Tufts U. Paid $200K To Lobbyists In 2006 To Secure Funding

This story was written by Sarah Butrymowicz, Tufts Daily
A portion of Tufts University's budget each year goes to a completely different Hill. In 2006, the university spent $200,000 to contract lobbying firms that petition Congress for funding.

Between 1998 and 2005, Tufts' lobbying expenditures averaged $201,625 per year, according to the website OpenSecrets.org. This spending peaked at $320,000 in 2000 and reached its lowest point in 2003, when the university spent $60,000.

In 2006, Tufts paid the O'Connor and Hannan law firm $160,000 to lobby, while Quinn, Gillespie and Associates received the other $40,000. James English of O'Connor and Hannan serves as Tufts' eyes and ears in Washington, D.C., according to Vice President of University Relations Mary Jeka.

Beneficiaries of federal funding include the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. The HNRCA, for example, is maintained by the approximately $15 million dollars of federal funding it receives each year.

Keeping or increasing that current level of federal funding "is a very high priority for the university," Jeka said.

Meanwhile, the Cummings School receives a constant flow of Congressional funds, about $500,000 each year. The Cummings School is currently involved in lobbying for the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act, a bill that would provide $1.5 billion over 10 years to beef up veterinary education and ensure that more veterinarians become engaged in public health and biomedical research jobs.

"That's an important initiative for all veterinary schools," Cummings School Dean Deborah Kochevar said. "The government hasn't put substantial money into veterinary education since the 1970s."

She said that because 70 percent of all new and emerging diseases in the past 20 years are transferred from animals to people, this funding is becoming increasingly important.

Some of the Cummings School's federal funding comes from the Department of Defense, which sponsors financial aid programs.

The Cummings School also petitions Congress for funding to continue its Azuluna veal project. This veal is unique because it comes from calves whose quality of life is improved through their interactions with dairy cows, which Kochevar said serve as "surrogate mom[s]."

After last year's Democratic takeover of Congress, the possibility arose that some of the perennially funded projects would lose their support.

"The whole system for earmarking sort of got turned upside down," Kochevar said.

"Earmarks are being reduced in the current year budget because of political pressure coming, ironically, from the Republicans, who used them quite well," political science professor Jeffery Berry said. "President Bush is trying to show some fiscal discipline [and] the Democrats in Congress are trying to show discipline."

While the future of federal funding for Tufts is in question, the university also has other governmental connections. The Cummings School, for example, received $5.3 million last year from the state legislature, according to Jeka. She said it is very common for other veterinary schools to get similar local funding.

The Cummings School secures this money at least in part through an agreement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to reserve half of the 80 annual slots for in-state students.

"We get money if we do that," Jeka said. "The number goes up and down just depending on different issues with the state."

As with the federal level, Tufts also employs lobbyists to secure local funding. The university relies primarily on the Brennan Group, which is located in Boston.

According to Jeka, higher education institutes are usually involved in lobbying activities. Some schools even have ffices in Washington.

"Given budgetary constraints, we've decided it would be too expensive to open an office," she said.

Most local schools spend at least some money on lobbying each year, and some have outpaced Tufts. Harvard University spent $340,000 in federal lobbying efforts last year and Boston University spent $480,000, both more than Tufts, while MIT spent $160,804 and Boston College set aside $40,000.
© 2007 Tufts Daily via U-WIRE