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They may not be industry moguls or top executives, but Penn professors are certainly willing to shell out money in support of their favorite political candidates.

Penn ranked fourth in a study measuring the sum of education-industry employee donations to federal campaigns this election cycle. Experts say the increased contributions may reflect the political climate.

According to the report from the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that studies campaign finances, individuals associated with the University collectively donated over $196,000 to federal candidates, parties and political-action committees. Ninety-four percent of the funds benefitted Democratic candidates and groups.

The study only included donations over $200.

The only two schools to outrank Penn were the University of California system and Harvard University. Third place went to the Apollo Group, a for-profit adult-education company.

Political Science professor Jack Nagel said the high volume of contributions this year was most likely a result of the many Pennsylvania races with national importance - including three local Congressional races and a high-profile Senate race between Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Rick Santorum.

The study found Casey and Santorum were the second- and sixth-greatest beneficiaries of education-industry donations, respectively.

Nagel added that he was aware of many Penn faculty members involved with fundraising efforts, particularly for Democrats.

The fact that several well-known national politicians such as Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) visited the Philadelphia area also likely encouraged donations, he said.

Though Nagel said college faculty often tilt Democratic, the preponderance of contributions to Democrats was "not surprising," given substantial anti-Republican sentiment among the public at large this year.

Massie Ritsch - a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, the group that produced the report - said the education industry as a whole is a relatively big giver, but not an influential one.

Unlike the pharmaceutical or oil industries, education groups do not try to influence legislation, he said.

Colleges and universities cannot form their own political action committees, but individual professors and officials often give money to candidates and groups they support, he added.

Ritsch said many of the highest-contributing schools were large and well-ranked research universities.

Political science professor John Lapinski said that, although Penn ranked fourth in the study, $196,000 is "not that much money," especially considering that "candidates are spending millions and millions and millions of dollars."

Nagel agreed that Penn's combined contributions to various campaigns are "only a drop in the bucket," but he pointed out that "academics generally don't have as much money to give as people in other walks of life."

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