Indiana Universityhas a reputation for being a strictly liberal community, and campaign donations from faculty members do little to contradict that.
Public records Web sites listing donations made to political candidates show a strong lean toward the Democratic side in presidential and congressional races. According to www.OpenSecrets.org, IU employees made more than 200 donations to Barack Obamas campaign, totaling $109,443 at press time. In comparison, only 10 donations were made to John McCains campaign, totaling $4,350.
At the local level, donations to Democratic Congressman Baron Hills campaign total $11,794, and the incumbent and candidate received single donations of up to $2,300 from IU employees.
The only employees who donated more to Hill than IU employees are those of Verizon and AmeriPAC. The Web site lists no donations to Hills opponent, Republican candidate Mike Sodrel, from IU employees. Every candidate is required by law to publicly list any donation of $200 or more.
Ive supported Baron Hill because hes got the right positions on all the issues, said adjunct professor Matt Pierce, who is also a state representative. Mike Sodrel, who has run against him over and over again, has been nothing but a rubber stamp to President Bush.
Pierce is the state representative for District 61 in the Indiana House of Representatives and is also a visiting lecturer in the IU Department of Telecommunications. He donated $1,000 to Hills campaign, the same amount he contributed to Hill last election in 2006 to fight Republican candidate and then-incumbent Mike Sodrel.
That year I felt like I had to give till it hurts, Pierce said. Cheney and Bush had put millions of dollars into (Sodrels) account. That year, President Bush visited Indiana for the incumbent Sodrels campaign rally.
Financial support for Republican candidates from IU employees in general is a little more difficult to find. But Sodrels campaign manager Ryan Reger remains optimistic about IUs conservative population, such as the IU College Republicans. Sodrel spoke to the group on Sept. 15 at the Indiana Memorial Union.
We have a really good student base, Reger said. The IU College Republicans are really active.
Leslie Lenkowsky, professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies, regularly donates to Gov. Mitch Daniels, having given $400 in the last two years. He also donated to the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee and to the McCain campaign. You have to buy media time and pay for various kinds of staff, he said. Thats a problem with our system. You have to be able to raise a sizable amount of funds.
IU law professor Ken Dau-Schmidt fully believes in the value of financial donations. Dau-Schmidt donated $5,000 to current Monroe County prosecutor Chris Gaal when he was first elected in 2006. Gaal ran against then-prosecutor Carl Salzmann, whom Dau-Schmidt wanted out.
Still, Lenkowsky emphasizes that money isnt everything when it comes to getting involved with politics.
In a democracy, all citizens ought to be involved in the political process in one way or another, Lenkowsky said. In our system, making contributions is one way, but its not the only way. You dont always win, but at least youre contributing to a good debate.