Voith- Gadgil Ticket Penalized

Commission fines campaign for e-mail urging opponent to withdraw from race

The Election Commission announced early yesterday morning that it would penalize Undergraduate Council (UC) presidential candidate John F. Voith’s ’07 campaign after reports surfaced that a “ranking” Voith staffer had contacted a member of opponent Magnus Grimeland’s ’07 campaign to suggest that Grimeland drop out of the race.

The penalty means that Voith and running-mate Tara Gadgil ’07 will lose $80 from their war chest. While candidates are given $400 by the Election Commission (EC) to fund their campaigns, the Voith-Gadgil campaign has already spent $263 as of Dec. 5. The $80 fine represents 58 percent of its remaining budget, using that figure.

The EC found that while Voith, Gadgil, and the highest-ranking member of their campaign staff did not know of the e-mail, it was sent by a “ranking representative of the campaign,” EC Chair Michael B. Love ’08 wrote in an e-mail early this morning.

“Pursuant to section 6.7 in the official election rules, the commission has decided to assess a penalty of 10 points to the Voith-Gadgil campaign. We feel this penalty is a fair penalty, appropriate to the infraction,” Love wrote.

Section 6.7 of the official rules of the EC stipulates that the commission can assign penalties at its own discretion.

The commission spent over five hours Monday night interviewing those involved before assessing penalties.

“We tried to leave as much as possible [no] stone unturned,” Love said in an interview early yesterday morning.

Love also said that while there is an appeals process, he did not think the Voith-Gadgil campaign would appeal the decision.

“I haven’t seen any intent to appeal,” said Love. “We really try to make sure [we are] as fair as possible the first time.”

Last Thursday afternoon, a Voith campaign staffer sent an e-mail to a member of Grimeland’s campaign, asking Grimeland and running mate Thomas D. Hadfield ’08 to drop out of the race and “join forces” against the third ticket, John S. Haddock ’07 and Annie R. Riley ’07.

In the e-mail, which was obtained Sunday night by The Crimson, the staffer wrote that if Grimeland and Hadfield dropped out, Voith and Gadgil would reimburse them for their campaign expenses, ensure that Grimeland be reinstated on the UC after a temporary expulsion, and promote the ideas they had proposed in their campaign.

But candidates for the UC’s top two positions are reimbursed for all their expenses by the council, and Grimeland was unanimously reinstated at a meeting Friday night.

Gadgil said Sunday night that she and Voith were not aware of the e-mail before it was sent and did not endorse its contents.

In a statement to The Crimson last night, Voith expressed “shock” and “disappointment” that someone from his campaign had attempted to convince another ticket to drop out of the race.

“Certainly neither one of us had any prior knowledge of this e-mail and we wholeheartedly condemn the use of any underhanded campaign practices,” wrote Voith in an e-mail. “We would like to stress that the sender was a minor supporter, acted upon his/her own volition, without Tara’s or my approval, or any official sanction of any kind.”

This is not the first incident in which Voith and Gadgil claimed no prior knowledge of a questionable act committed by a campaign staffer.

Two weeks ago, the EC scrutinized the Voith-Gadgil campaign’s purchase of the website HaddockRiley.com, but decided not to fine the campaign.

In that incident, Voith said he was unaware of the website purchase before it happened.

And on Monday, the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) and the Harvard Republican Club (HRC) issued a joint statement last night, slamming Voith and Gadgil for making contradictory statements to their groups on the role of the military on campus.

The recent events have left some council watchers wondering if Voith and Gadgil can recover their momentum.

“I personally think they are toast,” said Andrew H. Golis ’06, whose blog, Cambridge Common, has provided constant commentary on the election. “I think that the HRC-BGLTSA [joint statement] was devastating. Their response didn’t make it any better.”

Aaron D. Chadbourne ’06, who served as the chair of the UC’s Student Affairs Committee last year, was more moderate.

“I think it’s really in the students’ hands,” said Chadbourne. “Students are going to make up their minds based on a variety of different things. Everything has an impact on the election.”

—Staff writer Alexander D. Blankfein can be reached at ablankf@fas.harvard.edu.