This election cycle, Yale ranked 15th among American universities in total political donations, with University affiliates contributing $561,585 to candidates, parties and outside spending groups.
However, of the 20 universities who spent most on political contributions, Yale led in the percentage of direct donations to Democratic campaigns: 97.8 percent of Yale donations to candidates and parties were made to Democratic committees, while only 1.9 percent were made to the Republican Party and associated candidates.
The University of California topped the total donation list at $3,177,292, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group that tracks money in U.S. politics. Stanford, Columbia and Harvard followed in the ranking, as each of their affiliates donated over $1 million. Yale affiliates donated $4,300 to outside spending groups — organizations independent from candidates’ committees — with 70.9 percent of this sum going to liberal groups and 29.1 percent to conservative groups.
Faculty members interviewed pointed to the importance of donating to help their supported candidates spread their message more widely.
University Senior Vice President for Operations and Interim Chief Information Officer Jack Callahan said that he made a contribution to assist the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 for this reason.
“Clinton is the most qualified in terms of demonstrated experience, both domestically and internationally, and is better positioned to build enough consensus to move government forward,” Callahan said. “I have never questioned my support for her in this very important election.”
Head of Benjamin Franklin College Charles Bailyn said he donated to Clinton’s campaign because he sees donating as a meaningful demonstration of support. He added that he has made donations during many recent election cycles.
In addition to making personal contributions to campaigns this year, some students have also supported candidates through campus political organizations on campus.
The Yale College Democrats, an official branch of the Democratic Party, raised $1,964 for their federal political action committee account and $2,577 for their non-PAC account this year, according to organization president Maxwell Ulin ’17.
“We have received more individual contributions than in any previous election cycle and the average contribution is much smaller than that in 2012,” Ulin said. “I think that this reflects well on our fundraising methods, which have cobbled together grassroots support from a variety of different sources at Yale and across the state.”
Ulin noted that the group does not donate to other political organizations, instead using its federal PAC funds to support its own campaigning efforts for federal elections. Donations to the non-PAC account are used for events and programs unrelated to national and state campaigns, he added.
According to Ulin, the Yale College Democrats’ efforts have focused more on “phonebanking” and out-of-state campaigns this year rather than state and local elections because the latter have not been competitive. He stressed the particular importance of political contributions during the current presidential race.
“This election pits more than just two drastically different visions of America against each other, as one side of the political spectrum has begun to challenge some of the most fundamental norms of democracy, pluralism and basic human decency this cycle,” Ulin said.
Yale College Republicans Co-President Emmy Reinwald ’17 told the News that rather than making donations, the Yale College Republicans focuses on campaign work and volunteering.
Michael Fitzgerald ’19, co-chairman of the Yale New Republicans, said donations have been primarily used to support the new group. The Yale New Republicans, which was founded in August 2016, split from the Yale College Republicans after the original group endorsed Donald Trump.
Fitzgerald added that although the organization has not raised money for any specific political candidates, members have made individual donations to various campaigns. He went on to emphasize the importance of individual contributions to political campaigns, stressing in particular contributions to Republican candidates running in nonpresidential races.
“[Donating to a political campaign] shows an increased level of support when you’re willing to put your money on the line and donate to someone you really believe in,” Fitzgerald said. “Given the unfavorability of both [presidential] candidates, I think it’s harder to donate to them given their backgrounds and their polarizing forces.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the education industry has donated $62,789,288 to federal candidates, parties and outside groups this election cycle.