Penn surpasses other Ivy schools in political lobbying
University has so far spent $382,513 this year on education industry in first two lobbying quarters
September 24, 2012, 10:39 pm·
Penn has extended its reach on policy beyond Philadelphia to become the biggest lobbyist in the Ivy League.
In 2012, the University as a whole has so far spent $382,513 on the education industry throughout the first two lobbying quarters, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The first two quarters extended from Jan. 1 to June 30, and the third quarter will end on Sept. 30.
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania have spent $292,513, and the School of Medicine — which has its own government affairs office — hires the firm Van Scoyoc Associates to lobby for it and has spent $90,000.
Yale University is second behind Penn with $260,000, and Harvard University in third with $250,000. Many other research and state universities have a presence in Washington.
“We do a lot to make our voice heard [in Washington],” University President Amy Gutmann said. “A lot of what happens there affects us.” A drastic cutback would negatively affect Penn because it would negatively affect costs, she said.
“There’s no one major initiative, no driving factor or anything we’ve been pushing,” Director of the Office of Government and Community Affairs Dawn Maglicco Deitch said.
The University owns a physical office a few blocks from Capitol Hill. This fall, Penn is paying special attention to presidential candidates’ policies on federal research funding in light of the election.
“Our main interest is the business of higher education policy advocacy,” Deitch said. “The public money that supports research is important to us.”
Issues of importance
According to Deitch, one reason for an increase in lobbying money over the past few years are new regulations on reporting lobbying activity. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was enacted in September 2007 and significantly changed the requirements for lobby reports.
“A lot of those [requirements] weren’t created with higher educational institutions in mind or even very large nonprofits,” she said. Since HLOGA took effect, Penn has been adjusting to follow the regulations that Deitch said are better designed for a private lobbying firm.
Annenberg School for Communications professor Alvin Felzenberg cited Penn’s diverse schools and “tremendous faculty” as part of the reason behind their lobbying prowess.
Federal funds made up approximately 80 percent of the $900 million Penn received in total research awards in the 2011 fiscal year. State and local governments, foundations, associations and private industry comprised the remaining 20 percent.
Gutmann cited federal funding for research as one of the three biggest issues for Penn in the presidential election.
Two reports filed in 2012 by OGCA vice president Jeffrey Cooper details what issues Penn has lobbied on so far this year, accounting for the $292,513 spent.
Some issues Penn has lobbied on are directly related to Penn’s 12 schools, such as advocating for working and detection dogs and research for the School of Veterinary Medicine.
So far, Penn has also lobbied on “issues in support of [the] Startup Act 2.0” and on the Budget Control Act of 2011, specifically on “appropriations for grant-making agencies in support of scientific research.”
Unrelated to a specific bill, Penn lobbied on biomedical innovation, research and competitiveness.
Penn also lobbied for general higher education policy. It lobbied for federal financial aid and the TRIO Programs, which are federal programs that provide services for students from “disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Some of Penn’s lobbying efforts went towards medical issues. It lobbied on the sustainable growth rate, doctor fix and inpatient prospective payment role rule of the Affordable Care Act. It also advocated on state health technology regulations, medical ethics, hospital outpatient department payments and end of life care proposals. Penn involved itself in Medicare and Medicaid, specifically.
The University ventured into taxes when it lobbied on HR 3630, or the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. One lobbying entry was for S3187, or the Food and Drug Safety and Innovation Act. Penn specifically cared about drug shortages and repackaging requirements.
Penn does not advocate alone. The University is a member of the Association of American Universities, an organization comprised of 61 research universities from the U.S. and Canada. Gutmann sits on the AAU executive committee.
The AAU works on policymaking regarding issues such as education, science and security, humanities, intellectual property and tax issues, according to its website.
“We engaged in the AAU because of its ability to represent our institutional interests,” Deitch said.
Deitch explained that while Penn has a relationship with lawmakers who represent its district, the University tries to remain open to all lawmakers and represent aspects of the University to all of them.
“Lawmakers change, their interests change, their moods changes, so we make an effort to … try to connect with all of them,” she said.
‘Policies that help our patients’
The Perelman School of Medicine has so far spent $90,000 lobbying in 2012 and hired the firm Van Scoyoc Associates to be its representative in Washington, D.C.
Medical funding is the most important issue to the school in the presidential election, according to spokesperson Susan Phillips.
Although the school does not have a physical office in Washington, it does have government relations staff who travel there, according to Phillips.
“[They] provide information to staff and elected and appointed officials on the impact that decisions or policies might have on our missions of research, education and patient care in an academic medical center,” Phillips said in an email.
Van Scoyoc — a well-known government affairs firm — also represents Notre Dame, the University of Connecticut, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and New York University Medical School.
Van Scoyoc does not comment on work for its clients, according to Van Scoyoc Vice President Kevin Kelly. Kelly is listed as one of four Van Scoyoc lobbyists on behalf of the medical school.
“[The School of Medicine] retains an outside consultant to provide expert advice and critical impact analysis on key issues that may arise at the federal level,” Phillips said in an email.
“Sometimes outside people have more standing relationships either with the [government] agency you’re going to or specialize in things like medical schools,” Felzenberg said. “The accounting and economics of healthcare now … is an extremely complicated industry.”
Phillips explained that the school advocates for “those policies that help our patients.”
The first and second quarter lobbying reports detail the specific issues the Medical School lobbied on. The school lobbied on issues related directly to medical education, such as “graduate medical education,” clinical trial reform and FDA funding initiatives and academic health centers. The school has lobbied for Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Acts for the fiscal year 2011.
It has also advocated on behalf of drug safety issues and non-profit hospital regulation and oversight. It lobbied several times on agricultural and rural development.
The Medical School, along with organizations such as the American Hospital Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, has supported the Affordable Care Act since 2010.
Phillips wrote that the school supported the legislation to “achieve the ultimate goal of increasing access to care for millions of patients currently uninsured across the nation while at the same time improving quality and patient safety in hospitals.”
Deitch said, “Penn as an employer has a big stake [in the law].”
The University of Pennsylvania Health System, separate from the Perelman School of Medicine, has spent $49,507 in the Health Services/HMO industry as of Sept. 17.
Close to home
Penn also has governmental relations at the state level that directly impact the school’s funding. Penn personnel travel to their branch of the OCGA office in Harrisburg, Pa. when there is significant legislation up for debate.
The University has deep ties with both the city and state — many Penn alumni are in government, and the University is one of the largest employers in Pennsylvania. Penn created 145,500 jobs in the state in fiscal year 2010, according to the Penn Economic Impact Report.
As the biggest industry in Pennsylvania is agriculture, Deitch explained, Penn Vet is extremely important to the state. She estimated that the school’s relationship with the state has existed for about 100 years.
“We have a partnership with the commonwealth of support in return for what it means for the state’s agriculture industry,” she said.
Over the summer, the Pennsylvania government restored funding to the Vet School that was originally going to be cut from the budget. Penn lobbied on the Vet School’s behalf.
Deitch said OGCA “makes the case for Penn Vet” on a regular basis.
In Penn’s relationship with the city, however, “the stakes aren’t linked to funding,” Deitch explained.
She said that Penn tries to play a role in Philadelphia. In fiscal year 2010, Penn was the largest private employer in the city.
“We want a presence in a vibrant neighborhood,” Deitch said. “We focus on things to make the city better.”
However, Penn stopped making voluntary payments to the city in 2000. From 1995-2000, the University contributed $1.93 million annually to the city. As a nonprofit, Penn does not pay taxes on most of the property it owns.
After the five-year initial payment in lieu of taxes commitment agreement, the commitment was not renewed.
The question of whether or not Penn should renew its PILOT program has caused debate in the University and the city. While some believe Penn should compensate the city, others believe Penn contributes to Philadelphia in other ways.