By Talia Richman and Ellie Silverman
At least five additional members of the Unity Party ticket have dropped out of the University of Maryland SGA election after a Diamondback article revealed party leadership did not disclose all campaign contributions in their preliminary financial reports.
The Unity Party did not share that an affiliate of Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit, had designed some of the ticket’s campaign materials pro bono, a violation of Student Government Association election rules.
Ankush Manchanda and Jake Lubbehusen were running for Off-Campus – Neighboring legislative seats and both dropped out of the race Thursday. Freshman civil engineering major Tyson Tran, the candidate to represent the engineering college, also submitted his resignation to the Election Board on Thursday afternoon, as did freshman Jonathan Ciavolino, who was running to represent Undergraduate Studies. Caroline Larkin, the Unity Party candidate to represent the behavioral and social sciences college, withdrew, as well.
“All I know is that the executive members of the Unity Party who made the funding discrepancies are all great people who made an honest mistake,” Tran wrote in a statement. “I do not personally believe there was any negative intent in their actions, but instead just a mistake that was far overlooked.”
Bryce Iapicca, another Unity Party candidate for an Off-Campus — Neighboring legislative position, withdrew from the election Wednesday night.
“The group was comprised of [sic] amazing individuals who truly cared about making the University of Maryland a better community for all,” Lubbehusen wrote. “However, there were some decisions made unbeknownst to me (likely unintentional) that resulted in major conflict between the executives and legislators.”
This leaves at most seven candidates on the Unity Party’s ticket ahead of Thursday night’s executive debate.
The former legislative candidates each stated they were unaware of the party’s failure to disclose all contributions in the financial report.
“It didn’t really have to come to this and it’s sad that none of us were informed,” Manchanda, a junior finance and information systems major, said. “I had no idea any of this was happening so it was disappointing.”
Emails obtained by The Diamondback on Wednesday show a Turning Point affiliate discussing campaign logo design for the Unity Party with coworkers. The designs attached to these emails are the same designs as the Unity Party signs around McKeldin Mall.
Unity Party’s presidential candidate Kay Barwell did not respond to additional requests for comment Thursday afternoon. Her statement Wednesday night did not address the party’s failure to disclose non-monetary contributions, such as the logo design.
Barwell’s statement Wednesday night stated that her fiance’s cousin, who has a private design business, offered to make Unity Party graphics for free but “accidentally sent the logo designs” through her Turning Point-affiliated email address. Barwell’s fiance’s cousin is also a Turning Point graphic designer, according to her LinkedIn page.
“Because she had the Turning point connection, they heard about our campaign and approached us. However, we felt uncomfortable with their offer and we didn’t accept it,” Barwell wrote.
The opposing One Party issued a statement this morning and encouraged voters to read Thursday’s Diamondback article about the rule violations.
The tea is piping hot and above the fold ☕️???? Pick up a copy of @thedbk at major locations across campus. pic.twitter.com/llTGH7DAf0
— UMD One Party (@UMDOneParty) April 13, 2017
“We are disappointed to learn that our opponent, Unity Party UMD has failed to disclose support from Turning Point USA, a national organization that has been linked to several student government campaigns around the country.”
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Kay Barwell is a Turning Point graphic designer. Barwell’s fiance’s cousin is a designer. This story has been updated.