SGB candidates spend hundreds on campaigns

By Simone Cheatham

The passage of the new Student Government Board Elections Code last month took away one… The passage of the new Student Government Board Elections Code last month took away one incentive for people to vote: free food.

Gone too are the days when candidates could buy flowers for every sorority on campus.

“We used to buy each sorority half a dozen of their own flowers and have ribbons of their colors tied around the stems,” SGB President Kevin Morrison said. “That alone cost everyone $300, but if the other candidates were doing it, you would be hosed if you didn’t.”

SGB decided to change its Election Code in an effort to lower campaign costs and reduce paper waste during the campaign.

SGB doesn’t require candidates to keep official records of how much they spend on their campaigns, so in the past, some candidates spent hundreds of dollars trying to get elected. Board member Lance Bonner estimated that candidates spend between $300 and $700 each on their campaigns.

“We don’t have to record our spending, and we don’t have any spending caps here at Pitt,” Bonner said. “It just seems unnecessary, so we don’t do it.”

Much of that money came out of the candidates’ own bank accounts.

“I knew there was a financial commitment going in,” Board member Max Greenwald said. “It’s not about spending as much money as possible. Every candidate does the same things when campaigning, so you just want to make sure you have as much opportunity as everyone else.”

This year, candidates can spend money on six items: banners, posters, fliers, T-shirts and quarter-page and glossy quarter-page ads in The Pitt News.

Morrison said SGB changed the code to reduce not only spending but paper waste as well, an idea stemming from the “Paperless Pitt” initiative.

Many candidates set up free online Facebook groups and ads promoting their ideas. The new Elections Code also limits flyering. Candidates can now hand out fliers only the day before and the day of the election. Last year, candidates could pass out fliers the week before the election.

“Fliers don’t do much,” Greenwald said. “They’re really ineffective, but you feel like you have to compete.”