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Faculty Donate Election Dollars

By Erica R. Michelstein, Crimson Staff Writer

Professors' political views are often expressed subtly in class--one professor in a popular science lecture course told the class this week that his depth demonstration of a "W" shaped-figure wasn't a political endorsement.

But in the real world, professors are ordinary citizens. Along with University officials, many contribute money to election campaigns.

So whom do Harvard professors support?

Since the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and several privately-run web sites publish most of the data about campaign contributions, The Crimson decided to take a look--and found some problems with how the FEC collects its data. Some Harvard officials deny making the contributions listed on official donation websites.

One of those websites,, which is run by a former FEC official, cross-lists donors by name, occupation, place of employment and zip code. Interested citizens are a few clicks away from finding who donates to who. All contributions though Jan 31. over $200 are listed.

Harvard employees, it turns out, have donated more than $23,000 to alumni Al Gore '69--more money than the employees of Gore's home state of Tennessee have given.

Harvard employees have also given nearly $21,000 to former Senator Bill Bradley. (Stanford and Princeton are the only other universities whose employees have given more).

George W. Bush has received a bit more than $10,000 from rival Harvardians. FEC records show that Yale has only given the Texas Governor a fifth of that total.

Since the current presidential election campaign began in earnest more than a year ago, 13 professors from the Harvard Business School (HBS) were contributors. The Kennedy School of Government had nine donors, the Harvard Law School had six, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had four, and the Harvard Medical school and Graduate School of Education had three donors each.

It's not surprising that business school professors make up the largest plurality of the Harvard donor cohort, says Theda C. Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology.

"I'm sure they're in a better position to donate than anyone else," she says. While HBS faculty financial support appears evenly divided between Democratic candidate Bradley and Republican candidate Bush, most Kennedy School faculty donations went to Democratic candidate Gore. Several members of the Kennedy School faculty--including Willian Julius Wilson and Elaine Kamarck--have either publicly declared their support for Gore or advised the candidate himself.

Kennedy School sociologist Christopher Jencks is a top Bradley advisor and gave the candidate $1,000, the maximum allowable by campaign finance rules.

Steven J. Kelman '70, a professor of public management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG), said that the outside world perceives Harvard's faculty as skewed to the left.

"I'm not sure [the perception] is true," he says. "I don't think the Harvard faculty is as uniformly democratic or liberal as many outsiders think." He says that the opinions of Harvard faculty may be divided more evenly along political lines, but that the Republican-leaning professors may not contribute as much as the Democratic-leaning professors.

Kelman, a Gore supporter, said he thinks that the KSG faculty appreciates Gore's commitment to the reinventing government program. He said working for a better government in "a low visibility program for which you don't get many brownie points" is "what the Kennedy School is really all about."

Trendy Professors

Some professors save their giving for off-year elections--when political parties tap core donors to try and support Congressional and Senatorial candidates.

In 1998, Skocpol gave $218 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz donated to a campaign directly, contributing $500 to Citizens for Arlen Specter.

Other professors give to the political action committees, which can donate up to $5000 per candidate per election. Council for a Livable World, an anti-nuclear weapon proliferation think tank, and the feminist Emily's List are popular among Harvard professors.

Some professors take interest in local politics. In 1996, Adjunct Professor in Entrepreneurship William J. Poorvu '61contributed to the Boston New Majority Fund.

Climenko Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree gave $500 to support the congressional campaign of Charles Yancey, a Boston City Councillor running for the Eighth Congressional District.

Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein '61 gave money to former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander in 1996 and 2000 and also supported the Senate campaign of former Mass. governor William F. Weld '66.

Silent Support?

Of the dozens of faculty members and University officials contacted for this story, most were more reserved about broadcasting their allegiances

Many did not return phone calls. Others refused to comment citing time commitments.

Top Harvard finance official Elizabeth C. "Beppie" Huidekoper preferred not to comment on her donation to Bill Bradley.

"I support Bill Bradley at this point and that's basically the reason," she says.

University Marshal and Senior Lecturer on Social Studies Richard M. Hunt, who classifies himself as a political independent, says his views have shifted since he donated money to the Bush campaign, and that he is now considering voting for Bradley.

Like Huidekoper, he did not specify the political reasons behind his potential shift in allegiance, claiming simply that he is "looking at the issues."

He did, however, provide personal reasons for his initial support of Bush.

"I knew his father, and I had a friendship with him," says Hunt, "and I thought he might be a good candidate."

Fletcher University

Professor Cornel R. West '74 said he did not have time to comment extensively on his support of Bradley, but says, "He's my close friend and brother. I support him wholeheartedly and plan to go all the way to the White House, drop him off, and come back to Cambridge."

Mistaken Identity?

At least two officials said they did not recall having made the contribution they are listed as having made. The website records University attorney and former Justice Department official Allan A. Ryan Jr. as having donated $250 to the Bradley campaign in September.

"I was very surprised to look on the web and see my name, address and employer," said Ryan. "Clearly it was me they were referring to."

He spoke to the Bradley campaign treasurer Peter Nichols, who explained that campaign worker had made an error.

He says Nichols told him the campaign received a contribution from Allan Ryan III, but did not have the donor's complete background information. When it was time to report to the FEC, campaign workers found the Harvard Ryan's name in a directory of lawyers and recorded his information in their files.

"I said, 'How do you draw the conclusion that Allan Ryan III who gave you money from New York is the same as Allan Ryan Jr. from Cambridge, Mass. who didn't?'" Ryan recalls. "The thing that strikes me is that this is something they are required to do by law...and they're just throwing [the information] around."

Law and compliance are important parts of the campaign finance effort. Campaign staffs have entire teams of lawyers and accountants dedicated to ensuring that each and every donor is a legal one.

Professor of Education Howard Gardner is reported to have given $250 to the legal and accounting compliance division of the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election effort.

Gardner, whose home address is the one listed on with his donation, says that he did not make the donation, and his assistant wrote in an e-mail message that the Howard Gardner who made the donation is not the Harvard professor.

Liberal but not Lonely

The Harvard faculty is not alone in its support of liberal candidates. Even fewer Yale University employees have donated to Republican candidates.

Although Princeton faculty supports more conservative candidates than its Ivy counterparts, the FEC report shows that the school's faculty still largely supports Democratic candidates.

Nationally, Bush has raised the most money among the three frontrunners As of December 31, 1999 in the national campaign, Bradley had raised about $28 million overall; Gore, $32 million; and Bush, $70 million.

But among the three Ivy League schools, at a glance, Bradley seems to have captured the majority of the support.

"I don't know that this is specific to academia," says Skocpol. "My understanding as a political scientist is that...people at Harvard are the same as the other professionals in and around the Democratic Party. There's something about Bradley that seems to be attractive to educated people who seem to have relatively good incomes."

The Rules

Any professor can contribute, provided he or she follows the rules.

Under campaign finance guidelines, individuals may give $1,000 per election per candidate, but no more than $25,000 per year. "Per election" refers to each separate election, and not to each election cycle--professors can give money both during the primary and during the general election.

"You could give, say, Senator Joe Smith $1,000 for his primary, and then turn around and give $1,000 for his general [election]," explains Kelly A. M. Huff, an FEC spokesperson.

The ruling that "individuals" can make such donations allows multiple contributions from the same source.

Former senator Alan K. Simpson, director of the Institute of Politics (IOP), said he plans to take advantage of the loophole in his support of Bush.

"Whatever the law requires, I will be making the maximum contribution," Simpson says. "He's a sharp, smart, savvy guy...someone to work on both sides of the aisle for the common good."

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