updated 1/5/2004 1:20:39 PM ET 2004-01-05T18:20:39

Howard Dean is earning higher marks — and twice as much money — from college professors than the other Democratic presidential candidates.

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The education industry — professors, lecturers and other university employees — gave more than $2.4 million to all presidential candidates in the first three quarters of the year, with professors making up the largest group, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The nonpartisan group, which tracks money in politics, found that nearly $719,000 went to Dean, making educators the third top-donating group among his contributors. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was the second-most favored Democrat by professors, with more than $325,000 in donations in the same period. President Bush raised more than $680,000.

As a group, educators rank 15th among all industries with employees donating to federal candidates and party committees. That ranking is up from 33 in the 2002 elections and 26 in 2000.

“It’s remarkable. It’s highly unusual to see education rank so highly among industries for a major presidential candidate,” Steven Weiss, the center’s communications director, said Friday.

Professors have not generally been courted for contributions in the past because they typically do not have specific agendas, such as labor unions or businesses do, Weiss said. While some businesses encourage their employees to make personal campaign contributions, universities cannot ask their employees to donate because of their nonprofit status.

FEC filings perused
The group looked at candidates’ filings with the Federal Election Commission, which list all contributors and their occupations for any amount over $200.

Although Dean has raised more money from professors than Bush, the president has collected more overall, so professors represent a larger proportion of Dean’s contributors. As businesses look for new ways to donate, professors could rise in prominence as their money makes up a larger part of a candidate’s war chest.

Dean was most favored by professors within the University of California system, who collectively donated $51,124 to his campaign. Next up were Harvard University professors, who contributed $24,150. Bush’s top academic contributors came from the University of Texas — he served as governor of the state — with $31,850 in donations, followed by the University of Cincinnati’s $18,500 in contributions.

About 65 percent of donations went to Democratic candidates, although that doesn’t mean all academics fall to the left of the political line, Weiss said.

The Dean campaign is not actively seeking support from professors, said spokesman Jay Carson. But the former Vermont governor’s grass-roots, Internet-based candidacy has proven popular with younger voters, which could account for their professors coming on board, Carson said.

Talks with students
Harvard University professor Patrice Higonnet talks about Dean with his students, but only in private, he said. The 65-year-old French history professor donated $1,000 to Dean at the end of September and said none of his colleagues support Bush.

Dean’s emphasis on foreign affairs — he’s the only major Democratic candidate to oppose the Iraq war — also earns him support from professors, who generally tend to focus on international events more than the public, said Higonnet, of Cambridge, Mass.

“He’s kind of a passionate person. He feels very strongly about what he’s doing, and that’s certainly not the case of many Democratic candidates,” Higonnet said.

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