thursday.

At roughly 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning, when the hearings ended, Lutz said the board would release resolutions for all four allegations within 24 hours. Student election polls will close Thursday at 5 p.m.

Additional reporting by Bobby Blanchard

Armed with a website and a petition, Abolish SG has taken on the Jeffersonian “obligation” to cleanse Student Government of its alleged impurities or dismantle it entirely.


Samantha Smith, Middle Eastern studies junior and the movement’s leader, calls for the nullification of last month’s election results or the annihilation of SG as a whole. The group’s website contains embarrassing and unprofessional emails from several members of the Election Supervisory Board (ESB) and a graphic depicting former ESB chairman Eric Nimmer’s various involvements in SG. It also shows incriminating screenshots of a Facebook message sent by newly elected SG President Thor Lund well before the official campaigning period began. In it, he asks some 21 friends for help with his and running mate Wills Brown’s campaign but warns them that this recruitment is against election code regulations.

Abolish SG threatens that if it amasses 1,000 signatures or if “the assembly fails to impeach and appoint at the next meeting,” it will release a roster of the Eyes of Texas, a secret society at the University, and “reveal” two administrators for unspecified offenses. “Vigilante democracy” may be a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s just what Smith and her unnamed associates appear to be attempting.

Of course, the group’s insistence on transparent, representative democracy strikes a deeply American chord within us all, and its motto, “democracy isn’t guaranteed, it’s earned and protected,” is — comma splice notwithstanding — a truism for the ages. The website shows evidence of some solid investigative journalism, particularly with regard to the record of mutual support between Judicial Court Chief Justice Alden Harris and SG law school representative Austin Carlson, who filed the complaints that got the Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara executive alliance disqualified for the second time. Additionally, Abolish SG’s call to reallocate all SG funds to scholarships is particularly tempting in these rough economic times.

However, Abolish SG has critical weaknesses much less apparent than its misspellings and tabloid-style personal attacks against student leaders. Most importantly, the petition fails to mention legitimate concerns about conflicts of interest and underhanded dealings; instead, it cites the disqualification of “all underrepresented candidates” from last month’s executive alliance election as the driving force behind the initiative. This not only distracts attention from the real issues but also levels unsubstantiated charges of racism and sexism against the ESB, whose vice-chair Truc Nguyen is both a woman and a minority. As Nguyen and other ESB members point out in a video on The Daily Texan, Abolish SG goes too far in suggesting that the board’s decisions were influenced by the demographic characteristics of candidates. Watchdog groups have every right to criticize and petition as long as the criticisms remain civil and justifiable.

Second, Abolish SG does not cite its sources for the Facebook screenshots or list of Eyes members. Smith and Co. could be treading on thin legal ice if they fail to show that they obtained their information legitimately and from willing sources. Additionally, Lund and Brown are the only executive alliance to receive an online expose. If Abolish SG truly favors a second election in which all disqualified candidates would be reinstated, it should critically investigate them all.

To be sure, the overarching demand for fair representation that drives Abolish SG is not without potential. Handled in a more professional manner, an investigation of SG and its election procedures could raise important questions about the role of government in a university setting and the responsibilities of those who govern. Clearly, the ESB and SG’s Judicial Court and legislative branch are unduly entangled through common members, personal connections and questionable interests.

However, Abolish SG has even less credibility than SG itself. An audit of SG practices and a reform of its electoral system should come not from a rogue Tumblr account but from an independent committee appointed by the Office of the Dean of Students. Impassioned students are often the drivers of important reforms, but they need the backing of the University and a standard of professional accountability in order to achieve anything more substantial than short-lived publicity.

Oliver is an English and sociology freshman.

Editor’s note: From current candidates to observing students, the following firing lines represent the many reactions to the Student Government (SG) election and the role of the Election Supervisory Board (ESB). All executive alliance candidates were asked to contribute.

DQ the ESB

Yet again, the ESB unnecessarily disqualified Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara, candidates for SG president and vice president. The most recent disqualification truly illuminates the ESB’s feelings toward the pair; the ESB completely disregarded any formal procedures.

The ESB is designed to supervise any formal complaints from students during the election process, so the members give up their right to make formal complaints. In violation of the election code, a member of the ESB brought forth a complaint during the Tuesday night hearing. Additionally, complaints that are not dismissed must then be discussed in a hearing as stated in 4.03 of the Election Code. The ESB failed to follow such procedure.

There is an obvious issue with the ESB this year, which reflects poorly on the election, candidates and student government. The ESB needs to think before acting so drastically in an already fragile race that will decide who will lead our student body. Madison and Antonio fought to maintain their spot on the ballot, and for the ESB to be so careless about procedure is ludicrous. Accordingly, the ESB’s actions display blatant hypocrisy, seeing as its complaint focuses on procedure in the first place. If we continue to have students overseeing the election process, then the ESB should be well-versed and precise in its rulings. There is no reason for Madison and Antonio to be disqualified, but the ESB, on the other hand, needs a DQ.

Samantha Smith
Middle Eastern studies and Arabic sophomore

Igniting a movement

Terrence and I are resolved to continue focusing on the overarching goals of our campaign — raising awareness and advocating for our platform and the communities it aims to represent.

Other candidates’ disqualifications don’t change much for us — our goals haven’t changed, our platform is solid and our list of supporters keeps growing. We’re stepping up our speaker circuiting now more than ever, and we’re deeply appreciative of the many new students who have heard our pitch, expressed their support and spread our message grassroots style.

We believe in students and we believe in the sleeping potential of SG. If we’re elected, we hope to induce a major perception shift and work to mend the relationship between the two. For now, we soldier on, and we abide in the dream of an empowered student body. This is about igniting a movement and it starts right now.

John Lawler
Candidate for SG President

A fresh perspective

These past two months have been an experience to say the least. With all that has occurred there is no saying what could happen in the next couple of days; however, we want the students to know that we are still here for them. We have kept their best interests in mind from the very beginning and will continue to do just that.

The election process has brought a lot of exposure to SG and we understand many students have lost trust in the organization. As SG outsiders, we bring a fresh perspective. We are confident that, if elected, we can restore faith that SG is here to serve the people who matter most — the students.

Thor Lund and Wills Brown
Candidates for SG President and Vice President

Managing egos

Recent controversies surrounding SG elections have drawn attention away from the real issue — representing the voice of the student body. Every spring, we go through a dog and pony show to elect our new student leaders, and invariably violations occur. Yes, this year’s controversies are several orders in magnitude higher than in years past, but every election’s issues boil down to managing egos.

It’s beyond time for everyone involved in this year’s election — from the individual candidates to the ESB to, yes, The Daily Texan — to put their egos aside and allow the University to move on. No matter the outcome of this election, it’s time for everyone involved to recognize the best interest of the University and settle these disputes in an honest, civilized manner. This is the only way that SG can get beyond this immediate turmoil and get back to working for students — which is what SG does best.

Michael Redding
President-elect of the Graduate Student Assembly, Texas Student Media contract employee

A mockery of the University

SG likes to contend that it represents the student population at UT. Last year, only about 8,000 of those students voted in SG elections, hardly a majority of more than 51,000 total UT students. Toward that end, we propose that if less than a quarter of the student body votes in this year’s SG presidential election, then SG should be considered without a mandate and disband. A university organization cannot represent an entire student body if it does not even represent a quarter of that same body.

Furthermore, this year’s candidates have made a mockery of both this University’s laws, honor and integrity. SG should be about democracy and integrity, not childlike mock heroics. The time has come for the silent majority to stand up and demand that the University end this ridiculous display of idiocy. We cannot continue to allow ourselves to be represented by students who are elected by the few and disgrace the many.

Garrett Hopper and Grant Smith
Supply chain management and economics senior and history senior

The human element

I couldn’t have written a script with more twists and turns than those I’ve seen play out over the past five weeks during this election cycle. I have many friends who worked hard on other campaigns for weeks now, and at the end of the day, it hurts to see them struggle through adversity.

I wish we were more attuned to our human element. We all tend to get a little cold during campaign season; it’s easy to lose some of our sensitivity toward others and some of our discernment.

Looking back on the year and a half I spent in SG, I have, at different times, been disingenuous, too headstrong, unwise and just generally imperfect. But the truth that eventually impressed itself onto me is that we can’t let the past dictate our present. We’re all a little imperfect.

My exhortation to all of us SG junkies is this: Don’t hold grudges, don’t take SG personally and don’t be afraid to grow from mistakes. Get back in the fight and do something great. We’re all on the same side. When we truly believe that, our community will be an even better place.

Matt Portillo
Music and rhetoric and writing senior
John Lawler campaign volunteer

Printed on Friday, March 23, 2012 as: The trials and tribulations of election season

With all the recent rumors and gossip surrounding the Student Government elections and our team, we wanted to share our story and address the issue of our team’s disqualification. We selected around 40 students representing all communities from across campus to be in a group photo to reflect our mission to bring students together. Three weeks later, one of the students, Carissa Kelley, became a candidate for the president of the Student Events Center. She did not intend to run when the photo was taken, and we were not even aware that she was going to run until weeks later. We had no contact with her during the campaign, and neither of us publicly supported each other in any way outside of her participation in our photo. At the time of the photo, and even after becoming aware of Kelley’s intent to run for SEC President, we never felt that we were in violation of the election code because not only did the Election Supervisory Board approve our media — including our group picture — but the clause the ESB convicted us of violating is under the SG-specific election code that led us to believe that this clause only applied to associating with SG candidates.

After the disqualification ruling by the ESB, we tried to appeal to the UT judicial court on the grounds that the specific code only applies to SG candidates and that our alleged violation did not warrant a disqualification. The four-member judicial court voted to not hear our case and denied us our right to voice our concerns regarding the ESB’s ruling. Given the fact that we were denied our appeal, we chose to meet with the Dean of Students’ representatives who oversee SG. After meeting with them, we realized we had very limited options moving forward. We filed one last appeal to the judicial court based on procedural errors and were again denied before being heard.

At that point, we had the options of bowing out of the race or pursuing legal action in hopes of getting back on the ballot. We are passionate about this University and this campaign really means a lot to us.

We understand that many people may criticize our recent actions or question why we are continuing to get back in this race even after being disqualified. We would like everyone to know our true intentions. We are not suing the University for anything monetary. Instead, we filed a temporary restraining order to delay the presidential and vice-presidential election until after our case was heard. We would like a judge to reconsider our case and put our name back on the ballot because we feel that our constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association were violated.

We hope that everyone can understand our story and know what truly has been happening past the headlines. This decision is not motivated by revenge or any selfish reasons but rather it stems from our passion, love and belief in our cause.

Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara are former SG presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

While I agree with John Woods’ contention in his firing line Tuesday that the Election Supervisory Board’s disqualification of two major presidential candidates is unfortunate for the UT student body and will pose a significant hurdle for next year’s student body president, I completely disagree with his characterization of the ESB’s actions as akin to “election by fiat.”

The ESB and Election Reform Task Force worked tirelessly to craft a detailed, nuanced and unbiased election code paired with an equally thorough grievance, penalty and appeal process to ensure fair elections for UT voters and candidates. To the best of my knowledge, the ESB in its decisions to disqualify the candidates adhered to this process, which was proposed, approved and implemented by UT student representatives.

While some insiders and “student leaders” may be displeased that candidates they supported turned out to be incapable of following rules (a trait that makes one wonder why anybody regrets their removal from presidential consideration to begin with), claiming that the institution that was established, selected and adhered to procedures formulated by elected student representatives is the complete antithesis of fiat; it’s unbiased and fair governance. And claiming the ESB, instead of the thankfully former candidates who broke the rules to begin with, somehow deprived UT students of a democratic process is essentially equivalent to yelling at a referee when you don’t like a call.

By disregarding those rules designed to protect the integrity of these elections, the disqualified candidates acted in a manner that is clearly and overwhelmingly counter to the values of democracy, and the ESB used its student-granted authority to protect those democratic values and the election.

Douglas Luippold is a UT alumnus and former Daily Texan Associate Editor.

Voter turnout in this year's Student Government elections may end up being the lowest in decades. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that the contest is beginning to look less like an election and more like an episode from one of the later seasons of “Survivor” in which, facing flagging ratings, the network tries to rouse interest to make viewers care with some grand display that only makes them look more desperate.

One week ago, five presidential candidates stood before the campus. At the end of the week, only two remained. The first to go fell victim to fraud, while another fell because of some poor advertising choices. The third, possibly only running as a joke, dropped out, apparently convinced that the system was quite capable of making a mockery of itself without any outside assistance.

That is to say, SG elections looks as bad as, well, this time last year. The usual suspects — deception, fraud, conspiracy, falsification of documents — were trotted out in the aftermath of revelations that the Yaman Desai/Whitney Langston campaign misrepresented itself in an attempt to catch the Madison Gardner/Antonio Guevara campaign on some minor campaign finance violation. The apparent motive? A new rule that demands that a campaign must be immediately disqualified after a certain amount of fines.

This year, though, SG has managed to find a new source of embarrassment: an overly stringent system of rules that resulted in another campaign's disqualification. The punishment in the Desai case was warranted. But mere days later, the swift hammer of SG justice fell again, knocking out Gardner and Guevara for a comparatively trivial violation. In the weeks prior to the election, Gardner's campaign took a photo promoting his candidacy that included someone who later filed to run for office herself. Such association — even as nothing more than a background figure — is a violation of the SG election code and warranted Gardner’s removal from the ballot, according to the Election Supervisory Board.

The disqualification revealed that, in SG, justice is swift as well as blind, especially to any mitigating factors or a sense of proportionality. By disqualifying Gardner and Guevara, the ESB went too far according to any common sense understanding of what is fair.

The ESB's defenders, including the SG judicial court, which rightly denied review of the case, point out that the punishment meted out by the board is nothing more than what the SG election code allows. Count this as the second indictment of a code that has created an electoral field so confined that no one can play on it without breaking at least one of its many rules. The first charge against the code might be that its recent “get tough” revision with respect to cheating has made campaigns more eager to scrutinize their opponents' pamphlets than their platforms.

This election cycle has shown the failure of the code as a governing document. First, it failed to prevent the cheating it was supposed to scare everyone away from. Second, it confirmed that the discretion granted to the ESB is far too great and far too little — in the first case because the punishments seem to vary widely from year to year and in the second because the word “disqualification” is included in too many provisions.

Following this election, the code will no doubt be revised again. But SG should not be the group to revise it. Letting future candidates build in loopholes for themselves for use during election season again would not be wise.

Perhaps abysmal voter turnout will put SG on notice: Clean up or get out. This year has shown yet again that SG elections too often offer voters nothing but a sham democracy where what the students think never seems to matter. Maybe the $112,800 that SG gets every year would be better spent on a few more math lecturers or on eliminating student co-pays at UHS.

Madison Gardner listens to his running mate Antonio Guevara speak at Monday night’s SG debate. Gardner and Guevara were disqualified by the Election Supervisory Board for associating their campaign with Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley, but will be appealing the ESB’s decision.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Update on Feb. 23 at 11:37 p.m. - The SG Judicial Court has declined Gardner and Guevara's appeal of the ESB decision. The ESB decision stands and Gardner and Guevara are officially disqualified from the SG presidential race. As of now, John Lawler and Thor Lund are the only remaining presidential candidates.

Update at 1:30 a.m. - Gardner said his campaign plans to appeal the decision. "Our friends and supporters agree that this is the right thing to do and that the next student body president and vice president should be decided by the students," he said. "I will be the first to recognize that we made a mistake but I strongly feel that the resulting disqualification was excessive."

Gardner said his campaign took the picture for his promotional materials on Jan. 21, at which time Kelley told them she did not have the intent to run. Gardner said he does not know when the hearing will take place yet.

Update at 11:45 p.m.- Jasmine Kyles, who filed the complaint against Gardner and Guevara, released a statement on her website reading she did not act with malice when she submitted the complaint. SEC presidential candidate Carissa Kelley declined to comment. ESB vice-chair Truc Nguyen said it was not clear whether Kelley would be disqualified as that case has not reached the ESB.

Student Government presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara were disqualified by the Election Supervisory Board for associating their campaign with a candidate in another race.

The campaign came under fire for including Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley in their promotional materials and online website. Only the presidential and vice presidential candidates are allowed to campaign together, according to the Election Code. All candidates in the campus-wide elections must campaign separately and any violation of this can be subject to immediate disqualification.

Broadcast journalism junior Jasmine Kyles filed the complaint against Gardner and Guevara, and the Election Supervisory Board heard the case Wednesday afternoon. The ESB said the Election Code did not mandate an immediate disqualification, but under the circumstances the action was appropriate.

In the official opinion delivered by ESB chair Eric Nimmer, the ESB stated the complaint was filed in a reasonable amount of time and Gardner and Guevara had been in violation since their campaign materials began distribution.

The ESB also stated the Gardner campaign did not demonstrate an effort to remove the incriminating promotional materials and media after being made aware of the violation. Gardner and Guevara allegedly knew about the violation before the complaint had been filed, according to the ESB.

Gardner and Guevara claimed it would have been difficult to remove the promotional materials already distributed on their flyers and website. However, the ESB declared the lack of any substantial action taken to remove the item as justifying the disqualification.

Gardner and Guevara have not responded to requests by The Daily Texan for a statement.

“Its unfortunate that the campaign was disqualified. However our campaign will continue forward with a positive message - changing Student Government and producing results next year,” said presidential candidate John Lawler.

Lawler and candidate Thor Lund are the only presidential candidates left if the SG Judicial Court does not overturn the ESB’s decision as candidate Ryan Shingledecker withdrew Tuesday. Lund said it was unfortunate that Gardner and Guevarra were disqualified, but rules are rules and he wishes the pair the best in the future.

Nimmer said Kyles was part of the Yaman Desai and Whitney Langston campaign before that campaign was disqualified Monday. Nimmer said Gardner and Guevara were planning to appeal the decision.

“It’s one of the simplest interpretations of the rules. If you read the language it is very strong,” Nimmer said. “No association between candidates will be tolerated. I do not believe the decision will be overturned.”

Printed on Thursday, February 23, 2012 as: Madison, Antonio under fire

Former Student Government Presidental candidate Yaman Desai stands outside the room where the appellate court hearing, intended to review evidence that his campaign violated student government rules, is about to be held Monday night. Desai and his running mate resigned after evidence surfaced that Desai had in fact asked Ainee Athar via email to lie in order to obtain information about the Maddison Gardner campaign.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government presidential candidate Yaman Desai and running mate Whitney Langston dropped out of the election Monday after the campaign’s ethics came into question by the Election Supervisory Board.

The board disqualified Desai’s campaign Monday afternoon for violating the election code and committing fraud by misrepresenting itself to the web designer for opponent Madison Gardner’s campaign in an attempt to obtain incriminating information about the Gardner campaign’s financial records. Desai’s campaign immediately filed an appeal of the board’s decision to the SG appellate court, which heard their case Monday night.

Emails obtained by The Daily Texan demonstrate that Desai asked one of his campaign agents to lie in order to get the information. After the Texan described the content of the emails to the appellate court seeking clarification, Desai withdrew his appeal.

In a Feb. 15 email from Desai, he tells international relations and global studies senior Ainee Athar to ask James Skidmore, a Gardner campaign web designer, for any records that could prove Gardner had violated the rules by receiving professional services without reporting the cost in his financial disclosures. Desai told Athar he needed proof to incriminate Gardner later on that day and to lie about her identity to get Skidmore to release information if necessary.

“You should be able to call them and just ask for the info,” Desai said in the email. “If that doesn’t work, we might be able to ask the ESB to look into it and force Madison to produce some record. Try calling and saying that you’re with Madison’s team/a friend and he asked you to call because he needs a copy of the invoice and you need it sent to you so you can print it. It’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s worth a try.”

Under the original complaint to the board, Gardner campaign manager Alex Jones stated that Athar identified herself to Skidmore as an “election supervisory representative.” During the hearing, and before the emails were obtained, Desai and Langston said Athar presented herself as an agent for their campaign without their consent.

Langston and Desai said they had never met Athar before Sunday, so they should not be held responsible for things she did before she was an agent of the campaign.

In Athar’s email reply to Desai on Feb. 15, she said she would not lie to the web designer because it would get Desai in trouble.

Athar said she was told by Desai not to come to the hearing on Monday. She said she was shocked when she heard Desai and Langston lied about her involvement in the campaign and attempted to pin the blame on her. She said she had no intention of identifying herself as part of the supervisory board but instead thought “election supervisory representative” was her title for Desai’s team.

“If I had been told to go to the hearing I would have been willing to go [there] and say that this was something that I did,” Athar said. “Not that I willfully lied but that I just made a mistake with the wording, and I would have stepped down if [Desai] asked.”

Gardner’s campaign manager communication studies junior Alex Jones said he brought up the misrepresentation claim because Athar had filed complaints against Gardner. When Jones was made aware of the emails from Desai to Athar, he said he did not know how to react.

“The evidence they supplied [and how they got it] is what the Board classifies as fraud,” Jones said. “It’s unsettling someone would be allowed to get their name tainted to win a Student Government election because that could affect [Athar’s] career in the future.”

Gardner said his campaign has been very careful to tell their approximately 120 team members what they can and cannot do. He said the change to the Election Code and the section that reads candidates will be disqualified if they exceed 20 percent of their spending limit in fines drove them to be extremely careful.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Yaman and their campaign team,” Gardner said. “It just goes to show the impact of what negative actions could do.”

The Election Supervisory Board ruled Gardner was in violation of the Election Code for renting wood from the Fiji House for $1 per week, a rate much lower than the market value. The Election Code states contributions and expenditures or in kind efforts must be listed and valued at their fair price, as determined by the Election Board. Gardner was issued a ten percent violation fine against his campaign. The Board did not deem Gardner’s website to be in violation of the Election Code and recommended no action because there was no evidence to prove the website was designed by a professional, said ESB co-chair Truc Nguyen.

Desai confirmed he and Langston were withdrawing their disqualification appeal and the disqualification from the ESB stands.

“There are a lot of great people on this campus and they believed in our mission,” Desai said. “I hope that things we fought for continue to be a part of student government and I hope that even if it’s not us that can achieve our goals that someone else will achieve them, and I hope students who supported us will still have opportunities on campus.”

Printed on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 as: ESB disqualifies Desai campaign