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Professors stock Obama's campaign war chest

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The elite fundraising committee through which President Obama solicits his largest campaign donations relied overwhelmingly on professors from equally-elite universities last month.

The top donors, measured by number of donations, were Duke University with 54 contributions, followed by 46 from the University of Michigan, 43 from the University of California, 40 from the University of Washington and 37 from Stanford University. Mr. Obama’s alma maters of Columbia and Harvard gave 37 and 34 respectively.

The only non-university employers ranking so highly are tech companies. The Obama Victory Committee got donations from 54 Google employees, 48 Microsoft workers, 43 workers from IBM, and 40 from Oracle.

The fund, which can accept up to $75,000 per person, also raised $3.4 million from 5,600 retirees and $5.1 million from 4,600 self-employed individuals.

Professors came out in force to oppose George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and also donated heavily in 2008, giving more than those who work in the oil and gas or pharmaceutical industries — both of which are regularly villainized for their political influence. But professors have given only half as much as those groups this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Overall the Obama “joint fundraising committee” raised $40 million in August and transferred $14 million to the presidential campaign. It spent $12 million on online advertising.

The campaign itself and the Democratic National Committee will disclose their totals later Thursday.

As is the case with the Romney campaign, the joint fundraising committee is typically used as the outlet for wealthy donors because it combines multiple party organizations, which allows donors to give more than they could to the presidential campaign alone.

Such donors include celebrities like athlete Michael Jordan ($40,000), designer Tommy Hilfiger ($50,000) and singer Gwen Stefani ($6,250).

The academics who gave donated at much lower levels. Harvard employees gave an average of $4,400, followed by California at $1,800. Duke and Michigan donors were more modest, donating an average of about $500 per contribution.

Many donors to the joint committee give at intimate fundraising dinners attended by Mr. Obama or a surrogate, and many of the fund’s expenditures are for high-end catering, such as $55,000 to Lisa Dupar Catering, and space at high-end hotels.

Yet the committee also reported $12 million from small donors — likely the result of using the committee to sell merchandise such as Obama t-shirts to supporters, the proceeds of which is counted as a donation. The committee spent $1 million buying the merchandise it sold last month.

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