Driskell and Burton Must Step Down

There are a number of questions and controversies surrounding last month's Undergraduate Council presidential and vice-presidential elections, but we can draw only one conclusion from the confusion: Fentrice D. Driskell '01 and John A. Burton '01 overspent the campaign limit of $100, broke the election rules and should have been, but were not, disqualified by the Election Commission for their offenses.

While Election Commissioner David L. Levy '00 seems unable to keep his story straight as to whether or not the campaign overspent their $100 limit (his latest claim is that the campaign spent around $93), according to the commission's own rules, Driskell and Burton should have been found to exceed the cap. To begin with, they produced dozens of campaign buttons consisting of pieces of yellow paper taped over buttons obtained from a student group. Candidates have done this in previous years with other groups' buttons but have always been charged a fee for doing so because the pins are not and never have been considered a freely available resource. Last year, the campaign of current council President Noah Z. Seton '00 and Vice President Kamil E. Redmond '00 was charged $20 for using buttons left over from the campaign of Beth A. Stewart '00 and Samuel C. Cohen '00 in 1997, but this year's commission has conveniently decided not to charge Driskell and Burton so that they would not exceed their spending limit. Even more disturbing is the fact that Driskell and Burton did not even list the buttons or the paper used to make them on their spending report, another violation of election policy.

The commission also charged Driskell and Burton only $1 for 100 servings of lemonade, provided by Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS), which they handed out to people in front of the Science Center Dec. 15. The campaign claims it was given the lemonade for free by someone in the Mather House Dining Hall but that still does not make it a freely available resource. Sterling P. A. Darling '01, another presidential candidate, called HUDS and also asked for lemonade, and he was not only told that could not have it for free, but that he would be charged $1.50 per serving, or $150 for the same quantity used by Driskell and Burton. Even if Driskell and Burton had purchased the lemonade at Star Market, the cost would have been around $11. The rules of the election say that in order for a candidate to declare something a freely-available resource (and therefore cost-exempt), the candidate must prove that all candidates can acquire it for free. Darling's phone call to HUDS proves the opposite.


These violations, however, all pale in comparison to the most egregious offense committed by Driskell and Burton: mail-dropping campaign fliers to all first-years. These fliers put the candidates' names in the hands of every single first-year, and undoubtedly gave Driskell and Burton a very large advantage. This type of mail-dropping, however, is a direct violation of the policy stated on the Web site of Harvard University Mail Services. Even more frustrating is the fact that three of Driskell's opponents considered doing the same thing but decided against it. Darling called Dean of Freshmen Elizabeth Studley Nathans to ask permission and was told that no candidate would ever be given permission by a dean to do a campaign mail-drop. Moreover, Nathans told Darling that a dean's permission would be required to do so. Francis X. Leonard '01, another presidental candidate, asked the same thing of the authorities in the Kirkland Mail Center and was flatly denied.

According to commission rules, any action that directly violates College policy is grounds for disqualification from the election, as is any for which one could be brought before the Administrative Board. Even without the flagrant spending violations, Driskell and Burton should not have been allowed to stay in the race because they clearly went against College policy. It is absolutely unacceptable that the commission has allowed them to break the rules and get away with it while the other candidates obeyed the rules assuming the other candidates would be held to them. Furthermore, the fact that both Driskell and Burton ran for office last year leads to another conclusion: They should have known better.

Perhaps the greatest travesty is the commission's complete failure to keep track of spending and enforce the campaign rules. It is understandable that the commissioners do not want to do anything so drastic as disqualify candidates, but given the overwhelming evidence it is clear that they have to do so. The commission has overlooked every single point that has been brought up against Driskell and Burton, ostensibly because they do not want to disqualify them. The commissioners, however, are the only people who can enforce the campaign rules, and it is not their place to decide what would be most convenient for them, but rather what is right.

The commissioners, as quoted in previous issues of The Crimson, have repeatedly contradicted one another and changed their own stories. It is unclear, for instance, whether or not the commission even voted on how to charge the campaign for the buttons as Levy claims. At first, the commission even stated that Driskell and Burton did overspend but changed that story shortly after. They have also taken no action against Driskell and Burton for changing their spending reports after the fact and failing to report certain expenses altogether, all of which are offenses subject to punitive measures.

If the commission takes no action against Driskell and Burton, it will set a terrible precedent for future council elections, one which says it is acceptable for the commission to make up the rules as it goes along.

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