NEWS

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April 21, 2006

Board examines alleged election violations

The Student Government (SG) Executive Slate elections heated up earlier this week, when A New Day presidential candidate Ian Muhlhauser filed a formal complaint against Full Slate Ahead presidential candidate Phil Caruso, stating that Caruso attempted to use intimidation to discourage Muhlhauser from running, and that Caruso violated election rules by campaigning before the official start of the race.

Caruso denied any wrongdoing, and the Elections and Rules Committee ruled Wednesday night in his favor, dismissing the complaint against him.

“I’m absolutely disappointed since I think we tried to stay positive and play this election by the book,” Caruso said. “I’m very committed to running a positive campaign, as I’ve done for the past two weeks.”

Muhlhauser’s complaint stemmed from two separate incidents.

The first involved a confrontation between the two presidential candidates at Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap earlier this month.

Muhlhauser said Caruso had heard that he was considering launching an opposition campaign, and, attempting to stave off a potential competitor in the upcoming election, threatened a “bloody battle.”

The Maroon received a letter from Novia Pagone, a graduate student in the Division of the Humanities, who said she overheard the conversation.

“I thought this sort of intimidation was the most undemocratic thing I had ever heard of,” Muhlhauser said. “At that point, I didn’t even want to have anything to do with SG anymore.”

Caruso denied ever having tried to scare Muhlhauser out of the campaign, and he said that nobody else was present during the conversation.

“I never actually encouraged him not to run,” Caruso said.

Caruso forwarded an e-mail exchange that he had with Muhlhauser following the incident.

Caruso wrote: “I’m a little upset that you decided to run, if only because we had talked back in the winter about working together during the election and beyond. But past that, if you’re serious about running then you certainly should—I think a little competition is a good thing in a race like this.”

Muhlhauser’s complaint also states that Caruso violated an election rule when he met in winter and early spring with Graduate Council (GC) members, including Muhlhauser himself, and discussed the election. The rule does not allow for campaigning until after April 12, the day that candidates are briefed on election procedure.

“Phil had been showing up at GC meetings and talking with people afterwards, obviously campaigning,” Muhlhauser said. “He and Alex [Bratsafolis, Full Slate Ahead’s candidate for vice president of Administration] were asking for support, about votes. It was solid campaigning.”

Marvin Lowenthal, chair of the SG Elections and Rules Committee, said candidates were sent an e-mail stating, “there is no campaigning until after this meeting [on April 12].”

Caruso denied ever asking for votes and framed his actions as exploratory.

“Any candidate serious about improving SG will discuss his or her candidacy with friends, colleagues, and other members of SG as a matter of necessity well before the elections,” said Caruso in his written response to the complaint. “I used these discussions to test both the competence and the commitment of various individuals. This was in order to ensure that my choices of vice presidents were the best people for the job, and I think we can all agree that that’s a good thing.”

The Elections and Rules Committee dismissed Muhlhauser’s complaint about Caruso’s comment at Jimmy’s and his alleged early campaigning.

The committee argued in its decision that “if campaigning is something that can be banned during the time before the candidate’s meeting—that is, the time during which slates are being assembled and decisions about whether or not to run are being made—then nothing which is necessary to the assembly of a slate or the decision as to whether or not to run can be considered campaigning.”

Muhlhauser said he was disappointed with the decision and questioned whether the committee was impartial, since Robert Hubbard, the current president of SG and a running mate of Caruso’s in the election last year, sat on the committee.

“Apparently, he dominated the committee proceedings and pushed to end debate before anyone was able to reach a resolution,” Muhlhauser said. “It seems things are a little worse off in the Student Government than I originally thought.”

Caruso said he objected to any suggestion that the committee was biased. “Robert [Hubbard] and I haven’t even talked about the election,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a conflict of interest at all. Robert is a professional.”

Members of the committee are required to keep complaints confidential and were unable to comment about the deliberations.

“I just hope something like this doesn’t roll back a lot of what we’ve done this year,” Caruso said. “We have a real chance with this election to put SG in the minds of students.”