NU top contributor to Kennedy campaign

By Derek Hawkins

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Sen. Edward Kennedy ran unopposed in 2006. Kennedy ran against Republican candidate Kenneth Chase.

Northeastern ranked 19th among the top donors to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy’s Congressional campaign during the 2001-2006 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, an organization that monitors campaign contributions.

The organization reported Northeastern employees gave $18,800 to Kennedy during that period, which earned the university a spot on a list of top contributors that includes industry giants Microsoft, Time Warner and Verizon Communications. Northeastern was the only college on the list.

Kennedy, D-Mass., was re-elected last November and is currently serving his eighth full term in the Senate.

Donations to Kennedy did not come directly from the university, but from Northeastern faculty and staff.

At least 30 Northeastern employees donated to Kennedy between 2001 and 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The list of individual donors included former university president Richard Freeland, Professor Michael Dukakis, College of Arts and Sciences Dean James Stellar and University Libraries Director Edward Warro. Their contributions ranged from $250 to $1,000.

Northeastern Communications Director Fred McGrail confirmed the donations did not come from the university itself.

“The university in this case did not and does not make campaign contributions,” he said. “The contributions came from individuals. No university monies have been used.”

Federal law requires that all campaign contributions of $200 or more be catalogued and made public, along with the donor’s occupation and employer. The Center for Responsive Politics tracks that information on its website, opensecrets.org, and compiles contributions that come from donors with the same employer.

An organization appears on the center’s top contributor list if enough contributions to a single campaign or candidate come from individuals from a common industry or employer.

McGrail said Northeastern’s presence on Kennedy’s list of top contributors does not reflect a relationship between the university and the senator.

“We don’t track [donations],” he said. “Northeastern is a large community and people can choose to contribute to whoever they like. It is not a university matter.”

In a letter released yesterday, addressed to state college and university presidents, Kennedy said promoting higher education was one of his goals in the new legislative session.

“Major increases in tuition and cuts in financial aid programs are creating serious financial barriers to higher education, and forcing students to borrow money at unprecedented rates or give up on college entirely,” he said. “Making college education more accessible and affordable must be a top priority for all of us.”

Kennedy’s office could not be reached for comment.

Freshman computer engineering major Henry Sick said he approved of faculty contributions to Kennedy, provided the university itself wasn’t making contributions.

“It’s their own business, let them go for it,” he said. “If Northeastern was doing it, I would be like, ‘Where is my tuition money going?'”

Senior biochemistry major Hassan Harris also felt it was an individual’s decision.

“If it’s their money and free time – do what they want,” Harris said. “I don’t see why there would be an affiliation with Northeastern. It’s irrelevant as long as it doesn’t affect students.”

Leave a Reply