Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who received 3.3 percent of the total reported donations, was the only Republican primary candidate to receive any contributions from University employees.
This summer, Obama announced that he would not be accepting public financing, and as a result the total funds he has been able to raise from private donors was not limited. Because McCain is accepting $84.1 million in public funding, he decided to forgo private campaign contributions after Aug. 31, except in the form of contributions toward the campaign’s Compliance Fund for legal, accounting and logistical purposes.
Of the $132,663 Obama received in total this cycle from University faculty and staff, $58,129, or roughly 44 percent, were contributed to his campaign after the primaries. McCain, on the other hand, received $200 for his Compliance Fund in the last two months.
The donation data show that support for Obama among Princeton faculty and staff is overwhelming. The partisan divide among University donors is substantial, and the Democrats’ dominance among University donors far outpaces national figures and statistics from several peer institutions.
Nationally, the Democratic presidential candidates received a total of $787 million during the primary season, compared to the $477 million raised by Republican candidates, according to FEC data compiled by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.
Of the 27 University faculty and staff who gave maximum or near-maximum donations to presidential campaigns this year, 20 supported Obama. Federal election law limits contributions to a presidential campaign to $2,300 for the primaries and $2,300 for the general election. The FEC reports all political donations over $200.
“I don’t think it represents necessarily wild liberal agendas,” sociology and Wilson School professor Doug Massey GS ’77 said. “I think it reflects a sober appraisal of the last decade or so … by members of the Princeton faculty.”
Massey gave the maximum $2,300 to Obama during the primary and another $1,300 to his campaign for the general election, according to the FEC.
Philosophy professor Daniel Cloud, who had never given money to a political campaign prior to this election season, gave the maximum $2,300 donation to both McCain and Obama in the primaries, but he explained that he has “been an Obama supporter all along.” Cloud donated another $2,300 to Obama for the general election.
“McCain was my least disliked of the Republican candidates,” Cloud said in explaining his McCain donation. “I didn’t want to see [Mitt] Romney or someone [else] as the nominee.”
Religion professor Martha Himmelfarb, who gave $2,000 to McCain in the primaries, could not be reached for comment. A total of seven faculty and staff gave to McCain this election season. Other than Cloud and Himmelfarb, none gave over $500, FEC data show.
Architecture professor Guy Nordenson gave the maximum donation to Obama during the primary and “somewhat less than the max for the main election,” he said in an e-mail.
Nordenson also helped organize two fundraisers sponsored by Architects and Engineers for Obama that publicized the candidate as well as climate-change and public-works policies. The fundraisers collected more than $25,000.
“He is the most intelligent and articulate presidential candidate I have witnessed in my life time (going back to JFK),” Nordenson said.
Many of the most generous donors emphasized the importance of this election, increasing the size of their donations or making donations for the first time. Both Massey and psychology professor Anne Treisman said that though they had made donations in previous campaigns, they have never before given sums of money as large as those they donated during this election cycle.
“I think this election is a critical juncture, and I strongly believe that Barack Obama had the vision and the judgment to help us through this difficult time, so I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to ensure his election,” Massey explained.
Treisman, who gave $2,300 to Obama in the primaries and another $2,000 in the general election, agreed. “I do think this one is a special case,” she said.
Factors internal and external to the candidate himself made an impact on Treisman. “The past eight years of the Bush administration have been disastrous for the country, and I believe Obama will be an excellent president,” she said.
Cloud said that “[i]t seemed like a particularly important election, and the outcome was unusually and seriously in doubt.”
But some of the donors’ enthusiasm about Obama was dampened by his stance on campaign financing.
“I can only say that it’s appalling in a way … how much of a role money plays in the process,” Cloud said. “It would’ve been better if both of [the candidates] had accepted public financing for the general [election].”
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— Senior writer Kate Benner contributed reporting.