TPUSA tries to take over SGA

Turning Point USA attempted to interfere in Xavier’s executive election

By Charlie Gstalder, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Flickr. Charlie Kirk (left) is the founder of Turning Point USA, a group that is dedicated to promoting conservative beliefs at college campuses across the US. One of the group’s affiliates tried to donate money to influence the Student Government Association’s Executive Election this month.

Conservative group Turning Point USA (TPUSA) unsuccessfully attempted to interfere in Xavier University’s Student Government Association Executive elections.

President-elect Thomas Wehby told Newswire this week that, during the SGA campaign, he was contacted by a man claiming to work for an organization that supports campus leaders across the country.

Believing this to be a potential internship opportunity, Wehby explained that he was campaigning for president of SGA. The man immediately requested a meeting, and Wehby agreed. At that time, Wehby explained, it was not clear that the man was affiliated with TPUSA.

“He said he was part of a group called Campus Leadership Project and that they are funded by a group of alumni who are interested in the longevity of their university and the current atmosphere on campus.” Wehby said.

Wehby believed the man was affiliated with a local nonprofit until he began asking odd questions.

“He asked what the political makeup is of Xavier University, and then asked about my own political beliefs.”

Wehby explained that the man’s real motives became clear soon after.

“He said that he works with people at (University of Cincinnati) and (Ohio State University) and that in addition to networking, he can fund my election,” Wehby said. “He offered to get me a graphic designer, to make shirts and buttons, everything you need.”

Wehby returned home and discovered that the Campus Leadership Project is affiliated with TPUSA, and declined the offer because “partisanship should not be a part of our student elections.”

TPUSA was founded in 2012 by Charlie Kirk in an attempt to counter what he felt was an overwhelming liberal bias at universities and colleges across the United States.

According to their website, TPUSA  has chapters on more than 1,500 campuses and is the largest and fastest growing youth organization in America. They host conservative allied events such as the Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, where Donald Trump, Jr., and Sean Hannity are listed as two speakers.

TPUSA does not actively reference the Campus Leadership Project on any of its websites, aside from a job listing referencing the project.

Xavier’s Board of Elections Chair, Miles Tiemeyer, was informed of the attempted interference following Wehby’s contact with the man. Tiemeyer stated that there had been a similar attempt made three to four years ago, but was unsure which ticket was approached.

Xavier is not unique in this situation. The Miami Student, the student newspaper for Miami University (Ohio), reported last week that two student government cabinet members had been approached by the Campus Leadership Project with offers for scholarships and mentoring.

In 2017, a representative from TPUSA contacted students campaigning for Student Government positions at Ohio State University. The students were offered money to help with their campaign, but turned down the offer. 

Dr. Molly Dugan, Director of Student Integrity at Xavier, explained that while there is nothing in Xavier’s election code explicitly preventing outside organizations from donating to campaigns, it is not in the spirit of the code.

“Our code allows for $600 for the Executive Election which for many students is a lot of money,” Dugan said. “I mean, if a family member owned a print shop and wanted to make fliers for a candidate, we’d allow it as long as it was reported at market rate, but we don’t want outside organizations coming in. We don’t know what they want reciprocally.”

Xavier’s Board of Elections is considering amending the code to explicitly prevent outside organizations from funding campaigns but has not yet had a chance to meet. Dugan explained that Xavier does not want election rules to be a guessing game

“Any time a question comes up regarding the code, we try to go back and assess if we need to clarify something,” Dugan said.

Following the contact CPP, Wehby’s ticket, added a point to their platform expressing that they are taking a stance against outside political organizations donating to student campaigns. The ticket ran unopposed and won.