Campaign Contributions Study Indicates No Partisan Bias at Hoover

Responding to criticisms of the February 13 article “Following the Money: Stanford Faculty Overwhelmingly Favors Obama” and its omission of Hoover Fellows from the research study, The Stanford Review expanded the study to reveal the data from the think tank. Critics speculated that the Hoover Institution, by its perceived right-wing nature, justifies the Stanford faculty being overwhelmingly Democratic because the two intellectual bodies “balance each other out.”

Recalling our previous study, using, we found that 246 Stanford professors donated to the Obama campaign, while only 3 donated to the McCain campaign in the 2008 election cycle. Looking at the Hoover data, the analysis not only found that contributions were nearly even between those for McCain and Obama, but also that Hoover fellows gave at a lower than expected rate. Of Hoover’s 181 fellows, only 18 had reported donations to candidates in the general election: a giving rate of just 9.9%. Donations totaled $21,050 for McCain and $19,250 for Obama. The number of donations for each candidate divided evenly: 9 scholars contributed to Obama and 9 contributed to McCain.

While tens of thousands of dollars may seem like sizeable donations, they dwarf in comparison to the entire university. The February 13 issue of The Review showed that Stanford University as an organization was the 9th largest donor to the Obama campaign in the country, with Stanford professors giving $356,048 to the campaign compared to only $8,200 to McCain.

Under campaign finance rules, private citizens are allowed to donate up to $4,600 to the McCain and Obama campaigns; $2,300 for each election they ran, i.e., the primary and the general election. It can be difficult to distinguish which donations were allocated to which campaign, because unused donations from the primary could be rolled into general election funds.

That said, an additional 9 Hoover fellows donated to the presidential campaigns of candidates defeated in the primaries, preventing them from adding to their donations in the general. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani received $6,300, the most in this category; now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was second with $5,100; former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson was next with $2,300; and Texas Rep. Ron Paul received $1,600. No other major candidates, like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, received any contributions from Hoover Institution fellows. The primary elections data open up a wider lead for donations to Republicans: Hoover scholars gave $31,250 to Republican presidential candidates, compared to $24,350 to Democratic candidates.

Just as in the February 13 issue, we must point out that campaign contributions only become public record at $200. We do not know with any kind of certainty the political leanings or contributions of the majority of the faculty or Hoover fellows that did not contribute over $200. It is also worth noting that some contributors, such as Obama donor Larry Diamond and Giuliani donor Michael J. Boskin, were listed as both Hoover fellows and Stanford professors.

Still, this data must be considered along with the November, 2008 Stanford Daily exit polls that revealed that 90% of Stanford students voted for Obama—along with our previous study on Stanford faculty and general campus observations. These signals combined with our evidence that Hoover is not as partisan as it is often perceived suggest that the Hoover Institution does not serve a role as a significant balancing force against what appears to be an overwhelmingly liberal university.

Senior Staff Writer Tom Stilson contributed to the reporting of this article.

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