Over the last year, professors, researchers and lecturers collectively donated approximately $289,975.05 to election campaigns. Almost all donations were to left-leaning candidates for Congressional, gubernatorial and other races. There was only one donation to Republican candidates.
To compile this data, The Sun filtered public Federal Election Committee filings, collecting the donation information from individuals who listed Cornell University as their employer. The Sun then confirmed the current appointment of each donor as a Cornell faculty member, instructor or researcher. Administrators and other personnel were excluded from all calculations.
“I don’t think this data is surprising at all; it’s reflective of the political alignment of the University and its staff,” said Michael Johns ’20, president of Cornell Republicans. “… The Cornell community should carefully consider the implications of [The Sun’s] findings, especially as it relates to the political culture of the university.”
Most campaign dollars were contributed through political action committees or PACs. These organizations are dedicated to raising money on behalf of a particular party, candidate or cause. Some of the most common include End Citizens United, Emily’s List, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee, and ActBlue.
Seventy-six percent of the professors, researchers and lecturers donated $165,858.35 directly through individual candidate campaign websites supported by the online conduit ActBlue.
Prof. Emeritus Brian Chabot, ecology and evolutionary biology, donated to Tracy Mitrano’s J.D. ’95 campaign and previously told The Sun that he didn’t bring his “political views at all into the classroom.”
“I think all of us who are contributing to the Democrats, and I’m not the only one, try not to let those views get into anything we’re doing on the campus,” Chabot said.
The most politically engaged school in terms of campaign donations was the College of Arts and Sciences, with a total of $91,617.51 dollars in campaign contributions from 863 professors, researchers and lecturers.
The professor that gave the most money and to the largest variety of campaigns was Prof. Cynthia Chase, English. Her contributions worked towards making the department in the College of Arts and Sciences the most generous in the entire University, with a total of $20,718.85 going toward an all-Democratic slate of candidates.
Chase did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication late Sunday night.
Megan Roche / Sun Projects Editor
Prof. Cynthia Chase, English, made the most donations.
The least amount of donations came from the Hotel school at $360, but the SC Johnson School of Business as a whole gave $3,312.
Those affiliated with the government department gave a collective $6,857, while those in the law school donated $22,873.
Republican candidates only received one donation of $100 from one professor through a donation to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The donor is in the department of molecular biology and genetics. Independent candidates Alyse Galvin (I-Alaska) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) received $1,290 (King caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, and Galvin was endorsed by the Democratic Party).
Many of the candidates receiving the most donations were running in New York districts, such as Max Della Pia (who lost the Democratic primary for the 23rd District), Erin Collier (who lost the Democratic primary for the 19th District), Edward Sundquist (who lost the Democratic primary for the 23rd District) and Mitrano (who is representing the Democratic party in the election for the 23rd District).
Previous reporting by The Sun found that two members of Cornell staff and faculty donated to Rep. Tom Reed’s (R-N.Y.) campaign. However, the methodology used in conducting this analysis was focused on professors, researchers and lecturers, thus removing these donations from University employees.
Joanne Florino ’75, a former project director for the Atlantic Philanthropies Archives Project and current Ithaca resident, is one of the employees who donated to Reed, giving $3,500. She also gave $50 to Mitrano.
Florino previously told The Sun that she believes more Cornell faculty members are “center right but would not wish to be public about it.”
Large donations did not discriminate by geography and went to candidates for Congress across the country, including Sharice Davids J.D. ’10 (D-Kan.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).
The candidate with one of the most donations from professors and administrators alike was Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), a documentarian and candidate for Congress in last year’s special election in Georgia’s sixth congressional district. At the time, Ossoff outraised any previous candidate for Congress in the nation, with receipts of $30 million.
The partisan trend findings seem to be in alignment with data collected before the 2016 presidential election. Prof. William Jacobson, law, stated in 2015 that he found the statistics “completely predictable.”
“Academia in general leans heavily liberal, and that likely is compounded at Cornell because Ithaca itself is a progressive bubble, surrounded by reality, as the saying goes,” he said.