Restrictions on cash spending and non-monetary donations in Student Government Association elections were tighter this year, with a total spending cap of $12,500.
Out of the three campaigns, We Are UT was the only group to accrue non-monetary donations. Spending just shy of the $5,000 cash cap, We Are UT found it difficult to cut back.
"At first, we were upset over the new budget restrictions," said Brittany Bender, junior in political science and executive manager for We Are UT. "With most of us coming from previously large campaigns, we had a difficult time breaking free from the habits of mass spending and donations."
However, as the election season progressed, Bender said We Are UT faced challenges only when attempting to provide T-shirts for campaign supporters.
"We were determined to give our fellow students and campaign members the fun and traditional campaign experience," Bender said, "and even with the budget limits, we feel that we succeeded."
Keny-Dugosh spent a total of $2,672.28, a sum that came entirely out of pocket. According to SGA President-elect and junior in journalism and electronic media Kelsey Keny, the campaign spent most of its money on T-shirts, finding resourceful ways to cut spending in other areas. When ordering pizza, for example, the campaign used dining dollars.
"You've got to get your names and ideas out there, and part of that means being able to hand students tangible items, like policy push cards, fortune cookies, or home-made muffins, as you talk to them," Keny said. "Any money we spent went directly towards trying to get to know as many people as possible."
The [Insert] campaign spent the least of the three campaigns, using just $109.38 in cash to make T-shirts and cover printing fees used to create pushcards. [Insert] did not receive any non-monetary donations, instead collecting $5-$10 from members.
According to Judd Cowan, senior in mechanical engineering and campaign manager for [Insert], the campaign's small budget was intended to be a statement about excessive spending during election week. SGA campaigns, Cowan said, place too much emphasis on distributing freebies and not enough on garnering support for policy. We Are UT, he noted, did not pass out push cards until the final day of campaigning, while [Insert] handed out cards every day.
"When it comes down to it, if you have charged policies that catch peoples' attention and you spend your money right, you can succeed," Cowan said. "We pulled 15 percent of the vote in all categories that we were in at the very least."
Lindsay Lee, a senior in math and Spanish and member of the Election Commission, said the spending cap for SGA elections forced campaigns to focus primarily on student outreach.
"I think Election Commission changing the budget rules sent a signal that spending shouldn't be a campaign's top priority, which can be seen in the fact that no campaign got close to the $12,500 allowed total operating budget," Lee said. "I personally would like to see the cap reduced even more, since it is evident that campaigns can be successful without such a high spending level."
Election Commissioner and senior in accounting Ryan Ray said future changes to campaign spending will depend on a variety of factors.
"I think that campaign philosophy definitely changes from year to year," Ray said. "While it's hard to predict Election Commission's approach in the future, I'm happy with how campaign season was executed this year."