UC President Headlines Unprecedented Political Fundraiser

Janet Napolitano supports Hillary Clinton for President, becomes first UC President to publicly campaign for nominee while in office

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Current UC president and former secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, headlined a fundraiser on Sept. 20 in support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — making her the first UC president to actively campaign for a presidential candidate.

Napolitano is the first, likely because endorsing or contributing to a candidate as a public official is against the guidelines put in place by the UC’s Office of General Counsel. While the guidelines explicitly state the university may not endorse any candidates, officials may do so but “should use care to avoid confusion between private and public roles.”

UC President Janet Napolitano (right) speaks during the January regents meeting at UCSF.
UC President Janet Napolitano (right) speaks during the January regents meeting at UCSF.

UCSC employees must abide by a similar policy, as they may support candidates as private individuals but may not use university resources, like paid-time or facilities, to do so.

“She is doing this, not in her role as UC president, but as a private citizen,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein in an email. “Her affiliation with UC, for example, was not mentioned in the announcements of the fundraiser.”

The Silicon Valley event was hosted by Entrepreneurs for Hillary. The online invitation labeled the event as a conversation with the “former secretary of homeland security and former governor of Arizona,” without any mention of her current role as UC president. Admission cost anywhere between $500 to $10,000 a person.

Hillary Clinton and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom greet rally attendees in San Jose on May 26. Stephen de Ropp
Hillary Clinton and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom greet rally attendees in San Jose on May 26. Stephen de Ropp

Napolitano has a political history with Hillary and the Clinton family that long precedes her career with the university. In 1993, she was appointed attorney for the district of Arizona by then-President Bill Clinton. The Clinton’s support was also said to be vital in Napolitano’s campaign to be governor of the state. As secretary of homeland security for four years under the Obama administration, Napolitano also served alongside former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“To the extent that it’s unprecedented, though, I would say that’s hardly surprising,” Klein said. “At least inasmuch as it is unprecedented that the university president is a former governor with a distinguished past political career of her own and whose last position was as a high-level presidential appointee.”