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Members of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, contributed more than $1.5 million in political donations to federal candidates and political action committees in 2021 and 2022. Of that number, just $12,900 went to Republican political causes.
Members on the 13-person board donated overwhelmingly to Democratic causes ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, according to The Crimson’s analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
The Harvard Corporation is the most powerful governing body at Harvard, participating in major decisions on the University’s direction and endowment. With the exception of outgoing University President Lawrence S. Bacow, all Corporation members served on the presidential search committee that selected President-elect Claudine Gay.
Within the Corporation’s ranks are two former Obama administration officials, two billionaires, and three heads of private investment firms. Ahead of the 2020 election, Corporation members financed over $1 million to Democratic campaigns and PACs.
Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Obama, contributed the most out of the board’s members, supplying Democratic causes with more than $750,000 ahead of the 2022 midterms. She gave similarly in the 2020 election cycle, with $861,000 in support of Democratic candidates.
Pritzker, who joined the Corporation in 2018, became the first woman to serve as senior fellow on July 1, succeeding former Senior Fellow William F. Lee ’72 after he reached the 12-year term limit for Corporation members. Part of one of America’s wealthiest families, Pritzker has a net worth of $3.1 billion. Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker, Pritzker’s younger brother, has served as governor of Illinois since 2019.
Paul J. Finnegan ’75 was the sole Corporation member to support Republican candidates, giving $5,000 to former U.S. Representative Adam D. Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and $2,900 to Jesse L. Reising, who lost in the 2022 Republican primary in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. Finnegan also contributed $5,000 to Kinzinger’s PAC.
Kinzinger voted to impeach former President Donald J. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection and served on the House Jan. 6 Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.
Finnegan also supported several Democratic candidates with total contributions of over $20,000, including contributing $5,000 to the campaign of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Finnegan also contributed $155,000 to PACs that support a bipartisan group of candidates.
Collectively, members of the Corporation donated more than $800,000 to the Democratic National Committee and its Congressional and Senate campaign arms. They also contributed more than $110,000 to various Democratic PACs.
Other Corporation members who donated to political campaigns include Theodore V. Wells, Timothy R. Barakett ’87, Kenneth I. Chenault, and Diana L. Nelson ’84. Besides Pritzker, Chenault led the group with nearly $400,000 worth of contributions to political campaigns.
The Crimson did not find records of political spending from other members of the Harvard Corporation ahead of the 2022 midterms, including billionaire David M. Rubenstein.
Rubenstein is a close friend of President Joe Biden. During the first two years of his presidency, Biden stayed at Rubenstein’s Nantucket home for Thanksgiving.
Bacow has not contributed to political campaigns since he took office in Massachusetts Hall in 2018, according to FEC reports. Prior to his appointment to Harvard’s top post, Bacow funded Democratic candidates, including Hillary R. Clinton and Michael S. Dukakis.
Incoming University President Claudine Gay has not made any recorded political contributions in her career, according to FEC data.
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment for the article.
The Crimson compiled data for this analysis from publicly available Federal Election Commission records of contributions to federal election candidates and political action committees. Contribution records were compiled for current members of the Harvard Contribution, including all known variants of names, and cross-checked against publicly available occupation data. Federal election laws require donors to truthfully disclose their occupation and employer.
Federal law also requires the disclosure of political spending exceeding $200 on a single candidate within an election cycle. The data do not include contributions made to independent expenditure campaigns, super PACs, or nonprofit groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code which engage in electioneering communications.
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.
—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.
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