Having garnered seven big-name endorsements, including that of the Columbia Political Union, Michelle Diamond ’08 is widely considered the frontrunner in the upcoming CCSC elections. However, it is just those endorsements that have placed her and her party, One Columbia, under fire for accusations of wrongdoing.
Rebel CC Presidential candidate Tracy Chung ’08 filed three rules violations against Diamond at midnight on Monday. The primary violation, which was provided to Bwog, alleges that SGB treasurer Jonathan Siegel (also the CC 2008 class treasurer) and SGB representative Jessie Leiken had approached Diamond with an “endorsement deal” early in the campaign.
In a previously unpublished Bwog interview that took place in February, Siegel discussed past funding difficulties: “In the past, the relations between the SGB [which provides funding for groups such as the College Democrats and the Columbia Political Union] and the Council haven’t been very good.”
The Student Council cut the SGB budget at the end of 2002-2003 school year and had continued to cut $20,000 each subsequent year, forcing the SGB into debt. Last May, the SGB told Seth Flaxman’s administration that $140,000 was the smallest number they could survive on. According to Siegel, the group was given $139,000. Sunday night, he said, “SGB groups are independent and wouldn’t take their marching orders from us.” But, he added, “SGB groups do care about how SGB is funded.”
Chung’s rules violation alleges that Siegel sought to find a way around the CCSC elections provision that “candidates may not be endorsed by the… Student Governing Board.” A member of CCSC showed Chung a series of four emails from Siegel and Leiken. These emails include a request by Leiken “to talk about what the SGB does, its role in the upcoming CCSC elections, and your campaign aspirations.” Siegel sent a list of SGB’s budget allocations over the past four school years. In the final email, dated February 1, Leiken wrote, “Michelle just promised us that she and everyone running with her would sign a pledge to finance the SGB.”
The rules violation alleges that Diamond signed a pledge to provide $180,000 to SGB as CCSC President.
Siegel says the deal was offered to all prospective Presidential candidates at the time – late January – and was intended to be a public move to bolster CCSC’s funding. “The reason we wanted a signed thing was because candidates have often promised things and not done it,” Siegel said Sunday night.
Diamond confirmed his story. “What I said to [the SGB] was that I think that SGB funding should be increased, and I’d be interested.” But, she added, “as soon as both SGB and I found out that this would be in violation of the rules, I decided I was not going to sign it.” Her platform is committed to increasing SGB funding but was told by current Executive Board members that the pledge both could violate election rules and was unrealistic. The CCSC President does not have sole discretionary power over funding. and Diamond passed on the opportunity to sign the document. Subash Iyer ’07, head of the elections board, made clear in a letter to the CCSC that any pledge that bore the implication of an endorsement was dead, and Siegel said he has spoken to Diamond in an official capacity only once since then – to tell her the deal was off.
Chung, who recently noted her difficulty receiving endorsements throughout the campaign, filed two additional rules violations: one alleging that Diamond’s presentation to the Inter-Greek Council violated rules against IGC endorsements (though no endorsement was made) and one noting the an increased amount of Class of 2008 emails written by Diamond (the class Vice President), allegedly violating direct email campaigning by candidates. In her rules violation paperwork, Chung calls the SGB/Diamond link “shocking and unacceptable.”