News, University News

Employee donations favor Democrats

Substantial amount of large donations during midterm election season go to Raimondo

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

This midterm election season, Brown faculty and staff are donating overwhelmingly to Democratic campaigns, following a historical trend of supporting left-leaning candidates.

Gubernatorial election

Since the beginning of 2018, the majority of larger donations at or approaching the legal limit of $1,000 have gone to Democratic incumbent Gov. Gina Raimondo’s campaign, according to comparisons of Brown employee campaign contributions across state and federal R.I. races.

As of 2016, Brown employed 4,455 people, according to the Office of Institutional Research. Of 26 Brown employees who contributed this year before Sept. 4, the date of the most recent campaign filings report, nine individuals gave $1,000. In comparison, 61 individuals contributed to Raimondo between January and November in 2014, six of whom donated $1,000. Multiple individuals gave to Raimondo in both election cycles. On the whole, in 2018, donations ranged from $10 to $1,000.

Chair of Medicine Louis Rice began supporting Raimondo shortly after moving to Rhode Island in August 2010. Between 2012 and 2018, he contributed five separate donations of $1,000 to Raimondo’s campaign. Emphasizing that his donations were made as a private citizen, he said he supports her “socially liberal agenda” and admires her fiscal responsibility and economic approach. Rice met Raimondo at a campaign fundraising event hosted by one of his colleagues soon after he came to the state, he explained. He now lives across the street from Raimondo, he said, adding that they have become friends.

Only three professors contributed to Fung this year, with contributions ranging from $20 to $150, compared to five who contributed close to $300 each in 2014 when Fung lost to Raimondo. One professor is listed as a repeat donor from 2014 to 2018. The Fung campaign has not received any donations at or exceeding $1,000 dollars from a Brown employee. No donations from Brown employees are listed as going to any other independent candidates.

Comparing these donation trends to those at other Rhode Island universities, a larger number of Brown employees have given greater financial support to Raimondo, while donations to Fung from Brown employees and employees of other universities are comparable.

Three donations were made by Providence College employees this year to the Raimondo campaign, while two each were made from faculty or staff of Community College of Rhode Island and Johnson and Wales University. Five contributions came from the employees of the University of Rhode Island while six came from the Rhode Island School of Design and eight came from Rhode Island College.

Just one Rhode Island College and two Providence College members contributed to Fung’s campaign in 2018, compared to six individuals from JWU and eight from URI. No employees of RISD or CCRI were listed as donating to Fung.

Mayoral race

Thirteen donations made to Mayor Jorge Elorza’s re-election campaign this year were from Brown employees, according to R.I. Campaign Finance.

“All races are important. Very local races are important too,” Rice said. Though he has not contributed often to local candidates, “probably largely because they haven’t come and asked,” he has donated to Elorza.

Professor of Medicine Howard Safran has been working in Rhode Island for 25 years. He moved to Providence this May and “wanted to jump into politics quickly,” he said. He described himself as “more immersed in the local issues within the city” than in the gubernatorial race. Safran said Elorza “has always been a supporter” of health care, which motivated him to host an event attended by about 80 people on the mayor’s behalf. Safran personally donated $200 to Elorza’s campaign this year.

“I get involved when I see important campaigns going on,” said Professor of Neurology Douglas Anthony. Anthony has supported Elorza’s campaign by contributing $500 twice this year.

No Brown employees contributed to independent candidates Diane Whitman or Jeffery Lemire.

Federal races

In the R.I. Senate race, only one Brown employee — the repeat donor to Fung — was listed as contributing to Republican candidate Robert Flanders’ ’71 campaign between June and September 2018. At $500, his donation was far larger than most Brown employees’ listed contributions to federal candidates. Brown employees did not contribute to independent House candidate Patrick Donovan.

A handful of individuals contributed to the re-election campaigns of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Rep. David Cicilline ’83, D-R.I.

Besides donations to mayoral and gubernatorial candidates, many donors chose to give to federal candidates through the progressive organization ActBlue, according to the Federal Election Commission. Progressive organizations like End Citizens United and Swing Left received smaller donations under $100 from a few Brown employees.

Academic Affairs Coordinator for BioMed Medical Faculty Affairs Mathew Bolton has donated a couple dozen times through ActBlue between June 1 and Sept. 30, according to the FEC. He has given contributions of $25 or less to progressive candidates and organizations nationwide and to ActBlue itself. Bolton tends to “give low dollar amounts on a monthly basis to a number of candidates,” he wrote in a follow-up email to The Herald, adding that he concentrates his efforts on nationally competitive races rather than state elections.

Bolton’s concern with more competitive races was echoed by Associate Professor of Medicine Gerardo Carino. Carino and his wife have been fundraising for a friend, Carolyn Bourdeaux, who is running in Georgia’s 7th district for a House seat this year in a highly competitive race. After Bourdeaux reached out to the couple asking for support, the Carinos held a fundraiser in their Pawtucket home in September last year and were “really amazed by the number of people who were engaged and … wanted to support this, even a candidate outside the state,” Carino said. Between in-person and online donations, they raised over $10,000 for Bourdeaux, he added. Carino will be holding another event for Bourdeaux in the next two weeks, with attendees including Cicilline.

Carino attributed the enthusiasm of his colleagues for Bourdeaux’s campaign to a sense of motivation typically present in a more competitive race. Given that Rhode Island is solidly blue state, his colleagues “may not have felt that their financial support was going to change anything here because they felt it was already … going fairly well,” he said, and so they were more inclined to support a candidate out-of-state, he added.

But campaign contributions and political involvement are not often discussed at work, according to multiple Med School sources who spoke to The Herald.

Anthony said that he learns about colleagues’ political engagement from seeing them at campaign events rather than from talking to them at work.

“We might discuss politics, but I don’t think I (remember ever) discussing money and giving” to candidates, said John Donoghue, professor of neuroscience.

On the whole, fundraising events for candidates hosted by colleagues are “common but not out of proportion,” Anthony said, adding that he has observed a “greater sense of engagement since the 2016 election.”

But political involvement comes down to the individual rather than the workplace. “I know some people at Brown who are very involved, both at the state level and at the city level, but then I know others at Brown who probably couldn’t tell you who our current candidates are,” he added.

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