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Ivy League Federal Lobbying Expenditure Rose 12% in 2023, Harvard Spent $530,000

By Sidney K. Lee and Thomas J. Mete, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard spent $530,000 on lobbying the federal government in 2023, the lowest amount spent by the University in the past nine years.

While collective Ivy League federal lobbying expenditures surged by 12.4 percent last year, reaching an all time high during the Biden administration, Harvard’s own lobbying levels dipped from past years.

The University’s lobbying expenditures fell $40,000 from last year’s total to its lowest levels since the 2014 fiscal year. Harvard’s lobbying efforts peaked during the first three years of the Trump administration, when the University routinely spent roughly $600,000 annually on federal lobbying.

Ivy League universities continued their lobbying efforts to increase funding for higher education, amid a tumultuous year for Harvard, which has faced congressional scrutiny over antisemitism on campus amid concerns the University might lose some of its federal funding.

Harvard’s lobbying spending remained at prior levels during the fourth quarter of 2023, when former Harvard President Claudine Gay sparked national backlash during her testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in a statement that “strong funding of the federal-university partnership has been a leading concern in recent years, as regular annual funding measures have been delayed and sidetracked by budget fights and larger politics.”

The sudden rise in the Ivy League's lobbying expenditures was driven by Yale and Cornell. The two universities each spent $600,000 on their efforts, surpassing Harvard spending for the first time since 2020.

Cornell lobbied heavily for an increase in agriculture and veterinary research funding. While Yale’s efforts were in line with Harvard’s — lobbying in favor of immigration reform, a national quantum initiative, and funding for STEM fields.

Harvard has consistently directed lobbying efforts toward issues related to science, such as research transparency and security, semiconductor research and development, and the commercialization of University-based discoveries. Harvard also lobbied for the implementation of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which aims to strengthen U.S. manufacturing and supply chains to counter China.

Additional spending went towards targeted artificial intelligence research and potential legislation to establish a regulatory framework for AI, such as the Create AI Act. The bill would construct a cloud computing resource that democratizes the development and use of AI.

The University resumed lobbying in immigration reform issues, including the Dream Act, as well as expedited pathways to citizenship for graduates of U.S. universities and those with advanced STEM degrees.

Harvard lobbying efforts were also centered around protecting its 50.7 billion endowment from further federal taxes, which the University has long claimed would be a blow to higher education.

Harvard alongside its peer institutions Princeton and Brown lobbied in favor of a bill to remove an excise tax on endowments under the condition the University provides a set amount of financial aid awards to its students. The Higher Education Endowment Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Brendan F. Boyle (D-Pa.), a Harvard Kennedy School alumnus, stalled in the Republican-led Ways and Means Committee.

Harvard is increasingly wary of a further tax on its endowment, despite successfully lobbying last quarter against a Senate bill that sought to raise taxes on investment income from 1.4 percent to 35 percent for endowments greater than $10 billion. The University is currently facing a proposed tax from the Massachusetts State House that would cost the endowment $1.2 billion annually.

—Staff writer Sidney K. Lee can be reached at sidney.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @sidneyklee.

—Staff writer Thomas J. Mete can be reached at thomas.mete@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @thomasjmete.

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