Diego Union Tribune
December 23, 2005
Lobbying ties give campus funding edge
Alum helps San Bernardino get earmarks
By Jerry Kammer
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
In December 1999, Cal State San Bernardino graduate Jeffrey Shockey was introduced to the school's administrative council as a member of a Washington lobbying firm whose "knowledge of funding opportunities that we may not be aware of could lead to increased federal funding for CSUSB."
The minutes of that meeting noted that Shockey's former boss, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, "oversees one of the largest pools of money, and by having good ideas and strategies, CSUSB can be sure they will be placed on the table."
Shockey's business relationship with his alma mater is a vivid example of how a school that would have trouble competing for merit-based grants can prevail nonetheless – if it is politically well connected .
For the next five years, until he returned to work for Lewis at the beginning of this year, Shockey helped the school get projects inserted into defense bills that Lewis directed as chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee.
The school also got money from several other agencies.
The Department of Transportation is paying the school $2 million to create a center to study transportation issues. The Environmental Protection Agency is bankrolling a water resource institute. The Department of Education shelled out at least $500,000 to start the Inland California Television Network, which folded last year
Dr. Clifford Young, who oversees federal relations for the school, estimates that the university has received $60 million to $70 million for earmarked projects since it retained the firm, whose name became Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & Shockey when Shockey became a partner in 2003.
Since 1999 the university has paid the firm about $490,000, according to federal disclosure reports.
The number of academic earmarks exploded in recent years as Congress spent freely and lobbyists enticed university presidents with the prospect of fat checks from Uncle Sam.
In 2003 The Chronicle of Higher Education tallied that year's academic earmarks at just over $2 billion, more than six times the $296 million Congress inserted in 1996.
Advocates of academic earmarks say they create a sort of affirmative action program that gives smaller schools some of the money that would otherwise go to prestigious research universities.
But critics say that the practice dodges peer review, a rigorous process intended to ensure that only the most worthy proposals are funded. They note that earmarked projects begin with political sponsorship and seldom receive independent analysis. Clever local politics, they say, trumps smart national policy, at a heavy cost to taxpayers.
The practice is so controversial that some schools refuse to accept earmarks as a matter of principle. In October, the prestigious Association of American Universities issued a statement asserting that its members "have a responsibility to support a strong research program based on merit and should refrain from seeking or accepting earmarks that put merit-reviewed funding at risk."
James Savage, a University of Virginia professor and former government relations official in the University of California system, cites Loma Linda University, in the district Jerry Lewis has represented for 27 years, as one of the earliest and biggest recipients of earmarks.
In a 2001 study, Savage found that the Seventh-day Adventist school had received $150.6 million in earmarks since 1988. That placed Loma Linda, with an enrollment of 3,000, among the nation's top 10 academic recipients. Most of the other schools in the group were also in states represented by top members of the Appropriations Committee.
CSUSB's Young acknowledges that without earmarks his school wouldn't have much chance competing with larger schools.
"We would not receive the type of funding and have the programs we have if all of it was peer review," Young said. "We have a tremendous competitive disadvantage."
In 2000, Lewis and several other members of the California congressional delegation tried to get an earmark for a $20 million building on the San Bernardino campus to honor the late Rep. George E. Brown, whose district included San Bernardino.
But Brown's widow rejected the honor. She noted that her husband, a physicist, was a fierce critic of academic earmarking.
"Money that is diverted by Congress to fund earmarks comes out of the hide of other programs – publicly debated, peer-reviewed, carefully scrutinized programs," Brown said in 1993, when he was chairman of the House Science Committee. "This is not a legitimate way of funding science programs."
The earmark for the campus building failed, but the school continued to benefit from other earmarks.
Since 2002, the school and the San Diego State University Foundation have used a series of earmarks in the Navy budget to form the Center for the Commercialization of Advanced Technology, which operates out of both schools and tries to find nonmilitary markets for new technologies.
Frea Sladek, the foundation's chief executive, declined to be interviewed about its earmarks or its relationship with the Lowery firm, which the foundation pays about $200,000 a year. She directed questions to a spokeswoman who said the foundation, a private nonprofit, did not feel obliged to respond to the queries.
In an interview, Lewis praised Shockey's work for the San Bernardino campus.
Before Shockey began lobbying for the school, he said, "They didn't know how to put together a proposal that logically fit into the mix in the Appropriations Committee."
Lewis said he played no role in Shockey's success.
"Once he left my staff he was on his own," Lewis said. "He hasn't been advocated by me."
When Lewis became chairman of the full appropriations committee in January, Shockey left lobbying to become the committee's deputy staff director.
Last month his alma mater held a champagne reception to honor Shockey and two others as distinguished alumni for achieving "a high level of success in their chosen profession."