Emerson donors favor Dems, Obama

by Beacon Staff • October 29, 2008

Barack Obama is, by far, the donation darling of Emerson's faculty and administration.

The Democratic candidate for president pulled in $13,110 from Emerson leaders since the beginning of this election cycle, while Lions didn't lend Republican opponent John McCain a dime, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Obama's supremacy in Emerson political contribution funds may not be surprising, but it is indicative of two larger trends. First, he has out-earned McCain in every category, banking a record $600 million in donations since the start of the primaries. Second, Emerson donators have always preferred Democrats.

President Jacqueline Liebergott has contributed $14,500 since 1996 to various Democratic candidates, according to the center's online database. She and her husband, Harvey, have donated a combined $3,000 during the current election to Obama and Sen. Joe Biden.

Other donations she made include $750 to Sen. John Kerry between 2002 and 2004 and $1,750 to Senator Ted Kennedy between 1999 and 2005.

Liebergott and Biden have remained friendly since the senator received an honorary degree from Emerson in 2003, said David Rosen, vice president of public affairs.

"[Campaign contributions] are all part of the political process," Rosen said. "Everyone is encouraged to support the candidates in any way they can."

Overall, Emerson's leaders have donated $9,500 to Democrats during the 2008 election but nothing to Republicans, according to public election records.

Educators have trended toward Obama in a big way. They've provided the second largest sum of campaign contributions to Sen. Obama, bested only by lawyers, according to an analysis by the center.

The non-profit research group found academics have given more than $12 million since the start of the Illinois senator's campaign, compared to the $1.5 million McCain has received from the same demographic group, bagging Obama more than eight times the professorial booty.

Students are offering up their cash this election as well. Junior Alex Pearson said she contributes a small percentage of her salary from her part-time job to Obama's campaign. She said she began supporting the senator after Hillary Clinton lost the primary.

Writing, literature and publishing professor Murray Schwartz, who contributed $200 to Obama's campaign, does not think academics' support of the Democratic nominee is simply because they are all liberal. The last eight years have been damaging to the country, he said, which is why professors and other voters are looking for a change.

"There's hubris in the executive branch," he said. "We've experienced mass deception from the federal government. Not since the first election I was eligible to vote, in 1960, has the country been in such a critical situation."

Several members of Emerson's Board of Trustees also donated to their candidates of choice. Trustee and alumnus Max Mutchnick gave the largest amount an individual is allowed to by law, shelling out $2,300 to both Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2007.

He also put $1,249 toward Al Franken over the past year. Mutchnick has given more than $20,000 to Democratic candidates and committees since 1999.

Kevin Bright, Emerson's other high-profile trustee and now part-time professor, contributed $750 to the California state Democratic committee last year. He did not make any donations to individual campaigns.

Excluding donations by Liebergott, Mutchnick and Bright, other trustees made contributions to Obama ($9,600), Biden ($1,000), Clinton ($1,000), Kerry ($2,000), Chris Dodd ($2,300), Howard Dean ($1,000) and Al Gore ($1000) during the past three presidential elections. Several also donated to political action committees or various state Democratic committees.

Almost every donation made by an Emerson trustee or faculty member was to a Democratic candidate or committee, with some giving the $2,300 limit to their chosen candidate.

A few also gave the limit of $10,000 to district, local and state committees. Peter Meade, chairman of the Board of Trustees, contributed $2,300 to Obama, while trustee Steven Samuels gave the limit to both Obama and Dodd. Mutchnick also gave $10,000 to the Democratic National Committee's Services Corporation in 2004.

The only donation from an Emerson administrator made to a Republican candidate was from former Vice President of Financial Affairs Robert Silverman. He gave $1,000 to Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt; Silverman is currently a consultant in the office of David Ellis, his successor.

Junior Billy Palumbo said he put $10 towards Ron Paul's campaign, not because he supports the Republican, but because he said he wanted a button. Even though he said he will be voting for Obama, he did not give the Illinois senator any funds.

"I don't think big-party candidates need my money," the film major said.

Educators nationwide have not always favored Democratic candidates in recent elections. In 2000, George W. Bush received slightly more campaign contributions from the industry than Gore, but Kerry changed that in 2004, by earning four times as much money from academics as Bush, according to data compiled by the center.

The institutions whose faculty and staff contributed the most to Obama's campaign were the University of California, Harvard University, Columbia University and Stanford University.

Senior Rachel Moreau thought Obama's popularity among professors was due to his appeal to younger voters.

"If you're in education, you tend to connect with younger generations and you're more in touch with the voices of the younger audience," the film production major said. "Obama has our generation in the bag."