Faculty donations buck trends

University faculty and staff donated $13,600 to senate hopeful Al Franken.

With Super Tuesday quickly approaching and candidates dropping like flies, it seems every eye on campus is fixated on the upcoming presidential election.

But according to 2007 data from the Federal Election Commission, University staff and faculty favored congressional candidates heavily over presidential ones with campaign donations last year.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on data from the Center for Responsive Politics and found slightly more than $2 million in campaign donations for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., from academic professionals this election cycle.

A search of the center’s database shows the University does not fall into this trend.

University data

According to the data, in the first three reporting quarters of 2007, University faculty and staff donated $13,600 to Democratic Senate hopeful Al Franken, $5,800 to Democratic Rep. Tim Walz and $5,000 to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

The center’s database includes “all individual contributions to federal candidates, if they gave more than $200,” spokeswoman Massie Ritsch said.

Ritsch also said the data may not be complete because a term like “University of Minnesota” can have many variations within the database, which could mean that some contributions were missed.

Overall, the education industry is the 12th-largest donor to federal politics and has given about $12 million this cycle, he said. Lawyers make up the largest industry of givers at $82.1 million.

According to the center’s data, education industry donations are up 71 percent since the 2004 presidential election, with Democratic candidates up 76 percent and Republican candidates 23 percent.

Professor of human resources and industrial relations Jim Scoville is listed as one of the University’s most generous donors thus far for the 2008 elections, according to the data, having given $6,100 in 2007.

Scoville and his wife have given to the campaigns of Franken, Walz and another Democratic Senate hopeful, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, he said.

Scoville said he is a “fairly staunch DFLer” and that he thinks it’s important to donate to political campaigns to “put my money where my mouth is.”

“I’ve been a political junkie on and off since I was 16,” he said.

Obama donations lacking

While Obama has received individual donations in the thousands of dollars from college and university faculty and staff around the country, at the end of third-quarter reporting in 2007, he had yet to cross the $1,000 line in total contributions from the University.

Interim Vice Chancellor of the Morris campus Roland Guyotte, who also teaches a history course about political campaigns, said this may be because Obama didn’t establish his fundraising network as well last year.

“I have a general impression that Sen. Obama has not been so organized in Minnesota as Sen. (Hillary) Clinton,” he said, noting that Clinton’s campaign director in Minnesota is Buck Humphrey, a descendent of famed Minnesota politician Hubert H. Humphrey.

The annual individual limit for campaign donations is $2,300 per candidate, Guyotte said.

“I think both Clinton and Obama have raised about $100 million (so far),” he said, “Think about how many individual maximum contributions does that add up to?”

Faculty give to Franken

Guyotte said he wasn’t surprised to hear the University faculty favored Democratic candidates, because they “have the reputation of being political liberals.”

Al Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said he thinks Franken’s consistent presence at the University has resulted in the “level of support that (Franken) enjoys on campus both from students and faculty.”

Franken has “placed a high priority on education in this campaign,” Barr said, and has made many stops at the University.

Director of the Minnesota Population Center Steven Ruggles gave the annual maximum to Franken’s campaign, according to the data.

Ruggles said he gives money to candidates “to get them elected.”

“I think that the country has been in such a dismal condition in the last eight years,” he said, “We’ve got to do something about it.”

Franken appeals to him as a candidate, Ruggles said, because he seems extremely well informed and “exceptionally well qualified to beat Norm Coleman.”