2016 Presidential Election: Where Princeton's donors have donated to| Oct 27, 2016
During the 2016 presidential election cycle and the two previous election cycles, Carl Icahn ’57, Bill Frist ’74, and Peter Wendell ’72, three major University donors, have contributed thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and super PACs, or political action committees with close ties to Republican campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Meg Whitman ’77, another major University donor, donated against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle. Other major donors such as Dennis Keller ’63, Nancy Peretsman ’76, Robert Scully ’72, and John Scully ’66 have mixed contribution records over the past few election cycles.
Independent expenditure committees, informally called super PACs, can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money, although they cannot directly spend in support of a particular candidate.
Icahn funded the Carl C. Icahn Laboratory at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrated Genomics. Frist’s family funded the Frist Campus Center. Wendell, along with his wife and his friend, donated towards the construction of Wendell Hall in Whitman College. Keller and his wife funded the Keller Center, formerly the Center for Innovation in Engineering Education. John Scully donated towards the construction of Scully Hall. Peretsman and Robert Scully funded Peretsman-Scully Hall, which houses the Department of Psychology.
According to an FEC report, Icahn contributed $33,400 as part of a joint fundraiser to the Republican National Committee on June 23. He donated a total of $5,400 to Donald Trump for President, Inc. and $50,000 to Trump Victory, supporting the Republican presidential nominee, on the same day.
Icahn, a business magnate who has partnered with Trump in the past for business ventures, announced last year via Twitter that he planned to start a super PAC with an “initial commitment of $150 million” to end corporate tax inversions. Icahn donated another $500,000 to Trump’s fundraiser for veterans in January. Icahn recently made headlines after closing the Trump Taj Mahal, an Atlantic City casino with a history of financial issues. Trump criticized Icahn’s decision to close, but Icahn continued to support Trump.
Icahn did not respond to requests for comment.
In March of last year, Frist contributed $50,000 to Right to Rise USA, a super PAC created to support Jeb Bush. Three months later, he contributed another $2,700, this time directly to Jeb, Inc., according to FEC reports.
Frist served two terms as the Republican Senator from Tennessee, serving as majority leader for one. Since retiring from politics in 2007, Frist has supported a number of politicians in Tennessee, spending over $10,000 in contributions, according to FEC personal donor reports. In 2006, the FEC found that Frist’s 2000 Senate campaign committee violated federal campaign finance laws. Frist took $1 million out of the campaign and put it in the stock market, only to lose it, according to The New York Times; this loss forced Frist to take out a loan to cover the loss, but he did not report this debt to the FEC. Frist paid the FEC a $11,000 fine, according to a New York Times article.
Frist was not available for comment.
Wendell, a venture capitalist, while supporting both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the 2012 election cycle, donated to only Republican candidates John Kasich and Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie this cycle.
Christie is an ex-officio trustee of the University.
Wendell did not respond to request for comment.
Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, donated $100,000 to Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump PAC in 2016. In 2012 election cycle, she donated to Romney.
She said in an interview with the New York Times in August that she would be voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in this upcoming election, calling Trump a “demagogue.”
While FEC records show that Whitman contributed over $150,000 to Christie’s presidential campaign and super PAC late last year, Whitman joined John Bellinger ’82, a Legal Adviser for the State Department during the Bush administration, who, as a conservative, spoke out against Trump earlier than most.
Bellinger called Trump a “danger” to national security in December of last year in a Lawfare article.
John Scully, managing director of a private investment firm, has donated to both Republican and Democratic candidates in past election cycles, but this year has donated only to Clinton’s campaign. His contributions total $32,400.
John Scully declined to comment.
Peretsman and Robert Scully show a mixed record of supporting Democratic and Republican Candidates in 2008, although Peretsman’s $35,400 contribution to Obama’s campaign stood out compared to smaller donations to other candidates. Likewise, Keller, CEO of DeVry University Inc., has shown a mixed record of support. In the 2008 cycle, Keller contributed $750 to John McCain and $1250 to Obama. In 2012, Keller donated $1000 to Romney’s campaign.
Peretsman did not respond to request for comment. Keller did not respond to request for comment..
Super PACs must report all donors to the FEC, which makes contributions available to the general public. Despite the promise of transparency, individuals and companies can stay under the radar by donating to super PAC shell companies or nonprofits, where contributions are either hidden or not required to be disclosed, respectively.