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Ohio State spent $60K on lobbying in 1st quarter

Ohio State focused its lobbying efforts on energy, innovation and the economy during talks with Congress to start the year.

OSU spent $60,000 lobbying during the first quarter of 2011. Spending decreased from the $90,000 the university spent during the same time period in 2010, according to reports from the Office of the Clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When there are more things at stake … you have to spend more time,” said Richard Stoddard, associate vice president for government affairs at OSU. “We end up dealing with whatever is on the congressional agenda. We didn’t spend as much time direct lobbying because there wasn’t as much on the agenda.”

On April 12, The Lantern reported that OSU spent $220,000 on lobbying expenses in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

OSU lobbyists addressed various issues throughout 2010, but focused on the federal budget, taxes and science and technology. In 2011, OSU continued supporting budget and copyright bills from 2010.

The America Invents Act, formerly known as the Patent Reform Act of 2011, was one of the bills OSU focused on in the first quarter, according to the Office of the Clerk’s report.

According to opencongress.org, this bill would attempt to make the first person to file a patent the owner of their product instead of the first person to invent the product. This bill passed in the Senate on March 7 and is waiting for the House of Representatives vote.

Stoddard said this bill would also provide federal funding to support professors and students in their research endeavors at OSU.

“That supports work in our laboratories on campus and class rooms on campus,” Stoddard said. “Graduate students and undergraduates are supported by that research fund.”

OSU also focused on House Bill 1425: Creating Jobs Through Small Business Innovation Act of 2011. According to the first-quarter lobbying report for 2011, the university is interested in provisions concerning university research.

OSU addressed provisions in HB 4899: Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 and Senate Bill 3206: Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010, regarding the federal budget relating to the Pell Grant shortage and education jobs, according to the second-quarter lobbying report for 2010.

The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to students working toward undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, politicians who are trying to decrease federal spending are targeting this program.

Sevy Harris, a first-year in electrical and computer engineering, said the money spent lobbying for Pell Grants would have been better spent on scholarships.

“It makes sense that (OSU) would spend all that money lobbying,” Harris said. “It’s unfortunate that that money won’t be used to pay for students to come to school.”

In 2010, OSU lobbyists focused on about 10 bills concerning issues ranging from clean energy to nanotechnology. The first-quarter lobbying report for 2010 said the university was most interested in provisions concerning research, education and training programs in scientific legislation.

“It affects us directly,” said Scott Hochberg, a first-year in chemical engineering. “As far as education issues go, I think they have the right to speak for the student body.”

Taxes were also a popular political issue for OSU in 2010 as lobbyists focused on about 14 separate bills concerning topics ranging from bookkeeping and college housing to tuition tax deductions and unemployment.

“Stuff like tuition increases … is more important to me because I deal with it day to day,” said Eric Rodgers, a first-year in security and intelligence.

According to the first-quarter lobbying report for 2010, OSU continued to work on the Public Good IRA Rollover Act of 2009 throughout 2010. According to the Congressional Research Service, this bill wanted to exclude individual retirement accounts from gross income distributions if they were for charity. The bill didn’t pass through Congress.

“It allows people that have IRAs to make contributions to the OSU development fund,” Stoddard said. “It allows people to give gifts.”

Grace Wannemacher, a first-year in microbiology, said she understood why OSU would pursue this political issue. She said this would give tax breaks to alumni who donate to the university.

According to opensecrets.org, OSU lobbyists focused on about 75 bills in 2010. About 32 were Senate bills, and the rest were sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.

OSU lobbyists also paid special attention to issues regarding immigration, small businesses and copyrights, patents and trademarks.

OSU’s stance toward immigration showed through its work with HR 3687, a bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. According to the first-quarter lobbying report for 2010, this bill wanted to eliminate the diversity immigrant program and re-allocate visas to immigrants who finish college degrees in the U.S.

“(OSU) should be focusing on … getting more students to college,” Harris said. “Opening the gates to more people will bring in better minds.” 

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