University of Michigan may have violated tax law by sponsoring ‘Republican War on Women’ forum
A major public university may have violated its non-profit tax-exempt status on Monday when it sponsored a speaking event entitled “The Republican War on Women.”
Non-profit, tax exempt organizations, including the University of Michigan (U-M) are prohibited from engaging in partisan activities such as attacking or endorsing political parties or platforms.
U-M, nonetheless, sponsored a controversial forum entitled “The Republican War on Women” which featured four guests who were overtly hostile to the Republican Party.
According to the IRS, some non-partisan educational activities are permitted, but “voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”
Luis Garcia, a spokesman for the IRS, declined to say if the university would face repercussions for hosting the event, telling Campus Reform that federal law prohibits his office from commenting on any ongoing cases.
Brian Koziara, a senior adviser to the school’s College Republicans chapter, however, told the Michigan Daily that he feels this event falls under those restrictions and should not have received the university’s support.
“The title of this event really seems to be laying blame on Republicans and since it’s an officially university sponsored event, it seems like the university is taking sides on the issue,” he said.
Administrators, however, adamantly denied allegations that the event was partisan but would not provide a spokesperson to Campus Reform to further elaborate or comment.
“I want to make clear from the outset that this event is not intended to be political and the university is not in any way trying to suggest how anyone should vote in the upcoming election,” said Professor Deborah Keller-Cohen, who introduced the panel.
Throughout the event, panelists skewered the Republican Party and alleged that conservatives want to revoke women’s rights by eliminating access to contraception.
One panelist, Rebecca Traister, described herself at the event as a “super brow burning feminist lefty pinko liberal lady.”
Traister went on to claim that even one of Mitt Romney’s responses to a debate question regarding guns was an attack on women.
“Instead of talking about his belief on gun laws or incarceration he immediately went to ‘people aren’t getting married,’” she said. “That is a barely coded attack on women’s open sexuality.”
During the question and answer session, the panel drew criticism from a series of conservatives who took issue with the panel’s lack of political balance.
“Why do we not have a single republican woman or conservative woman on this panel?” asked Rachel Jankowski, president of the school’s college republicans chapter.
Speakers on the panel included The Nation writer Katha Pollitt, Jezebel blogger Anna Holmes, Salon writer Rebecca Traister, and Susan J. Douglas from U-M’s Department of Communication Studies.
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