Contributors Didn’t Get a Leg Up

John M. R. Bull of the Daily Press reports today that Gov. Mark Warner has reversed the trend of placing big campaign contributors on the boards of Virginia’s universities:

The Daily Press identified 248 of Warner’s appointments to higher-education boards of visitors and boards of trustees and cross-indexed them to political contributions made in Virginia since 1997, as compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.

More than one-third of the appointments went to people who didn’t donate money to any candidate since 1997, the earliest year for which contribution data was available.

Another one-third gave campaign contributions, but not to Warner or to his political action committee, One Virginia PAC.

Of the 81 appointees who gave Warner money, some gave him big bucks but most made only token contributions, and 25 percent gave more money to Republican candidates over the years than they gave to him.

Lessig quotes UVA’s Larry Sabato and Mary Washington’s Stephen Farnsworth praising Warner for bucking tradition and taking some of the politics out of appointments to these plum, influential positions.

It certainly is a positive that being a campaign contributor was not a prerequisite to being considered for an educational board appointment by Warner, even granting a certain amount of moderate Republican “cultivation” in his choices. Still, what matters is the overall quality and background of the appointees. Bull should follow up by analyzing the qualifications of those chosen, especially in light of his reporting that universities offered the Warner selection team feedback on the type of candidates they wanted.

Here’s a good question for the gubernatorial candidates: will they follow the Warner example?

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