UNC Charlotte employees donated at least $110,084 to political campaigns in 2020, 79.4% of which was directed to Democrats and 3.4% to Republicans, according to data released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Oct. 22 and compiled by OpenSecrets. This makes the UNC Charlotte community the second biggest political contributor in the UNC System behind UNC Chapel Hill, whose employees donated $574,951 overall. Both institutions donated more this year than ever before.
UNC Charlotte employees contributed the second smallest percentage of their donations to the Democratic Party behind UNC Pembroke employees, who directed 89.4% of their donations towards Republicans.
OpenSecrets’ data only include donations from students, faculty and staff who listed UNC Charlotte as their employer and those individuals’ immediate family members. Their numbers are underestimates because they are based off of donations of $200 or more.
UNC Charlotte employees’ campaign contributions are up 3.6 times since 2016, and 4.4 times since 2008, while the percentage of donations going to Republicans has increased 1.7% and 0.4% respectively.
Since 1990, UNC Charlotte employees have donated $255,714, 83% of which was contributed to the Democratic Party and 9% to Republicans. Almost half of all UNC Charlotte campaign contributions since 1990 were donated this year.
These huge increases in campaign spending are representative of the UNC System in general as well as national trends. UNC System employees contributed $1.7 million this election cycle, 97% to Democrats and 3% to Republicans, almost three times as much was donated in 2016 and more than any year prior. This dwarfs political contributions in 1990, which were just over $26,000.
The total cost of the 2020 election cycle is estimated by the Center for Responsive Politics to reach $14 billion, making it the most expensive in history and twice as expensive as 2016.
According to OpenSecrets, Democratic candidates and groups have spent $6.9 billion this election cycle, compared to $3.8 billion for Republicans. Democrats' spending falls to $5.5 billion when excluding spending by billionaire presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.
Political contributions are in part made easier by the rise of fundraising sites like ActBlue and WinRed. Since February 2019, the Democratic platform, ActBlue, has received more than 2,100 donations from UNC Charlotte employees while Republican WinRed has only received 119, according to FEC, which reports donations of any amount.
UNC Charlotte employees appear to prefer to donate to national campaigns. Since February 2019, 82 contributions were made directly to Biden and 52 were made to Trump. This is compared with only eight contributions directly towards the North Carolina Senate race, all of which were for Democrat Cal Cunningham.
While Republican Thom Tillis leads Cal Cunningham, the NC Senate race is tight and still too early to call.
UNC Charlotte’s top contributors to the Democratic Party include but are not limited to part-time English faculty member Henry Doss and economics professor emeritus Carol Swartz.
"As an economist, my spending shows what I value," said Swartz. "Biden shares my concerns about fighting the pandemic, minimizing climate change, and ensuring economic opportunity is available to all."
Doss, who served as president of the alumni association and executive in residence of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, added, "The 2020 election was—as we all recognize—a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, and [my wife and I] chose to support decency, commonsense and pragmatism, believing that Joe Biden will provide the domestic and global leadership that our country desperately needs."
Top Republican donors include engineering faculty Ted Brown and Howie Fang. Neither responded to requests for comment by press time.
In the end, Biden secured the presidency with key wins in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania–three states that Trump won in 2016. North Carolina has still not been called.