If, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976, campaign contributions constitute a form of free speech, Yale University’s employees have been saying a lot about Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
Officially, Yale does not take a position in New Haven’s mayoral elections. But in next Tuesday’s race for City Hall, Yale administrators, faculty members and employees have given substantially more money to four-term incumbent DeStefano than to his Republican opponent, Joel Schiavone ’58.
With its 10,500 jobs, Yale is the largest employer in New Haven, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 13 to one. But although they constitute an important voting bloc, Yale’s employees do not represent the official interests of the University.
“We have to work with whoever wins,” Yale President Richard Levin said Thursday, explaining why the University remains neutral.
The University never takes positions in New Haven political contests, and Yale’s seven top administrative officers are not allowed to contribute money to local candidates’ campaigns, Levin said.
None of the seven officers gave money to DeStefano or Schiavone this year, according to the candidates’ public campaign finance statements. But Christine Alexander, the wife of Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander, did give DeStefano $500 earlier this year.
There are no rules governing what officers’ spouses can contribute. Levin said he did not know Alexander’s wife had donated the money.
“I don’t think we have made any explicit prohibition there,” he said. “But I don’t know of any who have made contributions.”
The Office of New Haven and State Affairs, which Bruce Alexander heads, works with the city on economic development projects.
Christine Alexander said last night she did not see a problem being politically active in New Haven, even considering her husband’s high-ranking position within the University.
“I regularly donate to political campaigns,” she said. “I’ve been politically active all my life — I know in general that Yale officers don’t donate to campaigns, [but] I don’t see why that should in any way prohibit me from participating in the political process.”
While the University limits the political conduct of its officers, it does not set rules for its professors and other employees — or for its unions, which recently endorsed DeStefano.
“I know there are some deans who have been involved,” Levin said. “But the highest level shouldn’t be involved.”
Finance records show at least two employees of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs gave money to DeStefano this year.
University professors and employees of the loosely affiliated Yale-New Haven Hospital gave money to both DeStefano and Schiavone.
While the University will not endorse DeStefano directly, Yale is well-represented in the mayor’s administration through its professors and graduates.
Yale Law School professor Robert Solomon is director of the New Haven Housing Authority and Yale child psychiatrist James Comer helped the city draft its monumental parental responsibility education plan earlier this year.
Henry Fernandez LAW ’94 served as head of the Livable City Initiative and is now DeStefano’s economic development administrator. Julio Gonzalez ’99, a former Ward 1 alderman, is managing the mayor’s re-election campaign and will assume a position in his administration if the campaign is successful.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”20240″ ]