Professors donate heavily to Democrats

GW professors and administrators sent more than $43,000 in campaign donations to politicians and organizations over the last year and a half, financial disclosure reports show.

Democratic candidates, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee were the top recipients of campaign contributions – totalling $32,205 – from 39 professors, faculty and others who identified GW as their employer as of Sept. 16.

Of all the contributions to political action committees and other candidates, a total of 59 GW employees contributed a total of $43,580.

The donations were given from Jan. 3, 2009, until the most recent donation was made July 27 of this year.

“Historically, university faculty and staff support Democrats,” said Steve Billet, an associate professor of political management at GW, in an e-mail. Billet is the director of the Graduate School of Political Management’s legislative affairs program.

“Based on the data, GW seems to have the same tendency – nothing unique here,” Billet added.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a recent analysis of federal campaign records shows that educators are still contributing large amounts of money before midterm elections, despite the recession. The report notes that Democrats are receiving most of the contributions. For this election cycle, of the top 10 universities and educational institutions whose employees have donated the most money to federal candidates, parties and committees, the University of California was at the top, with a total of $483,981. Of that amount, 86 percent of donations went to Democrats. GW was not listed on the report.

Donations from GW employees were sent across the country to senators and members of the House of Representatives. Many of the candidates receiving donations were incumbents, like Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., a GW alumnus, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The highest donation was $4,000 to the DSCC and the lowest donation on record was $225 to the DNC. Only donations higher than $200 are reported, according to Federal Election Commission regulations.

Though the majority of donations went toward Democratic organizations, a few staff members directed funds to Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee.

Billet said GW is unique in its support and donations during elections only to an extent.

“Clearly, the major party committees, RNC, DNC and DSCC, have been moderately successful reaching out to people in the GW community,” Billet said. “My guess is that this is somewhat unusual compared to other universities; especially compared to universities outside D.C.”

Out of the 59 faculty members listed, five donated to Republican candidates and two donated to the RNC.

Other donations went to political action committees like Emily’s List, a group that helps elect female Democratic candidates. PACs like the Federation of American Hospitals also received hefty donations from GW faculty, around the same time as the debate around health care reform in 2009. Five employees, some donating twice, gave a total of $2,000 to the FAH PAC.

“This report includes some contributions to political action committees in the health care arena – not surprising given all the activity on health care policy and the prominence of medical professionals in the GW community,” Billet said. Some well-known GW faculty contributed to campaigns as well.

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, who represents Ward 3 and is a GW Law School professor, made two separate $250 donations. One was given last year to a PAC supporting Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general who lost to Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., in January. The other was given this year to Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla.

President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg made two separate donations in 2009, giving $500 to Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., through the Friends of Schumer PAC, and the other $500 to the Friends of Chris Dodd PAC in support of the Democratic senator who is no longer running for re-election.

“They are both friends of mine. Of long standing,” Trachtenberg said of the two senators. “And I wanted to support them both in public service because they mostly represent my own thinking on civic issues of the day. Not always, but enough. And they asked. I believe we all have to contribute to the institutional and community and political initiatives that are part of life.”

Trachtenberg added that he also contributes to GW and other universities, as well as local institutions like a hospital, theater and library in Martha’s Vineyard. He said his wife also donates to D.C. organizations such as the D.C. Jewish Community Center and groups supporting the arts and underserved individuals.

“It’s what we do to give back a little for all that we have been given,” Trachtenberg said.

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