Student Campaign Contributions On Rise

This story was written by Jack LeBlanc, The Daily Reveille


In the realm of presidential politics, every little bit counts.

Chuck Fontenot, LSU College Republicans president, donated $10 to former presidential hopeful Fred Thompson during the primary election earlier this year.

It was my way of saying This is my guy, said Fontenot, mass communication senior. Its more of a principle showing.

Sen. Barack Obamas campaign has been especially dependent on smaller donations. As of Aug. 31, 51 percent of Obamas total from individual donors came from contributions of $200 or less. Contributions of $200 or less make up 41 percent of Sen. John McCains total from individual donors, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

The amount of donations made by those identifying themselves as students on contribution forms has risen dramatically in the past two years.

During the first six months of the 2000 presidential election season, students gave $338,464 nationally. In 2004, donations rose to $538,936. This year, the amount nearly quadrupled to $1,967,111, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Several analysts have raised questions of whether these donations are actually being made by students or are instead being made by parents in their childrens names to get around the donation cap.

All donations more than $200 are public record and can be accessed through Opensecrets.org, a Web site operated by The Center for Responsive Politics.

According to the Web site, there were 16 donors in Louisiana who made contributions of more than $200 and have their occupation listed as student.

Stephen Sewell, business administration junior, was one of them. Sewell donated $2,300 to the Mitt Romney campaign earlier this year.

Federal election laws cap individual donations to a particular candidate at $4,600. Donations cannot exceed $2,300 in the primary and $2,300 in the general election.

I have met with Mitt Romney, and I felt that he was by far the best candidate for president, Sewell said. He is a Washington outsider with experience both as a very successful businessman and as governor of Massachusetts.

Sewell said he thinks everyone should get involved, whether through monetary contributions or volunteering their time. Sewell said he will probably be voting for McCain now that Romney is out of the race.

Fontenot said McCain and Obama rely on college students to make phone calls and host parties to spread the word about their campaigns.

It doesnt always have to be money to make a difference, Fontenot said.

Melanie Oubre, mass communication sophomore and Obama supporter, said she doesnt think many college students spend money on political campaigns.

Instead they give their time by volunteering, which is just as important as a money contribution, Oubre said. Once people do get older and have more money, the easiest way to support their candidate is to just give their campaign money.

Oubre said buying campaign gear such as T-shirts can be considered contributions to the campaign, too.

I have, and I have seen many others, buying their candidates stuff which helps out the campaigns, Oubre said.

Since McCain accepted his partys nomination at the Republican National Convention, Fontenot has spent time campaigning and hosts College Republicans tailgate events on the Parade Ground. The group hands out campaign literature, signage and stickers.

Its not a huge campaign arm, but if you want a sticker, we can help you with that, Fontenot said.
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