Harvard spent $3.52 million between 1998 and 2004 on lobbying government officials, making it one of the top spenders among American educational institutions, according to a study released by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a public interest group.
On the CPI’s website, Harvard was 540th in a ranking of amounts spent by companies and institutions on lobbying government officials in Washington.
The CPI website’s profile on Harvard listed “Science & Technology” as the school’s top issue, the University having filed 38 reports of lobbying on this issue in the past six years. This is a common practice for institutions of higher education hoping for research grants, according to Alex Knott, political editor for the CPI.
Harvard Senior Director of Federal and State Relations Kevin Casey said that this type of lobbying is important because Harvard relies on the $450 million per year it receives in federal funding for research. Stem cell research is one current focus of this research spending.
“Stem cell research continues to be an issue of importance,” Casey said. “In conjunction with other research institutions, we work to increase the number of stem cell lines the government will support.”
In addition to funds for science and research, Harvard also lobbies the governments on issues of higher education policy and tax refunds for charitable philanthropy.
The University also prioritizes lobbying to increase federal financial support for students, hoping to make higher education more accessible to students by urging Congress to increase spending on initiatives such as work study programs.
“The goal is to allow students to go to the institutions of their choosing,” said Casey. “These kinds of issues are important to not only Harvard, but to all institutions of higher learning.”
Harvard works closely with the Association of American Universities, a group made up of about 60 top research institutions, to achieve these goals.
Casey said it is important that Harvard have a presence in Washington to advocate for its causes.
“Although [government officials] might want to come [to Harvard] to see how things work on the ground, that is not common,” said Casey.
By contrast, the Boston Globe reported on Dec. 1 that Harvard ranked second in the nation in terms of its spending to bring White House speakers to Harvard.
Casey was quick to draw a distinction between the two types of spending, saying that lobbying government officials and bringing political speakers to academic events at Harvard are not connected, although the two are often confused.
Executive Director at the Harvard Institute of Politics Catherine McLaughlin said that there was no lobbying involved when White House speakers visit Harvard.
“I don’t see it as their lobbying us or us lobbying them, but rather as an opportunity for students to question political leaders,” she said.