Where do 5C Trustee Political Donations Go?

(Audrey Hector • The Student Life)Trustees from the Claremont Colleges asserted themselves into politics/campaign finance during the 2016 election cycle. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) data published by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that multiple 5C trustees gave major contributions (defined as over $2,700 to candidates or campaigns). Trustees at Claremont McKenna College gave the most, followed by Pitzer College and Pomona College. Donations by trustees from Scripps College and Harvey Mudd College were unlisted or did not cross the $2,700 threshold to be considered major donations.

The leading contributors were Henry Kravis CM ’67, who gave $448,200, Robert Day CM ’65, who gave $331,731, G. Jeffrey Records Jr. CM ’81, who gave $193,900, Susan Pritzker PZ ’93, who gave $188,111 (not counting the contributions of her family, which totaled over $22 million), William Podlich CM ’66, who gave $70,300, George Roberts CM ’66, who gave $52,500; Louise Bryson, a Pomona trustee, gave $32,000. These seven donors were the only 5C trustees to contribute more than $2,700 in political donations.    

CMC trustees gave almost exclusively to Republican causes, while Pritzker and Bryson gave to Democratic causes. CMC trustees, however, did not donate to Donald Trump or any group or organization that aided his campaign, save Records, who donated to Trump. All of the CMC trustees gave to other GOP candidates early in the primary season and directed/diverted their funds elsewhere when Trump was nominated.

This seemed to be a trend among notable GOP donors. In an email to TSL, Jack Pitney, a professor of Government at CMC, wrote, “Trump had some big donors, but some sat out the presidential race. I suspect it’s because they actually know Trump.”

This was the first election cycle in which CMC trustees did not give more than $2,700 to the Republican nominee for president since at least 1996.    

Many trustees diverted large portions of their funds to Senate and House races. Day, Kravis, and Roberts gave more than $50,000 to the Republican National Congress Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and PACs like the Senate Leadership Fund. Pritzker also got involved in congressional races and contributed to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well as the Planned Parenthood Votes PAC.   

2016 was the first cycle since at least 2007 that trustees from Pomona’s board did not make major contributions, aside from Bryson's comparatively small $32,000 donation. Former trustee Andrew Barth contributed a total of $457,800 from 2007-2014 but without his contribution this year, the overall total plummeted. The school does not track the political contributions of trustees, according to Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Marylou Ferry. 

Political donations by 5C trustees mirrored donation patterns from the rest of the country. Here, as elsewhere, the biggest GOP donors tend to be white men above the age of 50. Older women, (like Pritzker) on the other hand, are split more evenly. As for younger donors, Pitney said, “Wealthy young people lean heavily Democratic. In large part, that's because wealth is increasingly tied to professional education, and highly educated professionals lean to the left.” 

Shawn McFall CM ’18, president of the Claremont Colleges Republicans, agreed that conservative representation among college students has been weak.

“The future of Republican donors will heavily depend on the success the Republican party has in fostering a pro-business community,” he said. “That includes a shift in immigration policy and deregulating the gig economy. These policies will ultimately help foster younger donors, as well as diversify the Republican donor pool.”