Sunday, April 11, 2010

The university lobby

"...the University of Minnesota is among the biggest spenders in higher education when it comes to lobbying in Washington. The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog on campaign and lobbying spending, reports the university spent more than $1.7 million the past decade, including $510,000 last year. That amount ranked the university 20th among 872 education-related institutions that filed a report. In its defense, the university says it received $400 million in federal research grants last year, including about $35 million for the school's Academic Health Center, which essentially oversees all its research, education and outreach efforts. Collectively, that seems like a sound return on investment. But at least one part of that expense deserves scrutiny. The university hired the top-earning lobbying firm in Washington — Patton & Boggs LLP — to sway the Federal Transit Administration and other agencies regarding the Central Corridor light-rail line, which is proposed to run though the campus. The university wanted to protect its research projects from being affected by the location of the line. Again, that sounds like a smart move ... until you note that the university was lobbying against other taxpayer-funded entities such as the Metropolitan Council and Ramsey County. In short, that means Minnesota tax dollars were spent lobbying for and against the same project."

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