Turning Point USA trying to influence SGA elections

Right-wing group with history of shady influence is contacting Quinnipiac student leaders

Stephen MacLeod, Staff Writer

The far-right group Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is contacting students in both the Student Government Association (SGA) and in other leadership positions with offers to help them run for positions within student government. 

TPUSA contacts leaders through a group called the Campus Leadership Project, which claims to be non-partisan, but is actually part of TPUSA’s efforts to influence student governments across the country. It often flaunts rules regarding donations and funding

Now the group is setting its eyes on Connecticut and looking to establish a presence at Quinnipiac University, the University of Connecticut and Sacred Heart University.

Connor Lawless

Michael Yurkovskiy,  a Campus Leadership Project representative, has been contacting members of student government and leaders from around campus as far back as September. 

At least two members of SGA have been in contact with Yurkovskiy, although both described the conversation as strange and declined his offer.  

Barbora Hriňáková, SGA vice president for finance, said she took a phone call with Yurkovskiy in the presence of SGA President Sophia Marshall. 

“He basically said (the Campus Leadership Project) can help out with campaign strategies,” Hriňáková said.

Hriňáková said that the Campus Leadership Project sold itself as a non-partisan group but that it was not forthcoming with information beyond saying that it would help a candidate run. 

Yurkovskiy is an ardent supporter of right-wing talking points, including trying to allow for a concealed carry policy on the Oregon State University campus. The measure failed. 

SGA does not allow any outside donations during elections according to Section 2, paragraph  IV, subsection E of the SGA election policy. 

Matthew Kurz, SGA advisor and assistant dean of student affairs, said the policy helps curb outside influence. 

“What if Budweiser wanted John Smith for President?” Kurz said. 

Kurz briefed SGA on the emails months ago. Attending a conference hosted by the Campus Leadership Project would be allowed, but accepting any form of campaign help would not. 

Caroline Mello, vice president of SGA, oversees elections as part of her role. She made it clear that any donation, including things including posters and pins, would be taken at market value. 

“A candidate cannot have any financial donation whatsoever,” Mello said. 

She also said that accepting a scholarship in return for running for an office would violate the SGA oath of office, which states, “As a Student Government Official, I will not use my position for special privileges, favors or personal gain.”

SGA also has strict spending rules. The most recent election rules cap spending on a campaign at $250 for an Executive Board position and $150 for a class president or senator position. 

The Campus Leadership Project has tried influencing colleges across the country, including Texas State University, Xavier University and the University of Kansas

It is unclear if the group has ever had any lasting success. The Campus Leadership Project includes testimonials from an unnamed “student body Vice President, Big Ten Conference” and an unnamed “Fortune 500 CEO” on its website.