Feenstra, big ticket conservative donations define faculty political donations

Sam Landstra – Co-Chief Editor


Since the 2002 election cycle, Dordt University faculty donated $8,614 to 62 individual candidates and organizations.

While the majority of the total donation amount funneled to and from Rep. Randy Feenstra, 112 donations of less than $50 comprised the majority of left-leaning donations.

Given 73 percent of the total donation amount supported Republicans, the university faculty contrasts their counterparts. According to a 2019 study by the National Association of Scholars, American professors donated to Democrats over Republicans at a 95 to 1 ratio.

In addition, the total donation amount of $8,614 doesn’t compare to the faculty donations of larger universities. For example, since the 2002 election cycle, UCLA, Harvard, and Yale professors often donated more than $1 million per year .

Though The Diamond publicized the individual donations of administrative cabinet members, we kept anonymous the individual donations of faculty members, given their  job standing at the university in comparison to the cabinet.

Similar to the administrative cabinet, The Diamond searched the databases of the FEC, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB), and OpenSecrets, a non-profit.

The Randy Feenstra effect

In 2019, Rep. Randy Feenstra declared his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives after serving in the Iowa Senate for three terms. 

From 2017 to 2020, Feenstra taught business courses at Dordt University, donating $3,986 to his own campaign and other conservative politicians and organizations during that time.

Since the 2002 election cycle, donations to or by Feenstra totaled $4,411, accounting for 13 percent of all faculty donations and 51 percent of the total donation amount.

A closer look: Steve Holtrop

While a ten-year-old Steve Holtrop put his pennies and dimes in a bronze piggy bank of John F. Kennedy’s bust, the Dordt University Professor of Education hasn’t “really admired” any U.S. president. He saw Nixon impeached in grade school, “didn’t respect” Clinton, and thought Obama was “condescending.”

When then-presidential candidate Donald Trump said, “I could… shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” in the B.J. Haan Auditorium, Holtrop was “appalled” at Sioux County’s “blanket approval” of the soon-to-be president: “I thought we all knew what a fraud and a charlatan he was”

Still, Holtrop donated to the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 election cycle: “My contributions and my involvement… is more to try to curtail Trump than to promote the Clintons or Bidens.”

During the same election cycle, Holtrop made 45 donations to 28 democratic candidates and organizations. 

Specifically, the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia represented “a strategic opportunity to prevent disaster.” There, Holtrop donated $126 to Democrat Raphael Warnock, who won the seat.

In addition, the department chair of Dordt University’s graduate studies program put his pennies and dimes towards U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield and Stop Republicans, an accountability campaign of the Progressive Turnout Project.

“We need to be responsible for our families, but we also need to be responsible for our communities,” Holtrop said.

Holtrop and his small-ticket, strictly Democrat donations exemplify the small-ticket, generally Democrat donations of the faculty. While Holtrop averaged $15 per donation, the faculty averaged $16 for donations to Democrat candidates and organizations.

Also, similar to how Americans registered the highest voter turnout in history for the 2020 presidential election, three times as faculty members, including Holtrop, donated in the 2020 election cycle as compared the previous years. Notably, Holtrop did not “click [his] credit card numbers” in any other election cycle.

Holtrop was “pleasantly surprised” the majority of donations went to liberal candidates and organizations and thought the fewer, big-ticket Republican donations outspending the more frequent, small-ticket Democrat donations represented the American electorate. 

“I think your earthy, crunchy, tree-hugging, poor person artists in Iowa City are going to have strong feelings but only have pennies to give,” Holtrop said.”

While the “patriotic” kid who once walked the Paul Revere trail in Boston, Mass. every year is “very cynical right now and very frustrated” with the American political system, he envisions a multi-party system: “They always talk about the lesser of two evils and that doesn’t seem like the best way for the richest, most advanced democracy in the world.”

Editor’s note: A number of faculty members (e.g. library staff) were not included in this chart.

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