Republican candidate

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series examining UT officials’ political donations. This installment examines contributions made by UT faculty members.

The College of Liberal Arts faculty has outspent all other UT colleges and schools in political contributions since 2008. Leading up to the elections earlier this month, UT professors gave almost ten times as much to President Barack Obama as to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Liberal arts professors donated $235,590 to political campaigns and political action committees in the past five years, according to fillings compiled by The Daily Texan from the Texas Ethics Commission and the Federal Election Commission. With 692 professors as of 2011, the College of Liberal Arts is the University’s largest college.

Campaign contributions made by UT professors from all colleges and schools totaled $791,472 since 2008.

Reported figures for contributions by professors include all professors, associate professors, assistant professors and lecturers who identified the University as their employer in state and federal filings. State and federal guidelines do not require individual contributors to disclose their employer, and individuals with multiple employers can choose which employer to list or opt not to include one.

UT spokesperson Tara Doolittle recently told the Daily Texan that campaign contributions fall under an individual’s right to free speech.

“As long as University resources or official positions are not used to advocate or influence political activity, employees are free to participate in the political system,” Doolittle said.

The School of Law, which had 117 faculty members as of 2011, making it the fifth largest college in terms of professors, had the second highest amount of contributions, totaling $191,359. The Cockrell School of Engineering was third, contributing $144,185 between its 245 professors.

Other colleges or schools with a high number of faculty contributions include the College of Natural Sciences with $139,840 from 556 professors, the McCombs School of Business with $59,042 from 153 professors and the College of Education with $32,241 from 178 professors.

Faculty contributions have steadily increased over the past five years and spiked in 2011 and 2012. Faculty members also tend to donate more to federal candidates and PACs than to state candidates or PACs.

Faculty members also contributed regularly to presidential and congressional races — contributing $46,662 to presidential candidates and individuals running for U.S. Senate in 2012, according to opensecrets.org, which is operated by the Center for Responsive Politics.

President Barack Obama received $46,346 in contributions from faculty members. Republican candidate Mitt Romney received $4,650.

Despite the overwhelming preference for giving to Democratic committees and candidates, representatives of UT Democratic and Republican student political groups said personal political preferences don’t necessarily translate to bias in the classroom.

Leslie Tisdale, president of University Democrats said she believes political contributions made by faculty should not dictate their objectivity in the classroom.

“I, as a student, contribute my time because I don’t have much money,” she said. “[Professors] might not have that much time so they contribute in other ways.”

Danny Zeng, College Republicans communications director, said it is usual for professors to donate to Democratic candidates but political affiliation does not always transfer into the classroom.

“I don’t think they are professors who are specifically biased, but it is a more systemic kind of bias — a more professional bias, per say,” Zeng said.

Zeng said political ideologies might structure course material to cover specific topics and teaching methodologies, but allowing broad discussion in the classroom can truncate biases.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Paul Sadler and Republican candidate Ted Cruz bypassed policy discussion in favor of fierce accusations Tuesday evening, said a UT student who watched the debate.

The two Senate candidates, vying for the position left open after Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s announcement of her retirement, participated in the first of two debates, where they discussed the role of government in society, taxes, health care reform and immigration. Most of the debate, however, involved repeated interruptions and accusations thrown from both sides.

Danny Zeng, communications director for College Republicans, said he was disappointed that the debate did not include a more substantive discussion of the issues that mattered.

“I think it’s one of those debates where voters don’t learn anything,” Zeng said. “It’s really more of a theatrical event than anything.”
 

Sadler, who served as a state representative from 1991 to 2003, criticized Cruz for not agreeing to participate in more than two televised debates.

“What are you afraid of, Ted?” Sadler asked. “The bottom line is that you know that I know you don’t know enough about government.”
 

Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general, said there are problems with the current presidential administration.

“I do think that part of the philosophy of President Obama and this administration is trying to get as many Americans as possible dependent on government so the Democrats can stay in power in perpetuity,” Cruz said.
 

On the topic of job creation, Sadler said Cruz’s lack of experience outside of government made him less qualified to spur job growth once in office.

“You have worked for the government,” Sadler said. “You haven’t created jobs. You haven’t owned a small business. I have.”
 

Associate government professor Sean Theriault said it would require an unforeseen development to make the Senate race competitive.

“If the race isn’t shaken up, it’s going to be Ted Cruz in a landslide,” Theriault said. “Sadler’s got to change the race dynamic in some meaningful way so that people who aren’t paying attention start paying attention. And even if they start paying attention, he still has a lot of work to do.”

Leslie Tisdale, president of University Democrats, said voters should look beyond party affiliation when assessing the two Senate candidates.
 

“Voters really just need to look at the two candidates individually instead of just looking at parties, and in this case one candidate, Paul Sadler, is obviously more qualified and more prepared for the position,” Tisdale said.

The candidates will meet again in a second debate Oct. 19.

Members of the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas are still driving local politics in Austin and around the state, despite the ongoing deadlock in the national Republican primary race.

The Young Conservatives of Texas-UT chapter is currently campaigning in local elections using block walking, phone banking and other campaign activities to support their endorsed candidates, said Jenna White, Young Conservatives of Texas chapter chairwoman. The organization has not endorsed a national candidate and is individually divided regarding which Republican candidate should receive the presidential nomination. Newt Gingrich recently surged to headlines across the country after winning in the South Carolina primary, keeping the GOP nomination process in the air as Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum continue to fight for the national prize.

“I think personal attacks between the candidates are taking away from a message that’s directed at Obama’s record,” White said. “On the other hand, we could look at this as simply vetting the candidates. I have a feeling there won’t be any skeletons left for the Obama campaign to find in the Republican nominee’s closet.”

White said the most important relation between the primaries and November is that Republicans get behind the eventual nominee as someone who can contrast himself with President Obama’s failed policies.

Along with other political groups, YCT is fighting the recent redistricting that has pushed the Texas primary into students’ final exam time. White said that the district shift is hurting the student vote and diminishing the larger youth vote.

“YCT supports Attorney General [Greg] Abbott in fighting for the redistricting maps that were drawn by our elected officials rather than by judges,” White said. “What it’s really done to us is make it harder to know exactly where the districts will be, making it harder for candidates to know exactly where they are running. We have to wait to issue our endorsements and work for the candidates.”

Gov. Rick Perry should be the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election. I have read plenty of anti-Perry columns attacking him for education budget cuts; I have heard the critics question Texas’ job growth; and I have seen the satirical comparisons between Perry and former President George W. Bush. But no matter how hard I try to hate him, I keep getting sucked back in to his campaign. Perry is the full package, and I am buying in.

There are four key reasons I love Rick Perry. The first is the most obvious: his success as governor creating jobs in Texas after the recession. Texas has created about 297,000 of the 715,000 net new positions in the United States since June 2009. This means that four in 10 new American jobs are in Texas. Our unemployment rate of 8.5 percent is lower than the national average of 9.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Incredibly, more than 1 million net new jobs have been created in Texas in the decade since Perry has served as governor. Job creation is a hot topic in Washington right now, and I bet it still will be in 2012. I would also bet that U.S. voters are interested in a job creation program that does not cost the country $450 billion, which is what President Barack Obama
is proposing.

Perry’s critics are quick to point out that Texas is also the leader in the number of workers holding minimum wage jobs in the nation. Texas’ economy is differently built than other states’ economies, with a different proportion of low-skilled and high-skilled workers than say Massachusetts or Florida. So saying Perry’s job record is not good because he created mostly minimum wage jobs is like saying an Olympic athlete’s gold medal is not impressive because he competed in table tennis. A win’s a win.

Second, I commend Perry heartily for bringing up the tough issue of Social Security reform and for taking an unpopular stance on the issue. Perry said in an editorial in USA Today that Social Security needs to be reformed for the younger workforce because the aging generation of baby boomers is going to clean out the pot. Perry cited that by 2037, retirees would only receive about 76 cents for every dollar they previously put in to Social Security. As a 45-year-old, I would be extremely frustrated if 24 percent of my investment is being lost every paycheck. Social Security reform, even a complete overhaul, is therefore clearly necessary, and the idea of a president in office that recognizes the approaching failure of this entitlement program is reassuring.

I also like that Perry’s policies are not strictly conservative, strictly liberal or even strictly moderate. His recent support for a law that requires 12-year-old girls to get the human papillomavirus vaccine is a good example of this. While I do not support the law, I like that Perry stuck up for a cause that was important to him, even though this issue violates the Republican ideal of minimal government invasion of private life. It seems like he makes decisions based on the information given to him for specifics situations, not because they are the “conservative” things to do. This would be a major strength in a president. Imagine a president doing something not because his party wants him to, but because it is what he believes is right.

Finally, I like that Perry is a “career politician”; it means he is good at what he does. The president of the United States should be the most masterful politician in the country. At the very least, he has to convince the majority of a nation and the majority of fellow politicians to vote for him. It is my understanding that a master of anything must have spent years and years practicing his craft.

Enough people have liked Perry and his policies to elect him to various offices, including state representative, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor, repeatedly since 1984. That is a pretty good track record, and Perry is someone the Republican Party should put their faith in for the 2012 presidential race.

Hansen is a Plan II and public relations freshman.