UPDATE: Students illicitly collect voter data for Hillary
A Campus Reform investigation reveals that several more Students for Hillary chapters flouted tax laws by using school resources to campaign for Secretary Clinton, including one that used a school facility to collect voter data.
“[We] ceased holding phone banks on campus...although this is not an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.”
In fact, the Students for Hillary chapter at Franklin and Marshall College explicitly noted in an advertisement for one of its phone banks that student volunteers would be calling “potential voters” to “collect data and increase voter turnout for Hillary” in her primary run against Bernie Sanders.
The phone bank was held in a university building where students would be required to use the college’s internet to conduct the phone bank, but Franklin and Marshall was unable to comment on whether or not such activity could threaten its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3).
The chapter itself also ignored inquires from Campus Reform, along with the dozens of other Students for Hillary chapters that Campus Reform contacted. The lone exception was the Washington University, St. Louis (WUSTL) College Democrats chapter, which eventually cancelled its upcoming SFH-themed phone banks because such activities violated the school’s policies on political activity.
WUSTL confirmed with Campus Reform that while it “encourages student efforts to become involved and engaged citizens,” student groups “may not use university resources, services, and funds in any way that that suggests university endorsement or support of a particular political candidate or political party.”
“After review of the university’s guidelines, the student group decided to cancel similar planned events,” it added.
The WUSTL College Democrats nonetheless insisted that it is “confident that it did not violate the university’s policy concerning political activity on campus,” saying it only cancelled the events in order to put the matter to rest.
“We are permitted to use campus space like any Student Union sanctioned group, including our Republican counterpart,” the group asserted. “Still, in an abundance of caution, the College Democrats ceased holding phone banks on campus after September 26, although this is not an acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of College Democrats.”
Students for Hillary chapters at other schools, such as Georgetown University, likewise conducted multiple phone banks in university classrooms, potentially violating school policy and threatening the university’s tax status.
The Georgetown group, known as Hoyas for Hillary, held phone banks on September 20 and September 22 in Car Barn and ICC, both of which are academic buildings on campus.
According to The Hoya, political groups with university recognition (such as the College Democrats or College Republicans) may use university resources for incidentals related to campaign activity, but unrecognized groups are not afforded this same luxury.
“These rules apply only to organizations that receive funding from SAC, which does not include candidate-specific student political groups such as Hoyas for Hillary,” The Hoya wrote after an investigation into Georgetown’s campaign policy. “Hoyas for Hillary’s campaigning trips to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania in the spring were organized through Hillary for America, while the participating members funded another trip to Iowa last January.”
Moreover, the article notes, “university resources cannot go directly to funding partisan political campaigns.”
Hoyas for Hillary held another phone bank on October 13, although this event was held in conjunction with the College Democrats, which still may have violated university policy because recognized student groups are prohibited from “misrepresentation specifically designed to gain access to university benefits, especially facilities, for any person or group that would be otherwise ineligible for such benefits or eligible at a less favorable rate.”
Since October 13, all Hoyas for Hillary phone banks have been held in residence halls and university-owned apartment buildings rather than classrooms, suggesting the group either lost access to academic space or realized that it had violated school policy.
Campus Reform reached out to the Georgetown University Center for Student Engagement but did not receive a response by press time.
This ongoing investigation by Campus Reform has already revealed that close to fifteen schools could have had their tax-exempt status threatened due to the actions taken by pro-Hillary student groups.