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Harvard Ranks 7th in Lobbying

By Javier C. Hernandez, Contributing Writer

With over half a million dollars set aside for advocacy on behalf of issues ranging from stem cell research to immigration policy, Harvard’s budget for lobbying activities in Washington ranks seventh among national universities, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education study released Friday.

The University devoted $520,000 to lobbying last year, making it the only member of the Ivy League to crack the top 10.

Kevin Casey, Harvard’s senior director of federal and state relations, was quick to downplay the significance of the numbers.

“I don’t think that the way these reports are put together reflects a whole lot,” he said.

Part of the reason the report may be deceiving, Casey said, is its focus on how much money colleges spend on hiring outside firms to lobby on their behalf. He said this muddies the result, because some universities like Harvard rely primarily on faculty and administrators to serve as advocates in Washington.

“We view Harvard’s personnel to be the best representatives for Harvard on these issues,” Casey said.

In fact, the University devoted nearly 85 percent of its money—$440,000—to bolster lobbying efforts at Harvard’s Office of Federal Relations, according to the Chronicle.

The remaining amount, estimated at $80,000 to $100,000, was used to hire professional Washington lobbying groups for “internal advisory, not lobbying,” according to Casey.

Casey also noted that while Harvard’s expenditures may have increased this year, the same proportion is still devoted to in-house efforts rather than hiring outside groups.

He said Harvard’s lobbying resources have been used to advocate for a variety of causes.

“It goes back 15 or 20 years when [Harvard] began interacting with Congress about student financial aid, research programs and other issues of academic concern,” said Casey. “But our efforts still revolve around interaction with Congress and the executive branch on the core issues of the University.”

The Chronicle reported that the amount of money spent on lobbying by universities nationwide has doubled since 1998. The number of institutions that set aside money for federal lobbying has climbed to 558, up from 240 in 1998.

The new data reveals that higher education has surpassed labor unions and legal groups—two former powerhouses in the lobbying world—in the money race.

What attracts many universities to Washington is the hope of wooing congressional leaders to award their institutions “earmarks,” or federal grants given for a variety of purposes, the Chronicle reported.

But Casey said this is not the case at Harvard, since the University does not seek grants from the federal government, but rather from institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

According to the Chronicle, the University of California system spent the most money of all universities on lobbying last year, with a budget of $1.2 million.

Of Boston-area institutions, only Boston University topped Harvard, coming in fourth on the list with $800,000 spent on lobbying.

Yale University, the next Ivy League institution after Harvard, was 19th on the list at $380,000.

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