Former OSPIRG Board Chair Charles Denson allegedly donated $673 to the Ben and Katie campaign last year, but former campaign manager Sophie Luthin alleges steps were taken to conceal Denson’s name.
According to Luthin, Denson wrote two checks to her that, apart from inside jokes in the memo line, were not affiliated directly with the campaign. She then wrote the official check, which was placed in the final budget. Luthin explained that she was told Denson didn’t want his name on the contributions form and that it wouldn’t be a big deal.
At the time, Denson had already been married the vice presidential-candidate Katie Taylor for two years and was still working for OSPIRG.
As stated in the Green Tape Notebook, “Serious Violations shall include, but are not limited to … submitting false or incomplete information on any official forms required by the ASUO Elections Board, including but not limited to financial disclosure forms.”
This means that a failure to disclose where the checks came from in the official budget could result in serious consequences.
Denson explained that he was not aware his money would be going toward the campaign, but instead giving a personal check to Luthin.
“I made a personal contribution to Sophie as a private citizen,” he said.
ASUO President Ben Eckstein knew about the checks but believes everything was above board.
“People in public positions often want to have some measure of privacy in their lives,” he said. “They try to do that in ways that are legal and fully within their rights. That is exactly what happened.”
Luthin, who is now currently the campaign manager for the Ben and Lamar campaign, explained that she has always supported OSPIRG and feels like this violates the integrity of the group.
“One of the core values of the organization is creating a more transparent, accountable government,” Luthin said. “For Charles to participate in this kind of campaign practice goes against (those) values.”
Taylor explained that she didn’t know Denson had made any contributions to the campaign and was surprised at the news.
“I did my own fundraising and this is news to me,” she said.
Upon hearing this, former ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz was disappointed.
“Charles was the chair of the board of directors of a corporation, and allegedly, secretly contributed hundreds of dollars to get his wife Katie Taylor elected.” he said. “For his wife to then give his corporation a 97 percent funding increase of almost $200,000, is a perfect example of the filthy reality of corporate money destroying the democratic process in this country.”
Eckstein disagreed and was concerned people were not focusing on the importance of the ASUO elections.
“I am disappointed that my two former campaign managers would use this as political fodder,” Eckstein said. “My campaign spoke directly to issues impacting students’ lives. I can tell you first hand, this is not an issue impacting student lives.”
Luthin also highlighted the importance of election week and that this issue directly applies.
“I am bringing this to the attention of the student body because the same people who orchestrated this last year are involved in elections again,” Luthin said. “I want students to know the truth.”