University of Michigan Regent Andrea Fischer Newman shared this additional statement following the publication of a story today in the Detroit Free Press:
I love the University of Michigan and have been honored to serve its students and community. Transparency and accountability are two of my core principles, which is why I was appalled that today’s Detroit Free Press story made such an egregious overstep in the manner in which it connected unrelated and distant events.
To say this mortifies me would be an understatement, and it’s important that you understand the complete set of facts.
I recently learned that over my two decades of service, I received campaign donations from two people whose firms managed University of Michigan endowment investments and one person whose son managed University investments. Virtually every campaign donation came years after any vote by the Board — all of which were unanimous and public when they did occur. Suggesting a connection between the two is an irresponsible stretch, and the timing of events makes that very clear.
It’s critical to understand that we are talking about a total of three public votes that were all approved unanimously and in open meetings years ago — one in 2000, one in 2004, and one in 2011. The timeline is an essential component to understand the real story. The entire Board process has been completely public and transparent. No reasonable person who understands the university investment procedures could draw a connection between a unanimous decision nearly two decades ago and a publicly disclosed show of campaign support in recent years.
While this is all legal under Michigan law and the donations were properly reported, I am keenly aware that perception matters in public life, especially in this time of declining trust in social institutions. And as a longtime defender of ethics and transparency, it’s my duty to protect that. That is why, after learning about the contributions from the Detroit Free Press, I returned all campaign contributions to Mr. Robertson, Mr. Ross and Mr. Graham.
The story also mentions a very close friend of mine that has contributed to my campaigns over the years — Ira Harris and his family. Ira is a strong believer in the University and has served as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee. The Harrises do not receive any money from the University and I do not invest with Jon Harris’s fund. Their inclusion in the story is gratuitous.
As a Regent at the University of Michigan, I have always based decisions solely on what is best for the institution. The University is transparent in its investments, which are available in the public record. The Board has a high degree of confidence in our investment professionals who research, identify and conduct due diligence on the investments that are brought forward for the Board’s review.
It’s disappointing that the Detroit Free Press would put together a sensationalistic report clearly designed to support its questionable narrative that there are deep flaws in U of M’s investment portfolio.