OUR VIEW: Machine must disclose spending

Our View

Like most political parties, the Machine raises money to fund its candidates’ campaigns.

Unlike Democrats and Republicans, though, that money doesn’t come from donors with full knowledge of where their money goes. It comes from the 28 greek houses that comprise the Machine and the dues those houses’ members pay every year.

On Nov. 17, The Crimson White published an article detailing how the membership dues from 28 sororities and fraternities support Theta Nu Epsilon, also known as the Machine. If each Machine-affiliated greek house contributes at least $850 per semester to the Machine, this would make an estimated total annual budget of $47,600. According to the SGA Elections Manual, the maximum amount a candidate for SGA Senate can spend in campaign expenses is $200, while executive candidates may spend $800.

If the Machine financed a candidate for all 50 Senate positions and seven executive spots, the total would amount to just $15,600 for campaign finances – less than a third of the Machine’s annual income. Even that number is high, considering that SGA Vice President for Student Affairs David Wilson confirmed that he only received $50 for his Senate campaign.

Former SGA officials have stated that the Machine’s intended purpose is to improve the UA community through political action. However, with so little of the organization’s money being used for campus politics, it’s unclear where the organization’s true motives lie. Sources familiar with the Machine’s finances confirmed that the organization’s funds are also used to pay for bar tabs and beach trips for Machine representatives. It’s also possible that money is being funneled to other channels that even fewer people are aware of.

If greek students who are members of Machine-affiliated fraternities and sororities were made readily aware that their money was going toward funding this organization, the Machine might have some standing as a representative group. However, the majority of the individuals who fund the Machine through dues are not aware they are doing so. Membership to this supposed political organization therefore becomes mandatory for many of the thousands of students who come to campus each year and participate in greek life.

There are ways in which the use of Machine funds for SGA campaigns could function responsibly. On federal tax forms, citizens are given the option of providing $3 to public funding of presidential campaigns, and presidential candidates almost always accept this public funding. If the Machine requested funding each year from its constituents, students could have some say in determining whether their money would go toward political candidates, other students’ bar tabs or whatever else the Machine may choose to do with their money.

Ultimately, the problem is accountability. About 56 students are given an operational budget of almost $50,000 a year, and they are beholden to no one at the University to spend this money ethically or legally. As the people being forced to provide the funds to oil this Machine, greek students in affected fraternities and sororities have a right to know where their dollars are being spent.