Politics & Policy

Political Science 101

In 2006, college professors bankrolled Democrats.

William F. Buckley Jr. once said that he would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phonebook than by the Harvard faculty. While the professors aren’t heading down to D.C., in the aftermath of this month’s Republican wipeout the darlings of this nation’s intellectual elite have taken over Congress.

Professors and other educators donated more than $12 million to political candidates in this last election cycle, with 69 percent of their contributions going to Democratic candidates and PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CPR).

The overwhelming majority of this giving came from the higher-education sector, judging from the CRP’s top-20 list:  Employees at major colleges and universities accounted for 17 of the 20 biggest sources of donations. The University of California system led the way, with contributions totaling $406,000 (87 percent for Democrats), followed by Harvard ($315,000, with 90 percent for Democrats) and the University of Pennsylvania ($196,000, with 94 percent for Democrats).

In Senate elections, educators donated 75 percent of their contributions to Democratic candidates, for a total of nearly $2.7 million. Republicans received less than $875,000. Nine of the ten leading recipients of these donations were Democrats, with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York far ahead of all the others. In her virtually uncontested reelection, she raised more than $682,000 from educators — almost five times the amount given to the next highest recipient, Senator-elect Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who received more than $148,000.

The top ten also included two other victorious Democratic challengers: Ben Cardin of Maryland and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. The only Republican among them was Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who lost to Casey. He received $121,000.

In the House, Democrats also dominated, sweeping the top-ten altogether. First among them was New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires, who now occupies the former seat of Sen. Menendez. He received $101,000.  The top GOP recipient, Rep. Ric Keller of Florida, placed a distant 11th, with $39,000. The second-place Republican was Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, who came in 18th, with $31,000.

These patterns in 2006 are nothing new. In 2004, when political giving kicked into overdrive for the presidential race, educators contributed $36.8 million to candidates, with 78 percent going to Democrats.

Voters have heard a lot about America’s “50-50” political divide, but college professors are overwhelmingly liberal. Last year, a study in The Forum, an online political science journal, found that 72 percent of college professors nationwide identify themselves as “liberal,” compared to only 17 percent who consider themselves “conservative.”

My own university, Notre Dame, is certainly no bastion of conservatism, based on the political contributions of professors: 17 gave money to Democrats this cycle, and only two gave to Republicans. Notre Dame sits in Indiana’s 2nd congressional district, which featured one of this year’s most contested House elections, between GOP Congressman Chris Chocola, a conservative stalwart, and Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly. Two years ago, Chocola beat Donnelly by nine points; this year, however, Donnelly prevailed by the same margin. Among Notre Dame professors, Donnelly (who is an alumnus) raised nearly $10,000, compared to just $2,200 for Chocola.

The only major school that was a source of more money for Republicans than Democrats in 2006 was the University of Arizona, which gave 61 percent of its $115,156 to Republicans. Yet this statistic is a product not of their faculty, but of basketball coaching legend Lute Olson, who gave $37,555 in this cycle to the Republican National Committee and Santorum. When Olson is factored out, the GOP took a considerably more modest 28 percent.

Even more telling than the overall totals is the concentrated source of these donations. Of the $28.7 million the education sector gave to Democrats during the 2004 elections, 15 percent came from the faculties of just ten private universities — Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, Yale, and NYU among them. Contributions to Republicans ran in single-digit percentages at seven of those schools. Even the University of Chicago — the school in this bunch that contributed at the highest rate to Republicans — gave just 13 percent to the GOP.

It doesn’t take a visit to Harvard Yard to know that the Ivory Tower leans to the Left. Indeed, as our nation’s professors empty their pocketbooks into the coffers of Democrats, the tower is on the verge of toppling over. What may one expect in their classrooms? The answer is a complete diversity of everything but ideas.

– Matt Smith is a junior at the University of Notre Dame and is campus editor of The Irish Rover.

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