Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a watchdog organization, has written a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, calling for an investigation into whether Liberty University officials used school resources to influence the outcome of a House of Delegates election in November.
Local spokesman David Cobb said that Americans United believed that there was evidence to support the claim that LU used the school’s official newspaper, Liberty Champion, and other resources in a partisan effort to elect Republican candidate Scott Garrett.
Garrett beat out Democratic incumbent Shannon Valentine by about 209 votes, largely thanks to returns from a precinct populated by Liberty University voters.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, called this the most “over-the-top” illegal politicking he has ever seen.
“This was an absolute, sleazy political operation,” he said. “Nothing more or less.”
Nonprofits under tax-exempt status, such as Liberty University, cannot engage in political politicking without being in violation of the IRS code, Cobb said.
Mathew Staver, dean of LU’s law school and founder of Liberty Counsel, called the organization’s allegations “bogus,” adding that LU’s students retain editorial control of the Liberty Champion and the paper provided fair and balanced coverage of the election.
Staver also said LU is considering filing a civil law suit for harassment against the organization.
LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said he felt Americans United had really “painted itself into a corner” with this complaint.
“Unless they now file a complaint against every university newspaper in the country that endorsed a candidate, our claim that they’re nothing but a partisan organization will be proven true,” he said.
Last May, Americans United asked the IRS to review Liberty’s tax-exempt status after the school withdrew its recognition of the official College Democrats club.
Hey theocrat Falwell Jr, you can politic all ya want. Go right ahead. Just don’t think that taxpayers should foot the bill for it.