Outspoken campus group keeps quiet about funding
MSU’s Young Americans for Freedom officials aren’t revealing where the money comes from to fund the speakers they’ve been welcoming to campus for the past year.
Officials from the university and MSU YAF could not say where money for events and speakers comes from and all deferred comment to MSU YAF Chairman Kyle Bristow. Upon repeated attempts, Bristow either declined to comment on the financial aspects of his organization or did not return State News phone calls.
YAF has brought speakers to campus to discuss such issues as illegal immigration, sexual orientation and globalization. Guests include British National Party Chairman Nick Griffin, Colorado congressman and presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo and Minuteman Civil Defense Corps President and co-founder Chris Simcox. In April, MSU’s chapter was the first college organization placed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups.
The organization has received funds in the past from the Leadership Institute, a conservative organization located in Arlington, Va., where Bristow interned last summer.
Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell said his organization has financed an MSU YAF program once, with a grant of $2,890 provided to the organization for a Simcox speaking engagement this Tuesday.
Simcox, who visited MSU in the spring and was greeted with protest, said he received a stipend from YAF then to cover travel and hotel expenses, but his check this week will cover those costs plus an honorarium for him to spend at his own discretion.
“This time, it’s the same thing plus a $1,500 honorarium and that’s through a grant from the Leadership Institute,” Simcox said. “It goes to me, to eat and pay bills.”
Blackwell was not bothered by the fact that MSU YAF was placed on the national list of hate groups in the spring, saying, “Any group that supports limited government is going to be called a hate group by somebody on the left.”
The $2,890 grant that includes the honorarium is justified and legitimate, Blackwell said.
“That is a pretty small grant for an off-campus speaker,” he said. “You will find that $1,500, as these things go, is a very small honorarium for a nationally recognized speaker.”
The grant from the Leadership Institute is the only noted contribution to MSU YAF in recent history.
Fred Watson, assistant director of the Department of Student Life, said registered student organizations do not receive money from the university. Money for activities and events comes from donations, grants, fundraising or ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate student government.
“We have records of all the groups that come to us,” said Osman Elfaki, vice chairperson for student programming for ASMSU. “(YAF) never received any funding via an activity department on programming board and they have never sought funding from the ASMSU Funding Board.”
William Allen, MSU YAF’s adviser, said he does not typically get involved with the group’s daily operations and it is not necessary for them to run plans or documents by him. He said some of the financial support can come from sponsors or the speakers themselves.
“Often, it’s not them bringing someone to campus, it’s accepting someone’s offer to come to campus, in which case it’s of no cost at all,” Allen said.
“I suspect that was the case with Griffin.”
Erik Johnson, national chairman for YAF, also denied assisting MSU’s chapter financially, other than an $800 advertisement placed in The State News this spring to support MSU YAF.
“The MSU chapter has asked for no grants and we’ve provided zero financial assistance,” Johnson said.