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ND gives little cash to hopefuls

Ken Fowler | Friday, February 8, 2008

Notre Dame’s professors and students are donating less money to presidential campaigns than their peers are.

An Observer analysis of federal campaign finance records reveals that with half a year remaining before the Democratic and Republican national conventions, students and employees of the University are lagging behind similar-sized schools in donations to presidential campaigns.

Fifteen Notre Dame employees and students had given a combined $4,033 to presidential campaigns, while fourteen donors from Boston College had given more than $11,000 – and nearly 50 people from Duke University had combined to donate more than $50,000 to campaigns. The disparity was similar when compared to other elite schools.

The government requires donors to list their employer and profession when donating to presidential campaigns, and campaigns had to file their finance statements from the final quarter of 2007 this week. The Observer crosschecked the Notre Dame employees listed on the government documents with the University’s directory.

Through December, former Democratic candidate John Edwards, who withdrew from the race before Super Tuesday, led in donations from Notre Dame. Edwards had raised $1,400 from four University employees and students. Democratic Sen. Barack Obama raised $943 from four such individuals, and Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, was third with $540 from three people.

Rachel Getman, a graduate assistant in chemical and biomolecular engineering, is one of Paul’s donors.

“When I finally heard he was running for president, that really excited me,” Getman said. “… I will donate to any campaign that I believe will better the political and economic conditions of the country.”

Paul, however, has not yet won a state in the Republican primaries and caucuses. But even if Paul fails to win the Republican nomination, Getman believes her donation could make a significant impact in getting out Paul’s libertarian message – thus helping future candidates of a similar belief set.

“While the goal ultimately is to get a ‘Ron Paul’ elected, it will take some time to transition from electing the bureaucratic politician,” Getman said.

In past elections, donation totals have been a fairly accurate indicator of a candidate’s chances success. But this election cycle has proven the correlation not to be definite.

The top two donors on the Republican side, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, combined to raise more than $150 million by the end of 2007. But with Romney’s withdrawal Thursday, Sen. John McCain, who has raised a relatively small total of $42 million, became the Republican front-runner.

On the Democratic side, however, the vote totals have closely reflected the money battle.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who analysts long pegged as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, is now fighting Obama’s momentum. According to the data released this week by the Federal Election Commission, Clinton had raised more than $118 million to Obama’s nearly $104 million.

Professor Catherine Perry, who is a fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Kroc Institute for International Peace, was the only person at Notre Dame that donated to Clinton.

Perry said she donated both time and money to Howard Dean’s campaign in 2003 and 2004, but doesn’t have the time now to be personally involved with the Clinton campaign. She said that when she hears a candidate asking for money, she takes it seriously because of the costs necessarily involved in a nationwide campaign.

Though Perry typically doesn’t discuss her support for Clinton among other faculty members, she feels strongly that “after the last seven years, we really need a change.”

But why donate?

“It’s a measure of how committed we are for change,” Perry said. “I do feel personally responsible to support a candidate.”

Brian Duffy, a junior from Iowa, had similar thoughts about why he donated to the Paul campaign.

“He’s definitely the candidate who I most agreed with on principles of freedom and liberty in government,” Duffy said of Paul. “I thought he was a genuine candidate.”

Duffy said he was upset that Paul’s libertarian message had not changed the debate among the other Republican candidates, but Duffy was happy that his money was used to “raise the consciousness” of the public to Paul’s ideas.

Duffy donated to Paul’s campaign in September, before the congressman’s popularity soared and campaign contributions followed suit. Duffy said he probably would not have donated had Paul already raised the $28 million he has now, but that donating before the bandwagon picked up members is like finding a “little-known band.”

“It’s like, ‘Hey, I was one of the first ones there,'” Duffy said, “and then it kind of turned into a big thing.”