REDvolution presidential candidate fends off allegations
REDvolution presidential candidate Charles Haston was absolved of a Class A violation for falsifying financial disclosure documents during a Student Government Election Trial Board hearing Monday night.
“The evidence was presented, the facts were argued and the truth was clear,” said REDvolution defender Marcus Smith.
The defense argued that they did not knowingly falsify campaign expenditure documents through omitting payments for their campaign site, uhredvolution.com, during the first financial disclosure filing period, which ended Feb. 14. They contracted the site to a third-party developer and provided an invoice that showed that they were not billed for the site until Feb. 20. The site, however, was live as early as 10 days before the invoice and they admitted to contacting the developer as early as Feb. 9.
“(REDvolution) received no expenditure. How can we even expect them to put a finance report, an invoice or a monetary amount to which they spent if they don’t even know themselves?” Smith said. “You’re going to put them to a standard in which they must provide evidence without having any information themselves. They cannot be accused of something they did not do.”
Attorney General and prosecutor David Ghably claimed that vice presidential candidate Erica Tat had been the registered administrator. He argued that, as the administrator, Tat should be liable for the site being live during the first week of financial disclosures. He also said that documentation proved that the site had been updated as early as Feb. 3.
“It looks like a complete site. It has pictures; it has a platform. … It looks like it was well established,” Ghably said. “They had to put it under Erica Tat’s name; that makes her liable, unfortunately, because it was registered under her name.”
The host for the campaign site was GoDaddy LLC, which requires payment for its hosting services. For a site to be live, a payment must have been made before the first week disclosure deadline.
Tat said her name was put as administrator without her consent or knowledge. Independent contractor Lauren Rosenbaum requested Tat’s personal information to use her as REDvolution’s liaison and “thought it best to register the domain using Erica Tat” because she was a member of the party, according to her written testimony.
As a former chief of staff for the 49th Student Government Association administration, Rosenbaum reached out to the party to offer her assistance with building the site, according to her written testimony presented to the board. While working on the site, she had made it live “without the knowledge or consent” of REDvolution during development and was not yet paid for her services.
“She did not receive funds for the website because (in) the industry standard for web design, there is clearly the idea of making a mock-up website, which is what she was attempting to do. And we see that it was a mock-up website because the information was incomplete,” Smith said.
Because Rosenbaum was considered neither a staff member nor a volunteer, her expenditures can be billed separately from REDvolution’s. Rosenbaum paid for the site to be hosted, and she billed REDvolution later, according to the invoice presented by the defense.
Upon hearing that the site was live from Chief Elections Commissioner Kendrick Alridge, the candidates acted immediately to attempt to remove it, Smith said.
Elliot Kauffman of Cougar Pawlitics and Associate Election Commissioner Rebecca Deal were called to testify against the defense. Kauffman had taken screenshots, produced web caches of the site and initiated the complaint against Haston by bringing it to Alridge’s attention. He said the site did not seem like a mock-up and felt as though it was legitimate campaign material.
“When I think of an incomplete website, I think of broken links, I think of pages that don’t have substance on them. Every page had substance, every link was correct. So, to me, it was a completed web page,” Kauffman said. “This is party-building activities … so even the idea that it wasn’t meant to be broadcast until later does not fit into this.”
Rosenbaum purchased the GoDaddy site hosting for $11.99 and billed the party an additional $100 for web development services for a total of $121.23 after taxes, according to REDvolution’s invoice. It was dated Feb. 20 and was created with invoice-generator.com. The site expenditures were reported for the second cycle of financial disclosures.
Though Haston was found not guilty of falsifying financial disclosure documents for omitting them from the first week of campaign expenditures, the entire REDvolution party was implicated for failure to submit required campaign documents in the form of marketing approval forms.
A written warning will be filed and the party is suspended from campaigning for a 24-hour period, which will end today at 9:30 p.m. Haston said he will appeal the ruling.
The commission said it has filed a second Class A violation complaint against REDvolution for another instance of falsifying financial disclosure documents. It has not yet been merited by Ghably as of the release of this publication.
CLASS Senator Guillermo Lopez, who is currently a member of REDvolution, said Alridge was “overzealous” in his pursuit of the party, and as chairman of the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs, he will push for impeachment following Alridge’s outburst in which he cursed at the defense after the judge’s decision was made.
The SGA election starts today from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will continue through Thursday. More information on candidates and polling locations can be found here.
Correction: This article originally stated that CLASS Senator Guillermo Lopez is on the REDvolution ballot. Though he is a member of the party, he is not running on this year’s ballot.