U. Texas Regents Donate Thousands To GOP

This story was written by Maya Srikrishnan,
U. Texas System Board of Regents members have collectively donated more than $105,650 to the 2008 elections over the past two years, almost all of which has gone to Republican candidates.

This number decreased from more than $760,000 the board members donated to the Republican Party in the 2004 election, according to the Texas Ethics Commissions Web site.

President George W. Bush received $20,500 in 2004 from regents, according to the Federal Election Commissions Web site. 2008 Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain received $17,400 directly from regents. The rest of their donations went to the Republican Party of Texas, Republican National Committee, Texans for Sen. John Cornyn and various congressmen.

UT government professor Bruce Buchanan said the decrease in donations from the Board of Regents represents the overall demoralization of the Republican Party.

I think they are just reading the tea leaves and are seeing the Republicans are having an off year, Buchanan said. Republicans are disheartened this year.

He said he does not think the United States economic woes are hindering people from funding the Republican campaign.

Most of the folks on the Board of Regents are not that much affected by economic crisis, Buchanan said. It has more to do with the prospects of their party than their pockets.

The biggest donor was Regent Paul Foster, who gave $30,100 to the Republican Party and $2,300 to Democratic presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Regent Robert Rowling gave the highest donation in the 2004 election, providing almost $500,000 to Republicans between the 2000 and 2004 elections.

This would not be surprising because the Board of Regents is appointed by the governor and we have a Republican governor, said Sherri Greenberg, lecturer at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He made many of their appointments and so they are Republican. If you look back to the times of Ann Richards, there were more Democrats who sat on the board.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the education industry is the ninth-largest contributor to the 2008 election. It is the sixth-largest donor to Democrats and is not ranked in the top 25 industries that donate to the Republican Party.

The centers spokesperson Massie Ritsch said when discussing the education industrys donations, governing bodies and boards of trustees to universities, such as the UT System Board of Regents, are not included.

Typically the appointed trustees dont work in education themselves, Ritsch said. They come from other industries and those industries are likely to be more conservative than the education field because the education field is one of the most Democratic industries that we track.

According to the centers Web site, in this election cycle, the UT System regents not included ranks No. 6 in education industry donors, contributing $402,577. The top five are the University of California System, Harvard, Stanford and Columbia universities and the University of Chicago.

Ritsh said 70 percent of money donated from UT employees or students goes to Democrats. However, UT is still slightly more favorable to Republicans than most universities, falling below the national industry average of 79 percent.

Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto said the boards donations exemplify that Texas is under one-party Republican rule. He said rising tuition is a result of this one-party rule.

Regardless of where their donations have gone, the bigger and more important thing to focus on is under the one-party Republican rule, college tuition continues to rise, Nieto said. Its importan to remember its clearly not working financially for college students.

Greenberg said the rising cost of tuition has been a nationwide trend for the past 30 years and has nothing to do with the Republican hold on Texas.

Universities have been getting fewer dollars from the state and have been looking at other sources of funding, such as capital campaigns and higher tuition, she said.

Republican Party of Texas spokesman Hans Klinger said these donations do not make his party feel they have the UT Systems support.

They are there to do the students bidding, Klinger said. So whether they are Democrats or Republicans is not important.

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