ISU lobbies Congress for millions each year

Melissa Berg

Universities across the country are shirking traditional funding routes by lobbying for research money directly from the U.S. Congress, and Iowa State is among one of the top recipients of this federal cash.

In a study published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ISU ranked 22nd on a list of colleges receiving the most federal money from 1995 to 1999.

“A lot of colleges do a lot of lobbying for priority areas that the university deem important for that institution,” said Stuart Hadley, associate director of Governmental Relations.

Some of these institutional priorities may not be in departmental budget requests, but Congress finances them anyway through provisions added to bills called “earmarks.”

Nearly $20 million was given to ISU in individually earmarked funds and $26.5 million in shared earmarked funds.

Through this process, ISU has secured research dollars for many different facilities.

Projects such as the Center for Crops Utilization Research, the Linear Acceleration Facility, the Human Nutritional Center and the National Swine Research Center were subsidized by Congress.

Larry Johnson, professor at the Center for Crops Utilization Research, said the center received $14.5 million in earmarked funds for renovation of the facility and money to initiate research.

The research goal was to “find new uses to increase demand for corn and soybeans,” Johnson said.

Plates, spoons, golf tees and construction materials and adhesives were some of the products made from blends of soybean meal and polylactic acid from corn.

The center has not received any earmarks since 1990 and has since been funded through competitive grants programs.

ISU has received many more earmarks than any other state institution, but Hadley said this is because “the funding streams are different.”

There are more agencies funding programs more relevant to the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa and other Iowa colleges.

For example, the University of Iowa receives money from the National Institute of Health for its medical program.

“There are areas of extreme importance to Iowa State University where there isn’t necessarily competitive dollars available to fund research in areas where our scientists work,” Hadley said.

Hadley said he could understand criticism that Congress earmarks are negatively affecting scientific research.

“There are some who would feel that earmarking activities may not be the best thing, ” he said. “It depends on your perspective of what is a priority issue.”

Despite these concerns, Hadley said ISU has not been shy in lobbying for federal money.

“We haven’t been hesitant to go to our delegation and ask for funding in areas of ISU expertise,” he said. “If there is adequate funds out there, then we’ll lobby for adequate funding in areas of ISU need and the state of Iowa’s need.”

Hadley said even with intense lobbying from universities, Congress ultimately decides who receives the money.

“Congress has to decide how much [of our budget requests] they’re going to fund and how much other things they are going to fund,” he said.