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Political Donations: President Arnn leads staff, faculty

Members of Hillsdale College’s faculty and staff have donated nearly $36,000 to political campaigns in the last four years, according to public campaign records provided through the Federal Election Commision. College President Larry Arnn contributed more than $23,000 by himself.

“I donate to people I like,” Arnn said in an email. He added that most of his political donations are personal and not related to the college. The only college-related donations he makes are to Hillsdale graduates running for political office, he said.

Arnn’s most substantial campaign donation — nearly $5,500 — have been to Republican Congressman Tim Walberg, who represents Hillsdale County. Arnn also gave $2,500 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. He  gave $1,750 to John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. Though he made substantial financial contributions to both GOP presidential candidates, Arnn was not asked by either campaign to endorse its candidate.

Vice President for Strategic Marketing Christopher Bachelder, who also contributed $2,500 to Romney’s presidential campaign, said that he has been contributing less to political campaigns in recent years, but that the Romney ticket encouraged him to donate more.

“When Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as a running mate, I was very impressed with the choice and wanted to register my approval, so my wife and I went to the campaign website and made donations on that Saturday,” Bachelder said.

Other members of the college’s staff try to take a more personal approach to their political donations.

“If I know them, and they ask, I donate money,” said Professor of Political Economy Gary Wolfram, another top college contributor. “I’m more likely to donate time on public policy issues.”

Wolfram went on to say that he holds biennial fundraisers for Michigan Supreme Court justices at his home, but stressed the casual nature of the get-togethers.

“It’s just a low-cost thing, you know, $50 to $75 per person. It’s mainly a gathering of friends. If they wanted, they could have made more at a $600-per-person dinner in Oakland County,” Wolfram said. “We try to make it about the cost of a nice night out. It’s going to a good cause, and it’s a reason for everyone to get together, and the justices love it.”

Professor of Physics Ken Hayes, who gave $250 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, declined to comment on his political donation record, stressing the importance of separating his work from his politics.

“My personal political views are irrelevant to my job as physics professor, so nothing is to be gained by discussing them,” he said in an email.

Other staff contributors to political campaigns include Associate Professor of History David Raney and Professor of Politics Mickey Craig, who both donated to Walberg; Legal Counsel & Administrative Director John McFarland, who donated to Romney’s presidential campaign; Academy Headmaster Kenneth Calvert, who donated to the Republican National Committee, and former Lecturer of Education and English Melinda vonSydow, who donated to Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.

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