Profs big political donors

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September 12, 2007

7:20 PM

A report from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics reported in August that College faculty donated $136,200 to political campaigns, the third largest amount of any college studied. The study also found that 99 percent of donations from College faculty have gone to Democrats.
Much of this is due to the donations of one professor, Ron Rapoport in the government department. Rapoport and his Va.-based family donated $98,300 to Democrats this election cycle. That would not normally be possible with an academic salary, but Rapoport’s father founded the American Income Life Insurance Company, which is worth $560 million, according to The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation website.
Rapoport is now chairman of the foundation, which was founded in 1987 with $47 million. The foundation donates to causes such as education and health, as well as liberal progressive organizations such as Media Matters of America.
“This Foundation is dedicated to the principle that providing real opportunities to those who do not have them — whether through family circumstance, social structure or political repression — is a basic responsibility of those fortunate enough to be able to help,” Professor Rapoport said in an acceptance letter for the chairmanship.
Rapoport’s contributions are not representative of the College faculty. After his contributions are taken out, College faculty and staff donated $37,900, approximately 96 percent of which went to Democrats.
Professor Rapoport declined to comment.
“Even if it is hard to base too much on this one study, it seems to me that there are other reports (of political attitudes rather than donations per se), and from what I recall they empirically confirm the fairly widespread sense that college faculties generally are not bastions of conservatism or Republican voter support,” acting chairman of the government department Clay Clemens told The Flat Hat.
“That almost certainly varies somewhat by area and discipline. … But in total, academics are almost certainly more liberal than conservative,” Clemens said. “In my experience, undergrads with strong conservative instincts prefer going directly into politics or else law and business, rather than academia, so it becomes a sort of mutually reinforcing cycle.”
National attention has surrounded the report.
“The study could provide fresh ammunition to conservatives who rail about liberal bias in the academy,” The Boston Globe reported in August.
“There’s been a transformation of universities over 30 or 40 years,” the director of the conservative National Association of Scholars told the Center for Responsive Politics. “Where what was once an institutional ethic that you leave your politics at home, that your students should never know your personal opinions on controversial topics, has been eroded to the point where it is rarely used.”
The study also finds that nationwide donations from academics have risen substantially. It reports that academic donations to 2008 candidates so far, at $7 million, are as high as donations during entire general election cycles in the 1990s. Clemens, however, did not think it would have a great effect on the political scene.
“Those total amounts are not very high, and liberal candidates already pretty much carry districts like Cambridge Ma. or Berkeley Ca.,” he said. “It seems doubtful that the Democratic Party would feel any huge need to cater to academics since most of that vote is unlikely to go anywhere else.”

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