Following scandals involving website buy-outs and Princeton Tonight, the Undergraduate Student Government presidential elections are now under more scrutiny, this time in regard to candidate finances.
These concerns stem from the parody organization Liberty Meets All Opportunity, which has announced its endorsement of USG presidential candidates Rachel Yee ’19 and Ryan Ozminkowski ’19, excluding candidate Matt Miller ’19. The group has publicly advocated for the two campaigns on Facebook, including through the purchase of Facebook ads.
The organization's website describes the organization as “a Super PAQ aimed at young leaders” that “supports all candidates who advance the ideals of liberty and opportunity even if they are opponents in the same race.” The Super “PAQ” satirizes campaign super PACs that utilize outside funding in races around the country.
Using a domain listing database, The Daily Princetonian discovered that the website was created on Dec. 5, just a few hours after Ozminkowski announced his presidential candidacy. According to Ozminkowski, Ben Sender ’18 is the founder of the PAQ.
“In the Princeton USG Presidential Election, we are thrilled to support both Ozminkowski and Yee,” wrote Sender, the website’s owner, in an email. “They are exceptional individuals and we will promote their candidacies by leveraging our political infrastructure and intellectual horsepower to bring their ideas to voters and generate broad interest in the race.”
In addition to endorsing Yee and Ozminkowski, Liberty Meets All Opportunity has “pledged to donate $500 to the GiveWell charity that receives the most votes from Princeton students.” The Super PAQ also plans on “conducting polls to keep voters informed about the status of the race.”
Zach Halem ’18, Ozminkowski’s campaign manager, gave a statement to the ‘Prince’ expressing the campaign’s delight in response to the “endorsement.”
“The Ozminkowski campaign is truly honored to have received an endorsement by the Liberty Meets All Opportunity Super PAQ,” wrote Halem in an email. “The organization has a remarkable mission and we hope to both support their ideals and help bring their vision of liberty to life. We encourage all students, regardless of their political allegiance in this election, to learn more about their worthy goals.”
Yee, however, told the ‘Prince’ that the Super PAQ’s endorsement caught her by surprise.
“We did not ask for this endorsement,” said Yee. “I have not idea who runs it, or what it’s from. Right now, at this point, I’m really focused on the issues, such as mental health, sexual assault, mid-semester course evaluations, financial aid, and everything else that is on my platform.”
The Ozminkowski campaign has spurred further concerns with respect to USG election policies on finances. Accordingly to the previously mentioned domain listing database, Ozminkowski’s campaign website is owned by Halem. Similar searches reveal that Halem is also responsible for purchasing web domains listed under the other campaigns’ names that were originally found to redirect to Ozminkowski's campaign website. Ozminkowski’s website also includes an option to donate to the campaign, though the button currently links to the Venmo homepage.
According to the USG Elections Handbook, “[t]hird party spending on behalf of a candidate shall count toward the expenditure allowance as if it were the candidate him/herself making the expenditure.” In conjunction with his numerous domain name purchases, it remains unclear whether Ozminkowski has exceeded the permissible candidate budget of $50 that is set by USG.
Ozminkowski declined to say whether the campaign has spent more than $50 and deferred comment to Halem. Halem has not yet responded to request for comment.
Voting for the USG winter 2017 elections will take place from noon on Tuesday, Dec. 12, to noon on Thursday, Dec. 14.