U of M donors overwhelmingly support Kelliher

Three-fourths of contributions from U employees went to the DFL endorsee.

by James Nord


Thus far in 2010, roughly 70 University of Minnesota staff and students have donated a total of at least $37,508 to the four major gubernatorial campaigns.

Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure reports released July 27 reveal that in this year’s race, University employees favor Democratic candidates, primarily DFL-endorsee Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

Kelliher received at least $28,070 in donations from 50 University contributors, or about 75 percent of the total amount donated.

The names included in this report were gathered from campaign finance disclosures for the four major gubernatorial candidates, as well as a search of notable University officials. In most cases, the donor listed the University as their employer.

Every contributor from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs donated to Kelliher. The 11 individuals, ranging from professors to Dean J. Brian Atwood, contributed a total of $7,070.

Kelliher’s standing within the Institute could have stemmed from the support of notable faculty members who have known her for some time, Assistant Dean Margaret Chutich said. Kelliher also taught a course at the Institute in fall 2009.

Of all the candidates, Kelliher received the most $2,000-donations — the maximum under state law — from University personnel. Six University employees, including Vice President for University Services Kathleen O’Brien, made the donations.

“This contribution was a personal stretch for me, but I have known Margaret since she was a student leader, and I’ve worked with her closely over the last 20 years,” O’Brien said. “I really believe she should be our next governor.”

In the past, O’Brien’s contributions were “more circumspect,” and she’s donated to both Democrats and Republicans, she said.

For others at the University, donations were more personal.

Law School professor Stephen Befort, who donated $200 to Matt Entenza’s campaign, lived blocks from the candidate and taught him in law school.

Interestingly, in Entenza’s report, nine of the 13 University staff who donated had incorrectly listed middle initials.

“It’s common for ways of making it harder to trace people,” said David Schultz, a public policy professor at Hamline University. “Sometimes it’s just inadvertent, but the fact is most people are consistent about how they list their names. I’ve seen this before in campaign reports. It’s intentional to make it a little more difficult to do tracing.”

But Nanofabrication Center Associate Program Director James Marti said any inconsistency in his name is a coincidence or an honest mistake.

Not all University employees were willing to comment on the donations, such as Robert Elde, dean of the College of Biological Sciences, who donated $1,000 to the Entenza campaign.

Donations in this year’s race even scaled the administrative ladder up to President Bob Bruinink’s office — his wife, Susan Hagstrum, donated $1,000 to Kelliher. She was unavailable for comment.

Tom Emmer, the Republican-endorsed candidate, received $1,150 — the least of any candidate — falling short of Mark Dayton by about $500.