Data from Federal Election Commission filings demonstrate that a vast majority of 2018 campaign contributions made by Yale faculty members went to Democratic campaigns and political action committees.
The News analyzed this year’s donations from University employees who are listed as professors, lecturers and instructors based on public data from the FEC. Since Jan. 1, Yale professors, lecturers and instructors have donated $302,943 to political candidates, political action committees, super PACs and nonprofit organizations. 96 percent of these donations went to Democratic political campaigns and committees.
In addition, the News looked at data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which also compiles contributions made by Yale’s employees and their families to political candidates and political action committees in the 2018 election cycle. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Democratic candidates and political action committees received $494,107 from Yale employees and their families this election cycle — while their Republican counterparts only received $6,250.
“Given the nature of academia today and its liberal trends, I’m not surprised that faculty donations are so highly skewed to Democrats,” said Lucas Ferrer ’21, fundraising director for Yale’s student-run political action committee, Students for a New American Politics PAC. “I’m not surprised given the liberal bent of Yale.”
According to Associate Vice President for Federal and State Relations Richard Jacobs, the University does not take a position on candidates or engage in partisan activities related to elections. Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations that receive tax exemptions — such as Yale and other universities — are prohibited from supporting or opposing political candidates in elections. Still, faculty members and staff are free to do so on their own accord and with their own resources, Jacobs explained. He added that the University does not track or manage what any individual faculty member or staff contributes.
The Federal Election Commission’s website states that individuals cannot contribute more than $33,900 per year to a national party committee. An individual’s contribution limit to one candidate is $2,700 per election.
According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, 32 House Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke and House Republican Andy Harris, received donations from Yale employees and their families. While House Democrats received a total of $85,229, Harris only received $250. Additionally, 34 Democratic senators received a total contribution of $184,682, while Republican senators John Barrasso and Ted Cruz received $5,500, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Per the data analyzed by the Center, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., received the highest total amount of donations in the 2018 election cycle at $98,406. Next in the ranks, DeLauro received a total of $32,536 and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., earned $22,207.
In an email to the News, political science professor at Yale Steven Smith said the unpopularity of President Donald Trump’s policies could explain the large gap between donations to the parties this year.
The data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics indicates that Yale employees have had a decidedly left-wing bent in the past decade. Since 2000, at least 89 percent of donations made by Yale employees and their families have gone to Democratic candidates and political action committees. The amount of donations made to Republican candidates and political action committees dropped from 5 percent to 2 percent from the 2014 to the 2016 election cycle. In the 2018 election cycle, only 1 percent of the donations from Yale employees and their families went to the Republican candidates and political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics website.
Smith said that many universities, including Yale, skew liberal because they have become deeply politicized due to “too much focus on various forms of protest studies.”
“There is an overcompensation, especially at places like Yale, at being in an elite university in a democratic society,” Smith said. “There develops in some people a kind of guilt complex about this, and the result is the belief that they have to atone for their privileges … Rather than trying to turn education into an engine for social progress, we should spend more time thinking about what I would call the elementary conditions of a society of free and responsible individuals.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics website, a majority of the employees at many other universities also donate to Democratic candidates and PACs. In this election cycle, Harvard University had the smallest percentage of employees and their families donating to Democrats at 87 percent. Dartmouth College led with 98 percent of its employees and their families donating to Democratic causes.
Cameron Koffman ’19, president of the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale, said the disproportionate amount of donations to the parties “lend[s] itself to creating a community where conservative voices feel drowned out and part of a liberal echo chamber.”
Still, Koffman added that many professors and administrators try to facilitate an environment where conservative students feel comfortable sharing their opinions. Koffman said that educators are most effective when they “foster free discussion.”
According to the News’ analysis, School of Management professor Barry Nalebuff donated $25,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2018, the largest donation by a Yale faculty member.
In an email to the News, Nalebuff said he was disappointed to learn that he was the biggest political donor among Yale faculty members, especially considering the high stakes of this year’s election. Nalebuff noted that while campaign contributions are public data, he would like to think that his students do not know his political views when he teaches. He added that he does not want his political viewpoints to prevent students from coming to him for advice.
In an interview with the News, Sten Vermund, dean of School of Public Health, who has donated a total of $3,700 to Democratic candidates and PACs this year, said his political leanings do not influence his teaching style and administrative work.
“I donated to three Democratic campaigns … but we have students and faculty who are Republican and vote Republican,” Vermund said. “I respect their viewpoints, and I debate them in a friendly way. I think that’s true for many of my colleagues. A really important principle of the academia is the freedom of expression, and we try to facilitate a healthy debate with diverse opinions.”
Lawrence Rizzolo, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine who has donated over $3,500 to Democratic candidates and PACs this year, called the high percentage of donations to Democratic causes “wonderful” and said he “[wished] the number were higher.”
Rizzolo said the “divisive, racist, fear-mongering” views of the current administration and Republican party contradict Yale’s values, which include diversity, critical analysis and “promoting everyone’s ability to prosper.”
According to Ferrer, SNAP PAC is the only student-run political action committee in the U.S. This summer, SNAP PAC provided $2,500 in fellowship money to about 50 college students who worked on Democratic congressional campaigns around the country. SNAP PAC’s fellowships are considered indirect contributions to the political candidates under the FEC, Ferrer added.
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