Yale Political Union

After taking photos with the officers of the Yale Political Union following a guest debate where he held forth on the flaws of single-payer health care systems on Sep. 5 of last year, Gov. Bobby Jindal departed Yale by private car to stay — according to what three members of last semester’s YPU executive board heard from their President during a board meeting — at the luxury St. Regis Hotel in New York.

As Jindal spoke, some members of the union’s executive board noticed that the Young American Foundation — a conservative political advocacy group that was supposed to sponsor the high-cost event — had not placed its advertising hoardings in Woolsey Hall, as is standard practice at speaking events the foundation sponsors. Executive board members wondered: How are we going to pay for this?

Their concerns proved justified. Jindal’s costly visit to the YPU — compounded by the lack of a YAF grant to help pay for it — created a temporary $13,477 budget deficit, prompting finger-pointing within the organization’s executive board last semester. The deficit was ultimately resolved by the efforts of the Yale Political Union’s fall semester president, Brian Cashin ’19, who replaced the lost funds with grants, donations and sponsorship deals.

In December, Cashin handed over the reins of the YPU to newly elected President Julian Assele ’20, a fellow member of the Federalist Party. But the political tensions and personal feuds that developed on the executive board as a result of Cashin’s budget management left a mark. Asked to comment on the budgetary crisis, Assele told the News that changes are on the way now that the executive board has turned over.

“I am excited for the new e-board and a fresh semester,” said Assele, who declined to comment explicitly on the budget controversy. “My priorities as of now are to work with my e-board to make Union more inclusive, engaging and free of any politicking.”

Cashin did not respond to multiple requests for comment after he sent a message to the News in early December expressing his distrust of the intentions behind this story. Earlier, Cashin told the News that the YPU eventually obtained the funding to make up the cost for Jindal, but he did not comment on any specifics.

The budgetary crisis began in the spring of 2017, when Cashin arranged for Jindal to come to the YPU; at the time, Cashin was still the organization’s vice president, responsible for booking future speakers. Most YPU guests stay at New Haven hotels, but the terms the YPU reached with Jindal allowed the Louisiana politician to stay at the St. Regis Hotel and travel from New York City to campus by car. Cashin maintains that he only paid for Jindal stay at a Hilton Hotel in New York, but a high-ranking member of last semester’s YPU executive board confirmed that Cashin himself said in a meeting that part of the $4,053 paid specifically for accommodating Jindal went toward a room at the St. Regis Hotel. In addition to the $4,053 spent on accommodations for Jindal, the visit cost the debate organization an additional $10,257 in “unexpected” expenditures, including a speaking fee. The next most expensive speaker cost $1,761.  The document does not list any guest speakers other than Jindal as having cost the YPU additional funds beyond transportation, dinner subsidies and accommodations.

Cashin’s plan to bring Jindal to Yale operated under the assumption that the YPU would receive a $7,000 grant from the YAF, a political organization committed to inspiring young conservatives.

But before Jindal arrived at the YPU debate on Sept. 5, the YAF informed Cashin that it would not send grant money to help cover the costs. In a November email to the YPU executive board, Cashin explained that the grant had fallen through because of a “payment squabble” between the YAF and the Washington Speaker’s Bureau over a speaking event held elsewhere.

“While we were unable to assist in the funding of the Yale Political Union’s lecture with Governor Bobby Jindal, Young America’s Foundation has enjoyed working with the YPU in the past to put conservative speakers, including Senator Rick Santorum, in front of Yale student audiences,” YAF spokesman Spencer Brown told the News. “We look forward to an opportunity to collaborate with the Yale Political Union in the future as we work to bring intellectual diversity and conservative leaders to America’s campuses.”

The rest of the YPU executive board did not discover that the YAF had declined to provide the grant money until late October, when the executive board met to review the union’s budget. At the meeting, board members expressed confusion about the missing grant, according to three members of last semester’s board. Cashin revealed a fall 2017 spending deficit of $13,477.67, stemming mainly from Jindal’s expensive speech.

One member of the fall semester executive board called the situation an “emotional rollercoaster” that led to a firestorm of criticism against Cashin.

“The YPU culture is very much conniving and backhanded,” another member of the board told the News. “It made the fallout from Cashin’s management a nightmare.”

Facing pressure from the executive board members about the unforeseen deficit, Cashin initiated what he described in budget reports as “The Great CA$HIN Turnaround,” setting out to reverse the deficit with alternative grants and funding that eventually created a budget surplus.

According to budget reports, Cashin brought the spending deficit down to $4,495 by Nov. 4, as he secured new sources of income, including $3,428 from the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, a branch of the Yale College Council that distributes more than $200,000 from the Dean’s Office to student groups on campus each year.

Like Cashin, the chairman of the UOFC, Steven Tian ’20, is a member of the Federalist Party. Tian told the News he was part of a 12-person team that decided to grant Cashin the $3,428 to help resolve the YPU’s budget issues. He said he disclosed his conflict of interest to the rest of the committee before it began deliberating on the grant request.

Other outside sources of income that Cashin secured as part of his funding initiatives included grants from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Leadership Institute, the Poynter Fellowship and the Elm Institute.

On Nov. 12, Cashin announced in an email to the YPU executive board that there was now a budget surplus and that the YPU would finish the fall semester in the black.

“I will be delivering to my successor as President of the Yale Political Union over $4,000 more in the Yale Political Union spending accounts than I inherited from my predecessor,” Cashin wrote.

He also reported that the YPU’s net income for the fall semester was no longer negative and had reached $224.34 as a result of additional grants.

Most current and former YPU executive board members declined to comment for this story or did not respond to requests for comment. YPU Speaker Sandy Pecht ’19 said that last semester’s budget was an “internal YPU issue” and that Cashin and previous Speaker of the YPU Rita Wang ’19 “just want to get on with their lives and move on to new things.”

After the News contacted the outgoing executive board for this story in December, members speculated that the story of the budgetary turnaround had been leaked to the press in an effort to influence the board’s end-of-year election.

“It reads to me like someone is airing dirty laundry to the YDN. Is it for electoral gain? Shits and giggles? Either way, not my problem,” wrote Ariel Murphy ’18, who chaired the Liberal Party in the fall semester, in an email to other board members. Murphy declined to comment for this story.

The Yale Political Union identifies as the oldest and largest collegiate debate union in America.

Britton O’Daly | britton.odaly@yale.edu

Clarification, Jan. 20: A previous version of this article stated that Jindal stayed at St. Regis Hotel before the YPU talk. In fact, he traveled to the hotel after the talk. 

Correction, Jan 21: The article has been updated to reflect that the Jindal talk took place on Sep. 5, and that the YPU’s budget crisis started in the spring of 2017. 

  • Brian Cashin

    This article is a collection of false claims.

    When the author of this article, Britton O’Daly, first contacted me about this article last month, I responded to both him and his superior, News Editor of the Yale Daily News Jon Greenberg, stating that when all incoming funding was accounted for the Yale Political Union budget was in a surplus, not a deficit, as was and is verifiably the case. Britton responded to me via email the next evening (December 6th, 2017) with a long list of claims that were verifiably false. Upon receiving that email I then immediately welcomed News Editor Jon Greenberg to conduct whatever line by line evaluation of the Yale Political Union budget records that he or the leadership of the Yale Daily News wished such as to debunk whatever was being claimed in this article. Jon acknowledged the invitation and said that it would be considered. No action was taken by the leadership of the Yale Daily News to make such a budgetary evaluation. At no point between Jon Greenberg responding to say that he would consider my invitation for full review of the Yale Political Union budget on that evening of December 6th and this very moment of me posting this on the morning upon which this article has been published have I been contacted by Jon Greenberg or anyone else from the staff of the Yale Daily News other than Britton O’Daly.

    The very opening claim of this article is false. This article states that Governor Bobby Jindal stayed at the St. Regis hotel on the night preceding the September 5th Yale Political Union debate at which he was a guest. Governor Jindal’s stay for that night was not even part of his travel arrangments and he was in his home state of Louisiana on that night on his own dime. He stayed at the New Yok Hilton Midtown hotel on the night of the debate forum (Tuesday, September 5th), the record of which I have just emailed to the Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Daily News, Rachel Treisman. The cost of that hotel stay was $444.39

    The speaking fee for Governor Jindal was publicly approved by the Spring of 2017 Yale Political Union executive board; it was not ‘unexpected’ as this article claims.

    For a point of information, last month (on Monday, December 11th, 2017) the Yale Political Union had its semesterly presidential election, in which candidate Julian Assele (Federalist Party Class of 2020) defeated candidate Connor Wood (Conservative Party Class of 2019) by over 100 votes.

    I did not respond to further messages from Britton after his long email of false claims on December 6th because I perceived him to have a conflict of interest and a biased narrative. I had never met Britton (and still have never met him) but when I went on his Facebook page that week I viewed a photo of him happily present at a Conservative Party event on December 7th surrounded by four Conservative Party members. I expressed this sentiment of discomfort to Jon Greenberg and asked that any member of the Yale Daily News leadership team conduct a review of the Yale Political Union budget and take up this subject because Britton was pressing a false narrative. Jon responded to say that he would ensure that all sources for this article were clearly listed. Why no other Yale Daily News staff member contacted me about this article other than Britton I do not know, but this article seems to confirm the exact notion that caused me to distrust Britton: that he was receiving false claims from anonymous sources and then pressing a false narrative without the leadership of the Yale Daily News fact-checking this article.

    The use of anonymous sources in this article indicates that whoever was providing the false claims for this article was not willing to go on the record to substantiate those claims and to reveal that he or she may have had an interest in enabling Connor Wood to win the presidential election last month. For example, the Conservative Party and the Party of the Right were the only two parties to endorse Connor Wood in last month’s presidential election, so if last semester’s Chairman of the Party of Right and Connor Wood were two of the three anonymous sources from last semester’s Eboard that Britton mentions in this article, which seems positively true, that is exactly in line with the reason that I felt justified in asking Britton’s Yale Daily News superior Jon Greenberg for someone other than Britton at the Yale Daily News to take up this subject.

    I am proud of everything that I have done throughout my five semesters of ongoing involvement in and service to the Yale Political Union. This article and its false claims attempt to cast a negative light on someone who the majority of Yale Political Union members affirm is a good and devoted member of the organization.

    Sincerely,

    Brian Cashin

    • Mr. Ed

      Thanks. As you note, the world is overrun with “fake news” such as this article!

  • Mary Queen of Scots

    What about Louisiana’s failing school system, deplorable infrastructure, and last-in-the-nation health care lead these “Yalies” to conclude that this man has any wisdom to share? He scammed our state for eight long years, and you became the next sucker on his list. Hope he gave you a good lesson in conservative economics.

  • Harriet Welsch

    Here in Louisiana, we’d say y’all got Jindaled.

  • ShadrachSmith

    How are we going to pay for this?

    Double tuition for conservatives?

  • Storm Warning

    Jindal was the worst governor in the state of Louisiana’s history. He was always telling citizens to do more with less, but he never could. You got screwed, just like the citizens of this state did for eight years. The damage he inflicted on Louisiana was incalculable.

  • Robert

    Is that anything like the 6 figure fees + extras that the Clintons received for their “speeches”…. What!!! No Outrage About That ?

  • Straight Talk

    Why pay JIndal to speak? You could have gotten a homeless person from the streets for free and had a more knowledgeable person about how to govern.