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Former Vice President Joe Biden at Penn in March 2017.

Credit: Ananya Chandra

Penn professors have spent about 100 times the amount of money on former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign than on President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump's campaign this election cycle, according to an analysis by The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

2020 has been a record year for political donations, with total campaign spending expected to reach $10.8 billion. Thousands of donations alone totaling more than $300,000 have come from Penn faculty members. 

The DP analytics team analyzed more than 5,600 campaign donations by faculty members made between January 2019 and August 2020. The data was acquired from the Federal Election Commission, which maintains a public database recording names of those who make donations of more than $200. This includes smaller donations that over time add up to more than $200. 

With data provided by PennLabs, a team of student software engineers and product designers at Penn, the DP matched 3,171 of the more than 5,600 donations to individual professors in each of the four undergraduate schools.

Donations of less than $200 are not included, and faculty not listed in the Penn Labs data set are not mapped to any school. This is because the dataset excludes graduate professors from Penn Medicine and Penn Law School, as the data is maintained for the purpose of rating undergraduate professors on Penn Course Review. PennLabs originally acquired the professor data through Penn's Information Systems and Computing department. 

The donations reveal that Penn faculty donated more than $339,000 to Democratic, Republican, and nonpartisan political action committees — the vast majority of which were contributed to Democratic-affiliated sources. 


The largest recipients with Democratic affiliations include ActBlue, a Democratic fundraising platform that processes donations to campaigns and organizations with $110,249 in processed donations, Biden for President with $53,887 in donations, and Warren for President, Inc. with $20,909. 

Despite his alumni status, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. received a total of just $513 in financial contributions. 

Only around 1.2 percent of total faculty contributions were made to Republican affiliations, totaling $4,013. Democratic affiliations received a total of $325,681, which equals 95.8 percent of the total contributions made and more than 80 times the amount faculty members contributed to Republican-affiliated organizations. 


Professors in The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, School of Nursing, and The Wharton School did not have substantial Republican contributions. Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and in the "other" category, which includes graduate schools and faculty not in the Penn Labs dataset, donated overwhelmingly to Democratic organizations with small donations to Republican and nonpartisan organizations.


Out of the 5,664 total donations displayed in this chart, 5,631 donations were to Democratic PACs, while the Republican PACs only received 20 donations. 

The average size of a donation to a Democratic organization was about $58, while the average donation size to a Republican-affiliated organization was about $200.


While Wharton professors contributed only 211 total donations, the average size of the contribution amount was $141.19. Engineering professors had the smallest average donation amount of $24.53. While the Engineering faculty had a large number of discrete donations at 816, their overall impact is offset by the smaller average sizes of each donation. 


The analysis of the dollar amount of FEC contributions by month indicates a steady upward trajectory, growing from $2,799 in January 2019 to $41,561 by August 2020. Donation amounts plateaued between February and March 2020 — around the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States — at a total of $36,984, before dipping dramatically in April and May to only $19,206. 

Donations then saw a sudden spike and peaked at a total contribution amount of $58,054 in June 2020, the same month in which Biden made his first campaign stop in Philadelphia after nationwide lockdowns set in place due to the pandemic. 


The vast majority of contributions are donations under $200, which indicates that most Penn professors donate small amounts on a regular basis in order to reach the aggregate $200 needed to be recorded in the FEC database. 

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