University News

U. lobbying spending ranks low in Ivy League

By
Senior Staff Writer

The University spent $36,253 on congressional lobbying in the first three quarters of 2012 on issues including higher education, biomedical research, science issues and health care issues, according to Senate lobbying disclosures. The University lobbied institutions including the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Energy along with both congressional chambers.

The University has also spent an estimated $52,000 in compensating lobbyists for Rhode Island-specific lobbying thus far in 2012, according to the Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State. 

In 2011, the University spent a total of $209,256 on Congressional lobbying, an increase from the $182,050 expense reported in 2010.

Apart from Dartmouth, which has had no lobbying expenses in 2012, the University has spent the least in the Ivy League on congressional lobbying so far this year. Penn and Yale rank first and second in congressional lobbying spending this year, having each spent $525,246 and $440,000, respectively.

According to tax returns released this fall, the University spent $203,400 on total lobbying expenses in fiscal year 2010. About 15 percent, $30,676, of those funds went to “direct contact with legislators, their staffs, government officials or a legislative body.” That year marked an almost 27 percent increase from the $148,850 the University spent on lobbying in 2009. It spent a greater amount, $69,600, on direct contact expenses in 2009.

The expenses specified in these tax returns extend beyond direct lobbying – they also account for other government relations expenses, including travel fees, said Amy Carroll, director of government relations and community affairs.

Carroll, who assumed her current position at the University in December 2010, declined to comment on the increase in lobbying expenses from 2009 to 2010 evident in the most recent tax filings. 

The total lobbying costs also includes membership fees in organizations such as the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. 

NAICU is a membership association that lobbies on issues affecting independent colleges, including student aid and tax and regulatory provisions, said Stephanie Giesecke, director for budget and appropriations at NAICU. The association employs five registered lobbyists, who base their lobbying focus on consensus decisions reached by presidents of member colleges and universities, who convene twice a year, she said.

Carroll said organizations like NAICU, the Association of American Universities and the Association of American Medical Colleges are not strictly lobbying organizations – only a portion of the dues paid to the organizations go to lobbying.

“In 2011, the percentage of our association dues that was used for those associations’ lobbying activities totaled $7,358,” Carroll wrote in an email to The Herald. “This is 2.5 to 13 percent of our total dues, depending on the organization.”

Legislation regarding teacher preparedness and accreditation account for some of NAICU’s lobbying focus this year, Giesecke said.

She added that NAICU lobbies on “behalf of the entire sector, not just individual schools.” It represents the interests of a diverse group of independent colleges, including Ivy League schools and small Catholic colleges in Texas, she said. 

Despite this diversity of NAICU membership, they all tend to prioritize the same things, particularly financial aid, she said.

“Large and small, the principles are still the same,” Giesecke said. “Brown agrees for that the same ways the nuns agree to that.”

But the University can contribute its specific experiences, “such as the value of particular research when advocating for NIH or National Science Foundation funding,” to bolster AAU and NAICU advocacy, Carroll wrote.

Under the Obama administration, independent colleges and universities have had to struggle to get federal funding, Giesecke said.

“It’s an uphill battle – community colleges are kind of the darling of the administration right now,” Giesecke said. “They don’t realize small private colleges serve similar groups of people.”

Correction Appended: An earlier version of this article stated that the University spent $520,000 in 2012 on compensating lobbyists in Rhode Island. In fact, it spent $52,000. The Herald regrets the error.