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Professors back Kerry with campaign giving

Voting with their checkbooks, college professors are breaking overwhelmingly for Senator John F. Kerry over President Bush, with the Democratic challenger raising nearly three times as much in campaign contributions from college campuses. The fund-raising trend contrasts sharply with the 2000 presidential race, when Bush raised slightly more money from academia than Al Gore.

Through the end of March, Kerry had received $1.32 million from employees of four-year colleges, compared with Bush's $512,000, according to data compiled for The Boston Globe by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a Virginia-based consulting firm. Their combined total was nearly triple the $667,000 that Bush and Gore collected over a longer period before the last presidential election.

Strong antiwar sentiment on campuses appears to account for at least some of the shift in contributions away from Bush and also for the overall increase in contributions from those who work in higher education, which still represents a modest sum for a presidential campaign.

Kerry collected the bulk of his college contributions, $822,000, in March, after he virtually wrapped up the nomination and antiwar candidate Howard Dean had dropped out of the Democratic primary race. Before his departure in mid-February, the former Vermont governor had been his party's principal beneficiary of donations from professors.

''A whole new mix of issues has come to the front, issues of war and peace, which historically have energized people within the academy more," said Travis Rendell, director of state policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. ''This is not as much about domestic policy minutiae as it was four years ago. I don't think it's an indicator about their education policies."

Steven C. Weiss, who tracks education-based contributions for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, said that ''to the extent colleges and universities have been locations for antiwar sentiment, that could certainly be one of the motivations for giving" to Kerry.

Richard G. Hamermesh, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Harvard Business School, said he wishes Kerry was a ''more forceful" candidate, but he contributed the maximum $2,000 to the presumptive Democratic nominee on March 30.

An independent who votes Democratic in presidential elections, Hamermesh said he made only a token donation to Gore four years ago. Hamermesh said that he is angry about the Iraq war, but that his disenchantment with Bush dates to a series of massive tax cuts -- "a crazy economic policy," he called it -- that have contributed to record federal budget deficits.

Hamermesh said he is one of many he knows in academia ''who gave a little" to Gore in 2000 but have donated more to Kerry.

Despite Kerry's edge in the higher-education competition, Bush enjoys a huge lead over the Massachusetts senator in overall fund-raising, $185.1 million, compared with $79 million through March. The incumbent holds a commanding lead in every other major industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His top 10 sources are all financial services or accounting firms.

Giving by college employees has been more important to Kerry. His biggest source of campaign money so far has been the 10-campus system of the University of California, and Harvard University ranks third.

The figures do not include donations of less than $200, mostly via the Internet, which are not recorded for analysis by Morris or watchdog groups. Fund-raising reports for April are due to be filed Thursday at the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C.

During the 2000 election cycle, Bush collected $355,020 from college employees, edging Gore, who received $312,471, the Morris data show. In that campaign, Bush raised about 2 times more money from all sources than Gore did before the parties' conventions.

Contributions are up across the board this year, because the individual limit on donations has doubled to $2,000, but giving from higher education is already more than twice as high as it was during the 2000 cycle.

Bush campaign spokesman Kevin Madden said he saw little significance in the college-giving trend. ''The country is looking for a leader with big ideas and bold solutions in an effort to make America safer and stronger," he said.

Madden called this ''a transformational time in American politics" and suggested that academics favor Kerry because they are out of touch with the times. He described them as ''those who are more inclined to view this time in history as just another gray area in need of a group discussion."

The Globe's analysis found that Kerry's advantage increased slightly among employees of independent four-year schools. On the campuses of 136 independent colleges or universities, Kerry outdid Bush in fund-raising by a 3-to-1 margin. At 117 public schools, his advantage was a little better than 2 to 1.

Kerry enjoyed big fund-raising advantages over Bush in the Ivy League ($269,385 to $28,851) and the Big 10 Conference ($134,861 to $31,500), which is dominated by large state universities in the Midwest. About half of Kerry's Ivy League money came from Harvard. From Yale University, which both candidates attended, Kerry collected $33,800 in contributions, Bush's $1,000.

Bush did have an edge in the Southeastern Conference ($59,350 to $28,400), which consists primarily of large state schools, and the Big 12 Conference ($77,135 to $37,613) in the West, one-third of whose members are in Bush's home state of Texas. In the entire University of Texas system, Bush also outdid Kerry, $42,700 to $17,650.

Among presidents and chancellors of universities or state college systems, Bush had a clear edge. The Globe identified 14 who had given to Bush and six who contributed to Kerry. Bush also received maximum donations from a pair of prominent figures in college sports: men's basketball coach Bob Knight of Texas Tech University and football coach Robert C. ''Bobby" Bowden of Florida State University. 

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