Public University Violates Federal Election Laws, Promotes Rally for Dem Congressman

Tim Bishop and Steve Israel are slated for a campus event. / AP
• October 22, 2014 11:38 am


The Student Affairs office at Stony Brook University is in hot water after sending an email to the entire student body promoting a rally for congressional candidate Tim Bishop (D., N.Y.)

Campus Reform reported Tuesday that the email urged students to attend a campaign rally for Bishop with guests Steve Israel (D., N.Y.) and former President Bill Clinton and to sign up using their student email addresses.

University policy prohibits the school from using school resources to endorse political candidates–including its Listserv. At the foot of the email, a disclaimer noting it was "paid for by the New York Democratic Committee," which violates the school's policy against using resources to aid political candidates or causes.

In September, when Stony Brook's College Republicans hosted Lee Zeldin, Bishop's Republican opponent, the university did not offer to send out a school-wide email for the event. The group also faced opposition to holding the event in the first place.

"We didn’t receive any publicity for [the event]," Laura Doukas, president of Stony Brook’s College Republicans, told Campus Reform in an interview. "They wouldn’t give us a room because apparently it was too late of notice."

Political law attorney Cleta Mitchell recommended the College Republicans group file a complaint with the Federal Elections Committee over the issue against the university and Bishop's campaign. Bishop's campaign may have also received an illegal contribution from the university.

"They are in violation of this section of the law because they are not supposed to show favoritism under the federal campaign finance laws," Mitchell said.

Stony Brook media relations officer Lauren Sheprow released a statement Tuesday saying that the event was student-initiated and student-sponsored.
"For the record, the rally to be held Wednesday evening is a student initiated and sponsored event and the office of Student Life used standard communication methods afforded to any approved clubs that requests it," Sheprow said. "The University appreciates its obligation to make facilities available on a bi-partisan basis."

Published under: 2014 Election, FEC, New York