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UC Employees Dig Deeper for Bush, Kerry Campaigns

Giving is nine times the 2000 level, with 95% of the funds going to the Democratic nominee.

October 07, 2004|Rebecca Trounson and Doug Smith | Times Staff Writers

University of California employees have given more than nine times as much money to the presidential candidates this year as they did in 2000, with more than 95% of it going to Sen. John F. Kerry.

At major colleges and universities nationwide, the Democratic nominee also has been the main beneficiary of employee donations to the presidential race, outpacing President Bush by more than 6 to 1, according to campaign contribution records.

Through the end of August, the senator from Massachusetts had collected more than $4.6 million from faculty, staff and others affiliated with the nation's institutions of higher education, compared with about $740,000 for Bush.

In the UC system, the disparity was even more striking: By Aug. 31, UC employees had given Kerry more than $580,000; Bush had received about $26,000.

Overall, donations from colleges nationwide represent a tiny fraction of the individual contributions collected by the two campaigns -- less than 3% of Kerry's total and about half of 1% for Bush.

But, as at the University of California, employees of colleges across the country have contributed far more to the current presidential campaigns than they did four years ago when Bush and Vice President Al Gore together collected about $830,000 on campuses.

Strong views on the Iraq war, the rise of the Internet as a fundraising tool and recent changes in campaign financing rules all appear to have fueled academic donations to the presidential race this year, political analysts and education officials say.

In California, where the presidential campaign often seems to be playing out at a distance, a desire to avoid a hairsbreadth result like that in 2000 also appears to have motivated some college contributors.

With the state likely to vote Democratic in the presidential contest, "it doesn't do much good to go out and canvass locally," said Kirk R. Smith, a UC Berkeley environmental health sciences professor and a Kerry contributor. "So what can you do, especially if you can't go to another state to campaign? Money is one thing you can do."

Donors from the University of California have given more to Kerry's presidential bid than any other group of employees at a company or institution nationwide, according to data compiled by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a nonpartisan research group that analyzes campaign finance reports for The Times and other news organizations.

To some extent, that reflects the huge size of the institution, which has 10 campuses, three national laboratories and about 160,000 employees. Less than 1% of UC employees made donations to Kerry or Bush, roughly in line with participation rates at other large public universities, according to a separate analysis of campaign contribution records by The Times.

Federal campaign regulations require that people who give money report their employer and occupation. Among UC donors, more than two-thirds of those who listed their occupations said they were faculty members, with the remainder being staff, researchers and administrators.

Other universities also are important sources of cash for the Kerry campaign, with Harvard University employees ranked second on Kerry's overall list of industry contributors (with $261,000 donated) and Stanford, Columbia and the University of Michigan all in his top 20.

The University of Texas, in the president's home state, produced $49,000 in donations for Bush's campaign, more than any other school. Kerry received about $67,000 from UT employees.

No university employee groups figure near the top of Bush's list, which is led by financial services and insurance firms.

The overwhelmingly Democratic tilt of academic contributions has been a topic for some conservatives.

"How in a democracy and an institution which is committed to academic freedom and intellectual pluralism ... can such a monolith exist?" David Horowitz, an author and longtime critic of what he sees as left-wing bias on campus, said of the UC contributions.

Several UC professors who gave money to Bush said they wished that more conservative opinions were expressed on campus. But they were not troubled by their colleagues' Democratic donations.

"My guess is that the Democrat-leaning folks feel the same way I do, that they're expecting a close race and feel they ought to do something," said Charles Akemann, a UC Santa Barbara math professor and advisor to the campus' College Republicans club.

"They feel the same as I do. They're just cheering for the other team."

The UC employees interviewed, Democrats and Republicans alike, said they knew of no organized political fundraising efforts at the university or any of its campuses or labs.

But like many Americans, many college contributors at UC and elsewhere have strong opinions about the conflict in Iraq and the war on terror.

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