NASHVILLE - Current publicly appointed members of the Tennessee Board of Regents have contributed about $73,000 to state political campaigns from 2001, the bulk of it to Democratic candidates, according to campaign finance filings.
Just $4,250, or 5.82 percent, of the contributions went to Republicans, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press analysis of political contributions maintained by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan group.
The top Democratic beneficiary of the largesse is Gov. Phil Bredesen, who appoints the 12 public members to the 18-member Regents' board.
National Institute on Money figures show 10 of the 12 publicly appointed members collectively gave Bredesen's 2002 and 2006 campaigns a total of $25,298. That comes to 34.4 percent of the total $73,417 total given to candidates in the nearly 10-year period.
Asked about the contributions, Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said in an e-mail, "The governor has stated this in the past, and I'm happy to restate it to you now. He doesn't take political contributions into account when making his appointments."
Senate Republicans are curious about Regents' political giving, saying it seems none of the 12 public members appeared to be Republicans in spite of a law that says at least three members of the minority party are to serve on the board.
GOP lawmakers' interest was sparked when the Board of Regents earlier changed its requirements for a new chancellor to no longer require a doctorate and then named Bredesen deputy John Morg?an, who has no Ph.D., as the new chancellor.
Bredesen has said he was unaware of the law's requirement of bipartisan board appointments and has vowed to correct things. Senate Education Committee members will hold a hearing today.
Chairman Delores Gresham, R-Somerville, recently sent questionnaires to Regents members. Only two responded directly to Gresham's questions that included queries about political party affiliation and contributions. Others let the Bredesen administration submit answers that excluded those topics.
One of the two Regents members who did respond individually, J. Stanley Rogers, of Manchester, a former Democratic legislator, wrote that he is a Democrat. But he said it would be "very burdensome" to say how much money he contributed to candidates over the years.
"For over 40 years, I have contributed to practically every Democrat named for national, state and local offices," he wrote. "I have on occasion contributed to Republican candidates who were personal friends."
National Institute on Money in State Politics figures show Rogers gave $15,800 beginning in 2001. Of that, only $500 went to a Republican candidate. But Rogers never contributed to Bredesen.
Other Regents members who did contribute, according to the institute's database, included Howard Roddy, of Chattanooga, a one-time candidate for mayor. Roddy gave just $200 - to Bredesen's 2006 campaign, according to National Institute figures. He was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.
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