By Kayli Reese andÂ Brooklyn Draisey
The University of Iowa Student Government Judicial Court has found the SURGE Party responsible for one of two election-code violations filed against the party hours before it won the top seats in the UISG election.
The court found SURGE responsible for falsifying its campaign budget after finding the party did not report the fair market value of its photographer, Mary Mathis, per the Election Code.
Student Judicial Court Chief Justice Adelaide Zwick said UISG campaign party Empower Iowa filed the complaint against SURGE after an allegation that SURGE falsified its campaign spending records.
SURGE paid Mathis $200 for 32 headshots of members on the ticket, according to the judicial verdict document given to The Daily Iowan. This would equate to $6.25 per headshot.
In the document, the court uses Cornell Law to define fair market value as âthe value of property determined by the marketplace (or objective purchasers) rather than as determined by a subjective individual.â
Heath Schintler, the UISG vice president-elect on the SURGE ticket, said the party finds the title of âfalsifying the campaign budgetâ to be misleading.
âAdelaide, the chief justice, during our hearing stated very openly to us that she didnât believe that we had in any way tried to falsify any of our documentation; instead, its decision rested on its definition of fair market value for Ms. Mathisâ services in regard to photography,â Schintler said.
The definition, Schintler said, of fair market value is not specified in the Student Election Code. He also notes the code uses Cornellâs definition, while Blackâs law dictionary legal definition of fair market value means a price the buyer and seller can agree upon.
Mathis went to the hearing to speak for herself and her work. When it comes to fine art and photography, she said, the discussion can grow technical quickly, causing the public to find difficulty in understanding freelance photography.
At the hearing, Mathis said she felt the court was trying to find SURGE responsible for something in some way.
âI feel like although they werenât trying to question my character, they were actually trying to pin something on SURGE,â she said. âI feel that it was me who was really under question.â
To see if this was a fair price for the headshots, the court contacted Cedar Rapids photographer Carl Bromberg from Visions Photography to see the price for the number of headshots SURGE used for its party, according to a document from the court.
Because Bromberg has no connections to UISG and has more than 20 years of experience as a photographer, the judicial court found him to be a good comparison for a fair market price for head shots.
On March 27, the court reported Bromberg gave his price for 32 headshots as $750 plus sales tax, resulting in a total of $820.50.
The price difference between Brombergâs quote and Mathisâs charge to SURGE was $602.50. The court also found this to be a difference of $110 Mathis charged for 15 head shots for the First Generation Summit.
The document said Mathis gave SURGE a discount because she âbelieved in its vision.â Normally, Mathis reported to the court, she charges $250 per person per hour for a headshot.
Mathis said she and Bromberg were not going to have the same market value of their work, because they work for different demographics and Bromberg has his own business.
When asking other Iowa City freelance photographers what they would have done in Mathisâ situation with SURGE, she said they told her they would have negotiated for a lower price as Mathis did, because UISG campaigns wonât have a lot of money to spend in one area.
Mathis said she typically charges students less because she knows they donât have as much money to spend.
Zwick said the court does not disagree with Mathisâ argument of artistic freedom in pricing for photos, and no blame is on her for charging SURGE $200 for its headshots. The court, she said, has an issue with SURGE knowing the Election Code and failing to comply to it.
âMathis can charge whatever she wants when sheâs freelancing, itâs still SURGE Partyâs responsibility to adhere to the Election Code and make sure that what itâs reporting is actually a fair market value,â she said.
In the first hearing, Mathis said, SURGE was not found responsible, though she said the court had facts wrong during that hearing.
For the First Generation Summit, she said, the court assumed she would have charged the same amount as she did with SURGE if she was working at fair market value. However, she said, she used two different camera types for the two shoots. For the Summit, she said, she used a traditional film, she had to pay for everything herself, and the photos took her months to work on. For SURGE, she used a digital camera, and the whole process took one day.
âI just have a lot of anger towards this. For four years Iâve been told âinvest in your community, be one with the school, offer what you canââŚ and you donât see a lot of art students working with UISG, and I think the reason is pretty clear after this. Itâs really frustrating for me,â she said.
UISG President-elect Hira Mustafa told the court she told Mathis SURGE could not accept discounts not given to the public. The court said in the document this did not matter, as SURGE did not report the head-shot spending as fair market value as it should have, according to the UISG Election Code.
Mathis said she did not negotiate with Mustafa but instead quoted her a price Mustafa agreed with. Mathis felt the price was right for a nonprofit campus campaign. Mathis also noted she does a lot of free work on campus as well.
âThere was no discount given, it was $200 for the work I did,â Mathis said.
The court found SURGEâs use of a professional photographer put the party at an advantage over the other UISG campaigning parties.
Zwick said a $3,000 limit on campaigns was placed so parties with more financial resources couldnât run a more expensive campaign. SURGE, she said, was able to received high-quality photos from an excellent photographer, giving them an aesthetically pleasing advantage to its campaign.
Schintler said he does not know at this time what sanctions will be taken against the party.
While SURGE feels the court may have overvalued Mathisâs work, Schintler said, he and Mustafa want to put the matter behind them as a whole.
â[We want to] focus on the bigger picture, which is getting to work as soon as possible on behalf of the student body and making real change on campus,â he said.
In the courtâs investigation of SURGE harassing or intimidating other ticket candidates, the verdict document said, the party was found not responsible by the court.
Lucee Laursen, the vice presidential candidate for Envision Iowa, said she found the process in deciding the verdicts of the complaints to be confusing and shady, and she was confused about the appeals process and the announcement of the verdict after the polls closed. [Laursen is a DI columnist.]
She said she found the process to be too slow for such a short campaign.
The whole process with the court was difficult to operate and understand, Laursen said.
âAs a voter, I wouldâve wanted to know what was going on [before the polls closed],â she said. âThe system isnât set up well.â