Local Representatives Call Out UW for “Political Donations”
Written by Andrew-Rossi on April 14, 2021
Several Wyoming Republicans demand the university stop donating to political organizations and for the Democratic Party to return $2,000 in contributions.
The University of Wyoming is the state’s only publicly funded university. Now, some of their actions are being portrayed as a misuse of public money for political purposes.
Eight Wyoming representatives released a “letter to the editor,” all members of the Republican Party. Two of the signatories are Park County representatives Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (District 18) and Dan Laursen (District 25.)
According to documents acquired by the representatives, the University of Wyoming made two donations to a Democratic organization during the 2020 Election.
Specifically, the contributions went to the Albany Democratic Party Central Committee. The University of Wyoming is in Laramie, which is within Albany County.
The letter reads:
On University of Wyoming Funding Democratic Party
No Wyomingite should be forced to subsidize a political party to which they are opposed. This should be one of the few things we can all agree on, even in our current political climate. In practice, this means that public funds—taxpayer funds and citizens’ fees to government entities—should not be used to fund partisan political activity, political action committees, candidates for public office, politically biased sources of information, or ideologically-based organizations. Unfortunately, this simple rule, universally accepted and essential for a functioning republic and for the existence of robust public debate, has been blatantly violated by Wyoming’s only publicly funded university (receiving over $300 million worth of taxpayer funds through the Legislature this year).
In addition to being publicly funded, the University of Wyoming was also the largest donor to the Albany County Wyoming Democratic Party in the 2020 election cycle. So, you, the taxpayers and students of Wyoming, are major donors to the Albany County Democrats, whether you like it or not. Democrats and others opposed to the Republican Party need not worry, the Republicans didn’t receive a dime.
This obscene violation of the public trust and the University’s obligations of neutrality must be flatly condemned. This is not a partisan issue. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents should all be disappointed at the University’s misuse of the financial resources they’ve been entrusted with. We urge the Democratic Party to return the improperly allocated public funds. And we call on the University to stop tilting the scales in favor of any political party.
Representative Rachel Rodriguez-Williams
Representative Ocean Andrew
Representative John Bear
Representative Bill Fortner
Representative Scott Heiner
Representative Jeremy Haroldson
Representative Mark Jennings
Representative Dan Laursen
The letter includes a list of monetary donations given to the Albany Democratic Party Central Committee. University of Wyoming’s two contributions add up to a total of $2,100.
The University of Wyoming says this is a mischaracterization by the representatives. The money was a “fee for a service” rendering by the Albany Democratic Party – not a political donation.
According to the Federal Election Commission, no laws prohibit public universities from donating to political causes. While states can enforce limits on campaign contributions, Wyoming has nothing that explicitly forbids donations from the university.
The website OpenSecrets says that public universities are getting increasingly active in the political game, with donations largely favoring “liberal” causes.
Political donations from the education industry largely come from individuals associated with various institutions, as universities and schools typically cannot form PACs. The industry reached new heights in political donations, with their highest cycle ever coming in the 2016 presidential year with the 2018 cycle becoming a close second.
The industry dramatically favors liberals and as become more liberal in preference as the industry has spent more money. Democrats haven’t received under 70 percent of education industry donations in a cycle since 2002. In 2018, individuals from the education industry gave more than $64.5 million to Democrats and just $7.8 million to Republicans. The industry’s peak giving year thus far, 2016, saw more than $75 million go to Democrats and $12 million to Republicans. When it comes to outside money, the education sector is fairly modest with the most spent in 2018 at around $3.7 million.
Compared to other universities, UW’s contributions are pocket change. From 2019 to 2020, the University of California donated over $25 million to political causes.