Conservative organization facilitates lawsuit fundraising
By William Schpero, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, April 25, 2008
A conservative higher education organization is raising money to support the Association of Alumni's lawsuit against the College, according to interviews with several leaders within the alumni political community. This appears to confirm allegations that individuals outside the College community are aiding the legal effort.
Members of the Association who voted to bring the suit have maintained that they are unaware of specific funding sources.
The Indiana-based organization, the Center for Excellence in Higher Education, serves to "educate the public about the state of higher education in America and help donors promote excellence in higher education through philanthropy," according to its web site.
The CEHE is funded in part by the John William Pope Foundation, a foundation that supports conservative causes.
The executive director of the CEHE, Frederic Fransen, said in an interview that several Dartmouth alumni contacted him following the initiation of the Association's lawsuit in the hopes that the he could help them make donations to the legal effort.
"A number of people had indicated they were afraid that if it became known they were in support of the lawsuit there would be sanctions from the College -- either their children or grandchildren would be punished [in terms of admission to the College] as a result of their association in support of the lawsuit," he said.
The donations are "overwhelmingly" from Dartmouth alumni, Fransen said, although he would not comment on whether other individuals had contributed.
Given the nature of the arrangement, Fransen refused to provide the names or number of alumni donors or to confirm how much money has been raised.
An e-mail allegedly from Fransen that was forwarded to Bill Montgomery '52 indicates that the CEHE has raised over $165,000 for the Association's suit and plans to raise at least $100,000 more. Montgomery, who provided the e-mail to The Dartmouth, has often been involved with alumni politics and is currently a member of Dartmouth Undying, a group that opposes the Association's suit. The e-mail was first made public when Montgomery read parts of it at an alumni meeting this fall.
"If you know of others who would like to give and would like to speak with me about the lawsuit, this particular funding mechanism, or other related issues, please put them in contact with me via e-mail, so that I can arrange a time to speak with them," the e-mail reads.
The Dartmouth has been unable to verify independently the authenticity of the message, although Fransen admitted that one of his e-mails about lawsuit donations had been made public.
Fransen denied the assertion that his organization is proactively soliciting donations, explaining instead that alumni approached him for help. His organization only created the mechanism to facilitate the donation process, he said.
The CEHE has reportedly established an account for alumni and other donors to make contributions at DonorsTrust, a Virginia-based organization that works to ensure that the philanthropists' intent is respected by the organization receiving the contribution, according to its web site. DonorsTrust, like the other organizations involved, has right-leaning political connections. Several of its board members have worked or currently work at conservative organizations, including the Cato and American Enterprise Institutes.
Messages left for DonorsTrust's executive director, Whitney Ball, were not returned by press time.
Fransen said his organization also focuses on preserving donor intent.
"We believe when people give money to a college or university, it is the legal and moral obligation of the university to do what they agreed to do," Fransen said, adding later, "We believe at the very least that the rights of the donors to have their wishes enforced is something that should be enforced in court."
Alumni speculated that the money raised by the CEHE is either going directly to the Association's Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Williams and Connolly, or The Hanover Institute, a non-profit organization that often criticizes the College and supports Association and Board of Trustees candidates with similar views.
John MacGovern '80, the institute's founder, could not be reached by press time.
Frank Gado '58, the liaison between the Association and its legal counsel, said Fransen approached him at a meeting of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, another conservative group, approximately two years ago. Fransen handed Gado a business card, telling Gado that he was available to help if ever necessary, Gado said.
Fransen confirmed that this meeting occurred.
Gado said he has only spoken with Fransen one other time by phone about an unrelated matter and that Gado has intentionally worked to remain unaware about how the lawsuit is specifically funded.
"The first I heard of the involvement of DonorsTrust in the lawsuit business was when I attended the Alumni Council meeting where Bill Montgomery spoke," he said.