According to a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Liberty University may have violated the law by hosting Sen. Ted Cruz‘s campaign announcement earlier this week:
The letter adds that Liberty can’t plead ignorance about the purpose of Cruz’s speech since he announced his candidacy on Twitter several hours earlier.
Liberty University is a tax-exempt organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. As such, it is prohibited from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Yet it is difficult to view Liberty’s choice to allow Sen. Cruz to hold a campaign rally on campus as anything less than an endorsement of his candidacy, notwithstanding the university president’s perfunctory disclaimer to the contrary.
Indeed, it appears that Sen. Cruz chose Liberty because it offered him certain advantages, and Liberty was more than happy to work in coordination with the senator to assist his cause. Sen. Cruz wanted potential donors and conservative voters to believe that he has the support of thousands of young people at the largest Christian university in the world. And Liberty helped sell that idea by making attendance at the senator’s rally mandatory for students. (In fact, anyone who failed to show up without an approved excuse faced a fine of $10.)
Non-profits cannot engage in partisan politics, but how could anyone argue this was anything besides that? If the IRS continues ignoring groups, like churches, that violate the law on a regular basis, why bother having the agency in the first place? They’re leaving countless millions of dollars on the table by shoving these violations under the rug.