Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lang campaign violates UM policy

By Chelsea Boozer
The Daily Helmsman

In his campaign for reelection under the Finding Answers Concerning Everyone party, Student Government Association President Hunter Lang broke University policy this week when he paid for campaign posters with $400 of operational assistance funds designated for Zeta Beta Tau, the fraternity of which he is president.
Lang's actions violated University policy because operational assistance funds distributed by the Student Leadership and Involvement office are comprised of money from the annual $44 Student Activity Fee. According to the SAF's operational procedures, SAF funds may not be used to "finance, support, or influence voting" on any University, local, state or federal election ballot.
Lang said it was a mishap and that he wasn't aware of the rule, citing that he had to get ZBT's advisor's signature, as well as a representative from the office of leadership and involvement and from Tiger Copy and Graphics to sign off on the order before moving forward with the purchase. He added that he used ZBT's funds to promote his SGA campaign last year as well.
"I never read the rules on how to spend that money, as far as operational assistance goes. I just spent it," Lang said.
He added that he asked the members of ZBT if they minded using their operational assistance funds to promote the FACE party, because the chapter never uses the $400 available to them and it was "basically going to waste." He said ZBT members voted at a chapter meeting to allow it.
"We have five people total out of our chapter running under the party, so it was an investment and the chapter was doing it as an investment for the party," Lang said.
When Justin Lawhead, associate dean of student leadership and involvement, realized that Lang violated a University policy by using ZBT's funds to sponsor FACE party's campaign, he immediately met with him Thursday afternoon.
"(Lang) was apologetic and recognized the expenditure of those funds didn't meet policy," Lawhead said.
Lawhead ordered Lang to refrain from displaying the posters bought with operational assistance funds until he pay for them in full with his own money. Lang went to Tiger Copy and Graphics the next day and paid the $400 with his credit card.
Though Lang manipulated ZBT's operational assistance funds for campaign use last year as well, Lawhead said his office has no record of that and Lang will not be punished for it.
In the future, Lawhead said he will make sure Registered Student Organizations and Tiger Copy and Graphics know that operational assistance cannot be used to promote a campaign.
Though Lang violated a University policy, neither he nor his party will be punished in the SGA election, election commissioner Anthony LaRocca said.
LaRocca wouldn't comment specifically on the issue, but said no election law has been broken.
"In fairness to all the candidates in the election, the Election Commission will not comment on any alleged infractions until an infraction has been filed and we have had a chance to gather evidence. The situation that you have mentioned never led to infractions being filed and the party involved has satisfied the Election Commission's request for information," LaRocca said. "The parties are following both the Election Laws and University policies that pertain to campaigning."
Tyler DeWitt, Lang's opponent in the election, said Lang's actions were inexcusable.
"Although no election laws were broken, there was clearly a violation of University policy," he said. "And regardless of what he got away with (in) years prior, the law is the law, and that doesn't change. And ignorance of the law is no excuse."

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