NEC to deliberate UA election violations
Complaints against Gabe Delaney and Julie Bittar focus on Facebook
March 30, 2014, 7:11 pm · Updated March 30, 2014, 10:40 pm·
After a three-hour trial, the Nominations and Elections Committee is deliberating whether Undergraduate Assembly presidential candidate Gabe Delaney and UA vice presidential candidate Julie Bittar violated election rules that could result in their disqualification.
The NEC will announce the results of its deliberations — as well as the winners of other student government elections — later tonight.
Most of Sunday’s trial focused on complaints filed by College junior Josh Chilcote, a vice presidential candidate, and College senior Ernest Owens, a former Daily Pennsylvanian board member, about the Facebook likes on the Delaney-Bittar campaign Facebook page.
Many of the nearly 800 likes on their Facebook page came from allegedly fake profiles. The complainants raised questions about whether Delaney and Bittar — or someone associated with their campaign — purchased Facebook likes for their page without reporting the expenses to the NEC.
Both Owens and Chilcote also argued that Delaney and Bittar should have done more to remove the likes from their page, whether or not they were purchased by the campaign.
Delaney and Bittar denied that they or any friends had purchased the likes, adding that some websites offer packages of Facebook likes for free. Delaney also said he deleted about 50 likes from the campaign page. Bittar later added that she also blocked users from accessing their page. They also said that there was no evidence to support the claim that the likes were purchased.
In a separate complaint, Chilcote argued that Delaney and Bittar jumped the gun on monetary campaigning by showing members of the Penn Political Coalition their campaign website at an endorsement meeting 12 hours before candidates were allowed to spend money to promote campaign.
Many arguments about the website came down to details about public access to the Delany-Bittar campaign website. Delaney said he showed the website to the PoCo co-chairs as friends after the endorsement meeting had ended.
Delaney said the website domain name — “gabedelaney.com” — was given to him as a Christmas gift in December 2013 by Vice Chair for Elections Frederick Ding.
“At the time, he bought it because I was his friend and I am his friend,” Delaney said in an interview after the trial. “I don’t think he has anything wrong to do with this process. But you could definitely construe it as a conflict of interest.”
In an interview after the hearing, Ding said that he purchased the domain name and linked it to one of Delaney’s vice presidential campaign videos from last year. Delaney then repurposed the domain name for his campaign’s website and declared the value of the gift to the NEC.
“I thought it would be nice to get them a gift for Christmas,” Ding said, also referencing that he bought Christmas gifts for other student government leaders as well.
Ding acknowledged that he thought at the time the domain name could eventually be used as a campaign tool, but added that it could also be used for another purpose, such as a personal portfolio website.
He said that he did not disclose the fact that he purchased Delaney’s domain name prior to when it came up at the hearing because “whether or not I gave it to him, he could have purchased it [himself].”
As vice chair for elections, Ding will not vote during the NEC’s deliberations later tonight.
Delaney’s delineation between friends and surrogates, the NEC’s term for people who act on behalf of candidates, came up frequently during the trial. Delaney admitted to not having read the FPC, which governs candidates’ actions during student government elections, until allegations were brought against him on Friday.
College junior Joyce Kim, the other UA presidential candidate and Chilcote’s running mate, did not attend the hearing.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Frederick Ding would only vote in the case of a tie. Ding will not vote at all during tonight's deliberations.