Universities Spend $Millions Lobbying

When you hear the word “lobbyist”, it probably conjures up an image of an Aaron Eckhart-like figure spending tons of money wining and dining Senators and Representatives. You’re probably thinking of major industries – Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big fill-in-the-blank – that, depending on your political persuasion, you may consider sinister. If that’s what you think, there are two things you should probably know about lobbyists. First, many (if not most) lobbyists are hard-working people representing important and generally well-supported causes like funding for public libraries and making pet adoption easier. Second, if you’ve given to a college or university in the past year, some of that money probably went to a lobbyist.

My dissertation focuses on college and university lobbyists. I’m fascinated by how colleges and universities attempt to influence public policy through lobbying. Let’s take a look at some of the nation’s top universities – Vanderbilt, Columbia, the University of Florida, Duke, Boston University, and Northwestern – and they money they’ve spent on lobbying over the past few years.



Most colleges and universities don’t lobby all that much – if at all. Even major elite universities like Florida, Columbia, and Vanderbilt spend only between $100K and $350K in any given year. I understand $350K isn’t chump change, but compared to the $79 Million spent by the US Chamber of Commerce last year, it isn’t exactly close to what most industry groups spend.

Duke is a pretty good example of lobbying expenditure behavior of a major elite, private university. Duke and many of its peers – Chicago, Notre Dame, most of the Ivies – hover around $500K each year.

There are a few universities, however, that spend $Millions. Two of them, Northwestern and Boston University, are shown above. Boston University is a particularly interesting case, spending a little over $2Million from 2011 to 2012. I’ll post more about BU and its erratic lobbying behavior tomorrow.

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