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After news broke on campus of the previously undisclosed donation pass-through, many students criticized Milstein as well as Oved. At the time, Oved had just been nominated to the University of California Board of Regents as a student representative, a significantly more influential position. In response to the disclosure of the donation, several hundred students signed a petition demanding that the regents postpone his ascension to the state board. Others testified against Oved at a regents hearing to reconsider his nomination.
Kareem Aref, the outgoing president of the UC Student Association, had originally submitted Oved’s nomination to the regents. But after the disclosure of the donation, Aref voiced concern at the regents meeting about “the potential for outside organizations buying off student elected officials.”
Oved did not respond to a request left via his page on Facebook for an interview. But at the Board of Regents hearing, Oved vowed, “As the student regent-designate, my only allegiance is to the students.” The board approved his nomination at the meeting.
For all the controversy the donations have provoked, UCLA’s student government bylaws nowhere require their disclosure. But UCLA Hillel’s own bylaws prohibit channeling any of the center’s income or assets to “any director, officer or member … or to the benefit of any private person.”
Oved worked as an intern for Hillel between May 2012 and May 2013, according to his LinkedIn profile. He thanked Milstein for the donation on an undisclosed date in 2013. Rachael Petru Horowitz, director of development at UCLA Hillel, to whom Milstein made out his check, according to the emails, denied the center violated its bylaws. Hillel, she wrote the Forward in an email, “never cut a check to Avi Oved in relation to his campaign for student government.” She declined to comment further.
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service also prohibits tax-exempt charities like Hillel from contributing to partisan political campaigns. But Ellen Aprill, a specialist in tax law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, told the Forward that “as far as I can tell, student government is private, like a club set up by the university, and not a public office.” She cautioned that the question was a murky one, given UC’s status as a state-sponsored public university.
In interviews with the Forward, spokesmen at several Hillels nevertheless assumed it was illegal for their centers to donate to or endorse student government candidates. Legality aside, nine separate campus Hillel branches also made clear that for them, the idea of wading into partisan campus politics on one side would contradict Hillel’s role as a campus unifier.