After connections surfaced between the conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA and student government campaigns across the country — including Ohio State — multiple OSU organizations have denounced TPUSA and outside influences on OSU’s Undergraduate Student Government campaigns.
“Partisan politics have no place in (USG), period,” Danielle Di Scala, vice president of USG and a fourth-year in political science, said in a tweet. “Candidates should not be accepting $$ from outside groups to fund their campaigns.”
According to text-message exchanges and audio obtained by The Lantern, TPUSA tried to recruit an OSU student to assist with a USG campaign as part of a plan to fund campaigns for conservative students across the country. The parties involved have disputed which campaign at OSU has been given funding, although Kennedy Copeland, a leadership director with TPUSA and a student at Xavier University, confirmed that TPUSA has reached out to OSU campaigns for partnerships.
OSU’s chapter of College Democrats also issued a statement against TPUSA’s attempts to put money into USG’s presidential race, and distanced itself from the campaign of Mary Honaker and Carla Gracia, which has been tied to TPUSA’s funding campaign.
“Our organization does not approve of Turning Point USA putting big money behind undergraduate student elections,” the statement read. “This article presents us with new information on other campaigns’ alleged connections to TPUSA, and we would not have offered them a platform if these connections were known.”
Earlier this month, College Democrats held a town-hall style event with three of USG’s four presidential campaigns. The campaign of twin brothers Reagan and Reese Brooks, both third-years in marketing running for president and vice president, respectively, was not invited because of its ties to OSU’s TPUSA chapter, which the College Democrats said they were at odds with.
The leaked audio and texts, published Monday, however, feature TPUSA staff, including Copeland, discussing the funding the Honaker and Gracia campaign, which was invited to the College Democrats’ town hall. In the texts, Copeland said she has won campaigns across the U.S., and that TPUSA has about $9,000 set aside for various campaigning efforts related to Honaker and Gracia’s campaign.
Honaker and Gracia, a third-year in international studies and a second-year in political science, respectively, have denied the allegations. After initially claiming not to know about the campaign financing, Michael Frank, their campaign manager and a third-year in political science and economics, said TPUSA reached out to the Honaker and Gracia but the nonprofit was rebuffed.
Frank, as well as Copeland — who also originally denied knowledge of the funding — have since said that it is in fact the Brooks brothers who are receiving TPUSA funding.
The original Lantern article on the TPUSA-USG connections was published Tuesday morning. Roughly 21 hours after a request for further comment was sent to Frank, at about 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, the Honaker and Gracia campaign published on its Facebook page a list of “corrections,” stating Copeland’s statement on the Brooks brothers overrides her text messages about the Honaker and Gracia campaign.
The Honaker and Gracia campaign did not respond to a request for comment regarding the timeline of when they say their campaign was approached by TPUSA, and when they say they denied a partnership. A TPUSA national conference was held in December, and was attended by Honaker. Representatives from TPUSA’s OSU chapter said they were briefed at that conference by Honaker and Gracia about their TPUSA partnership. The texts and audio with TPUSA staff mentioning Honaker and Gracia’s campaign is dated in late January.
The Brooks brothers have acknowledged their ties to OSU’s TPUSA chapter, which is said to be at odds with the national office, but denied receiving any funding.
“That is utterly false and baseless,” Devin Bilski, a fourth-year in marketing and political science and the campaign manager for the Brooks brothers, told The Lantern on Monday. “I think the evidence speaks for itself where the money is coming.”
In the recorded phone call, Alana Mastrangelo, TPUSA’s Heartland regional director, offered payments from TPUSA for students who campaign for Honaker and Gracia, while she also spoke of how she is at odds with OSU’s TPUSA chapter, and specifically Bilski, the former president.
“The Turning Point chapter, like, I don’t know,” Mastrangelo said in the phone call. “I’ve never had problems with my other Turning Point chapters at other schools, but the OSU one is just very defiant and, like, (Bilski) goes against everything I do.”
A request for comment placed to TPUSA’s national office was not immediately returned.