College Republicans are major financial players in campaigns

by Beth Hornby

Campus political organizations can be major players in national politics, according to a recent report on nonprofit fund raising.

Derek Willis, co-author of the Center for Public Integrity’s yearly report on nonprofit fund raising, said the College Republican National Committee has ranked 11th nationwide in fund raising every year since 2000.

Because Democratic college groups receive funding from the national party, they are not included in the report on nonprofit fund raising, Willis said.

Tyler Richter, president of the College Republicans at the University, said their group has already prepared to financially support Republican candidates.

“We ran a T-shirt merchandising campaign and a fairly aggressive direct-mail drive,” Richter said.

He also said the group will step up fund-raising efforts for the 2004 presidential elections. National College Republican affiliates said college chapters consistently provide a major financial boost.

David Joyslin, the College Republican National Committee communications director, estimated the group – composed of College Republican chapters from campuses nationwide – collectively raised more than $3 million since the beginning of the fiscal year in January.

Joyslin said student volunteers drive the College Republican National Committee with more than 15,000 voluntary college representatives and 33 paid staff and field workers.

Because it is a nonprofit group, it can only break even, Richter said, so it spends all its money supporting candidates.

But he said the real benefit is the media attention fund raising and group activities attract and the way they unify the group.

“We recently sent out 1,000 letters asking for support – mostly friends, family and former members,” Richter said. “It is a real grass-roots system that keeps students and the community involved.”

Joyslin said campaign finance laws prevent College Republicans from giving money directly to candidates, but they can use the money to campaign for the candidates independently.

Most of the group’s money goes into direct mail, but it also supports some congressional races, Joyslin said.

“In Minnesota, for instance, we pitched in to support Minnesota College Republicans when they worked to get Sen. Norm Coleman elected,” he said.

University DFL President Austin Miller said his group also intends to be more aggressive in fund-raising drives because in the past U-DFL members often had to personally finance group trips and support for Democratic candidates.

“In the Twin Cities, our fund raising goes toward the self support of our student members,” Miller said. “It facilitates the sharing of ideas and support of our candidates.”

Miller said the group has “little overhead,” and hosting events is usually the group’s biggest expense.

In the end, regardless of dollar amounts, Richter said, fund raising is all about getting students involved.

“(Fund raising) lowers the ceiling for young people in politics and provides great access to unique opportunities,” Richter said.