Stanford University spent $420,000 on lobbying in 2011, according to the quarterly lobbying reports filed by Larry Horton ’62 ’66 M.A., director of government and community relations at Stanford.
In comparison, the University of Southern California reported spending $580,000 last year lobbying the local, state and federal government. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the University of California system spent $770,000 last year on lobbying.
Horton is one of two registered lobbyists for Stanford, along with Ryan Adesnik. According to Horton, he and Adesnik lobby the federal government on behalf of Stanford’s interests.
“All the things we work on are all the things that Stanford University as an institution has an interest in and is qualified to speak on,” Horton said, adding that he and Adesnik do not lobby on individual projects.
Instead, Horton said, he and Adesnik lobby on issues such as education, intellectual property and federally sponsored research. In the case of federally sponsored research, Stanford representatives lobby to ensure that there is adequate funding for University research.
According to the quarterly reports, Stanford also lobbied on issues such as student financial aid, immigration and stem cell research. These lobbying reports record both the expenses related to lobbying and the lobbying activity. Horton must report what was lobbied and how the money was spent. Reporting incorrectly is a criminal offense, he noted.
When asked how the lobbying expenses for 2011 compared with previous years, Horton said that the expenses were about the same.
“We are a very small staff,” Horton said. “We have five professional people to handle all of Stanford’s community, state and federal relations.”
Stanford lobbyists do not have a Washington, D.C., office, something that many other, bigger schools, such as the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan, do have.
According to the Political Activities section of the Administrative Guide Memo, approved by President Hennessy and applicable to all members of the University community, all members are “free to express their political opinions and engage in political activities to whatever extent they wish.” However, they “must avoid even the appearance that they are speaking or acting for the University in political matters.”
The memo lists the officials who can lobby on behalf of the University without specific authorization: the President, Provost, Deans of the Seven Schools, Vice Provost and Dean of Research, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Vice President for Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer, Vice President of Human Resources, Director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Director of the Hoover Institute, General Counsel and the Vice President for Public Affairs.
Any faculty member who wishes to lobby on behalf of the University for specific purposes must be granted permission from the Vice Provost and Dean of Research and Graduate Policy. The Vice President for Public Affairs may grant permission to staff members to lobby on behalf of the University, and all lobbying on behalf of the University must be coordinated with the Vice President for Public Affairs, according to the guide memo.
Most of the money recorded in the quarterly reports is a percentage of the salary of the person who did the lobbying and any related expenses, such as travel and hotel costs.
“From time to time, Stanford does hire resources from Washington or from Sacramento to help us,” Horton said. “The amounts we pay for them would be included in our reports.”
According to Horton, Stanford mostly lobbies on federal government issues – primarily issues before Congress. Lobbying at the local or state level involves a different type of reporting requirements. For instance, no one at Stanford, not even Horton, is a registered lobbyist in Sacramento because nobody meets the threshold required to be a lobbyist in Sacramento politics.
“When it comes to local government, county government, city government…there is a different set of rules,” Horton said.
Occasionally Stanford does get involved in issues in Palo Alto if they have the potential for a significant effect on students and faculty at Stanford. For instance, Stanford takes interest in transportation and school board issues if they involve the interests of the school.
There is only one restriction on the kind of lobbying in which Stanford is allowed to participate: partisan politics.
“We cannot support a candidate or partisan activity,” Horton said. He added that Stanford never takes positions on “popular interests” of the day, instead focusing on issues that concern the school. Stanford can permit individuals to speak on campus, but campaign speeches are off limits, according to Horton.
The Center for Responsive Politics reported that Stanford University individuals contributed $595,716 to then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. These contributions did not come from the school directly; instead, they came from individual members who support a particular candidate and contribute their own money to campaigns. This number was the sum of money contributed by individual faculty and students, but not money donated on behalf of the school.
“When we take positions, we take positions on behalf of the University,” Horton said. “We only involve ourselves on issues that affect education and research.”