University lobbies to push bills



For the second year in a row, Yale spent $380,000 lobbying the federal government, putting the University in 19th place in a study ranking the amount of money U.S. colleges and universities spent on lobbying in 2003.

Most of the University’s lobbying expenditures last year went toward supporting and opposing bills in Congress concerning federal research funding, intellectual-property law and higher education programs, according to lobbying-disclosure reports, which are required by federal law. Yale spent $180,000 on federal lobbying in the first half of the year 2004, according to the reports.

Yale officials worked closely with many executive agencies over the past year, including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Yale President Richard Levin said he thinks the University’s work with the federal government in recent years has been effective.

Levin said the University’s lobbying efforts, led by General Counsel Dorothy Robinson and Director of Federal Relations Richard Jacob, have helped Yale advance federal programs for education and research without the added cost of maintaining an office in Washington, D.C. or contracting with an outside lobbying firm.

“We think we do our work with the federal government very efficiently,” Levin said. “Insofar as these efforts facilitate education and research, they’re justifiable.”

Topping the Chronicle of Higher Education survey, the University of California system spent $1.24 million last year promoting its interests in Washington. Harvard University spent more than any other Ivy League university, devoting $520,000 to federal lobbying.

Levin said he does not think increasing the University’s lobbying expenditures to stay on par with other institutions would benefit the concerns of Yale and higher education in general.

“We try to be conservative,” Levin said. “I don’t think spending more money would be that productive in advancing education and research.”

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the Chronicle’s monetary ranking does not reveal the impact of Yale’s work in Washington. He said the University’s reputation in Washington for championing issues such as student aid and visa reform demonstrate Yale’s influence in government.

“Yale has very effective people who are responsible for being the voice of Yale in Washington on a host of issues,” Conroy said. “A monetary ranking wouldn’t have an impact on the University’s judgement on how to make the case in D.C. for legislation and other policies it thinks are critical.”

The survey of 568 colleges and universities found the higher education community spent $61.7 million last year, more than double what it spent five years ago. The study attributed the increase in total spending largely to universities lobbying for “earmarks,” projects to benefit programs and developments on individual campuses.

Levin said the University’s policy is not to seek so-called earmarks, but to devote its resources to promoting policies that affect wider issues in higher education.

“I think earmarks are arbitrary and depend on political muscle, not on merit,” Levin said. “I don’t like them as a matter of public policy.”

Yale took the lead in championing medical research provisions in last year’s Medicare reform bill, the Chronicle reported, and Levin said the University will be involved in the effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in Congress this spring.

Levin said the University also works very closely with the Association of American Universities, which convened at Yale for a meeting last week, to coordinate lobbying efforts with other research institutions.

AAU spokesman Barry Toiv said he thinks Yale has been a skillful leader on government issues important to the higher education community.

“Yale is a very active member of AAU and President Levin is an active member on the national issues we care about,” Toiv said.

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