Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Spending Limits for Student Elections Upheld

A federal judge in Montana has denied an injunction sought by a student government leader at the University of Montana against the school's mandatory spending limits.

As Charles Johnson of the Billings Gazette reports, the student, a 24 year old named Aaron Flint, spent twice the $100 limit for student candidates, a violation he revealed the day before the polls opened for the student Senate. Other Senators voted to deny Flint the seat if he won, which he did. Flint then sued the University President to stop enforcement of the spending limits.

Money can distort university elections just as it can popular elections. Big money in any election shifts the focus of that election from who has the best things to say to who has the most money to say them. The University of Montana's spending limits were designed to make sure that the viewpoints of some of its students were not drowned out by the big bucks of others.

Flint and others who argue for unlimited spending in elections would do our democracy better by focusing on their message, and less on the money.

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