The Slatest

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Just Weighed in on a Student Body Election That Hinged on Glow Sticks

Rick Perry has lost his mind.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rick Perry is the current United States Secretary of Energy. You would think that would be a pretty consuming job being a member of the president’s cabinet, but Perry has a long history of confounding expectations. Let’s not forget Perry once forgot one of the three Cabinet departments he wanted to abolish live during a presidential debate. (It turned out to be the Energy Department.) On Wednesday, the former Texas governor, astonishingly, used the weight of his office to weigh in on a recent student government election in his home state. The U.S. Secretary of Energy penned an 850-word opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle to add his two cents on the Texas A&M student body election, which in case you hadn’t heard, was somewhat controversial this year.

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The university students ended up selecting, for the first time, an openly gay student, Bobby Brooks, as their student body leader. Brooks’ win, however, came after another candidate, top vote-getter Robert McIntosh, faced accusations of voter intimidation—for which he was later cleared—and was ultimately disqualified for failing to expense glow sticks used in a campaign video of some sort. The expense violation was then appealed and adjudicated in the appropriate college forum and it was determined Brooks was the winner. Time for everyone to move on with their lives. Everyone except the Secretary of Energy, that is.

Nearly two weeks after the election was settled, Perry wrote a surreal op-ed that addressed not only his top line ideological issues with the election result—Perry believes the desire for diversity trumped due process—but delved deep into the nitty-gritty details of the case. But first, Perry stated his standing in the case: “As Texas’ first Aggie governor and as someone who was twice elected Yell Leader of Texas A&M University, I am deeply troubled by the recent conduct of A&M’s administration and Student Government Association (SGA) during the Aggie student-body president elections for 2017-2018.” You read that right: Elected two times, chump. He knows about the rough-and-tumble world of college cheerleading politics.

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Perry writes, at first, he was “proud” that his alma mater “demonstrate[d] a commitment to treating every student equally” (i.e. electing an openly gay man). But not any more. Now, Perry wants answers. Why? “Brooks did not win the election,” the Secretary of Energy writes. But Perry wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

… McIntosh was disqualified by the SGA Election Commission and Judicial Court through a process that - at best - made a mockery of due process and transparency. At worst, the SGA allowed an election to be stolen outright.

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Easy there, big fella. Let’s take it down a notch. Or let’s dive deeper?

Here are the facts: Six hours after the election polls closed, the SGA Election Commission received 14 anonymous complaints, accusing McIntosh of voter intimidation. Rather than question McIntosh or conduct an investigation, the Election Commission immediately disqualified McIntosh and declared Brooks the winner. Later, the Commission added a second charge - again from an anonymous complaint - that McIntosh had failed to provide a receipt for glow sticks appearing in a campaign video on Facebook….

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Upon appeal, McIntosh was cleared of all charges of voter intimidation. None of the complaints were made by students who interacted with McIntosh, and many of the accusers turned out to be supporters of Brooks or his campaign volunteers. In other words, the entire episode that initially disqualified McIntosh was dismissed as a series of dirty campaign tactics.

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The second charge of missing receipts was upheld by the Court, despite the fact that McIntosh had acquired the glow sticks for participating in a charity event prior to the campaign. Further, they were no different than visual props used by McIntosh’s rivals’ campaign videos - none of which were itemized or expensed.

Mr. Secretary, we are now officially in a rabbit hole of glow sticks and Facebook videos. Let’s wrap… oh, no you’re still going. Well, ok…

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Every Aggie ought to ask themselves: How would they act and feel if the victim was different? … Would the administration and the student body have allowed the first gay student body president to be voided for using charity glow sticks? … We all know that the administration, the SGA and student body would not have permitted such a thing to happen. The outcome would have been different if the victim was different… Election Commissioner Rachel Keathley must explain why she chose to overturn a fairly won election and disqualify thousands of votes on the basis of anonymous complaints and flimsy technicalities. Chief Justice Shelby James must explain why she treated these cases as annoyances rather than with respect… Robert McIntosh was not treated the same as his competitors.

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For the record, Chief Justice Shelby James is a junior business major at A&M and Election Commissioner Rachel Keathley graduated last year.

But why does Perry want to take down these activist judges? How did this even make it to his desk? “[Candidate] McIntosh, a senior, is the son of Dallas-based Republican fundraiser Alison McIntosh, who worked on Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign and Mitt Romney’s 2012 run for president,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “Perry, twice a presidential hopeful himself, is featured in photographs with McIntosh’s other children on Facebook.” Ahem.

And once Perry was on the scent of justice, there was no stopping him—not logic, not reason, not perspective, nothing, it seems. “I’m surprised that he’s weighing in. I’m surprised he would have the time to do that,” an A&M communications officer told the Morning News. “There’s rules here. Somebody lost and somebody won, and that’s always tough, but it was just a surprise to see this.” Yes, that’s always tough. Tougher for some than others. I don’t have any insight into the levels of injustice here or which of these students should have won or lost, but, in the end, what this story shows is that there’s really only one loser here—Rick Perry.

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