Prof exploits school email list to recruit for Hillary, Dems
- A professor at Wabash College used a campus-wide email listserv to exclusively promote Clinton’s presidential bid and solicit student volunteers to participate in campaign activities.
- The action could have jeopardized the school's tax-exempt status, which forbids the use of institutional resources for partisan political activities.
- Wabash has disavowed Prof. Mong's email and instructed him not to repeat the offense, and also sent out an email to all students reminding them that they cannot use school resources for political campaigning.
A professor at Wabash College used a campus-wide email listserv to exclusively promote Clinton’s presidential bid and solicit student volunteers to participate in campaign activities.
In an email obtained by Campus Reform, with a subject line of “Democratic Campaign Opportunity,” Professor Derek Mong invites the entire student body to join the “Wabash College Democrats and the Indiana Democratic party” for “a Get Out The Vote effort for this fall’s presidential election.”
He then notes that in order to “insure [sic] a large turnout for our candidates,” the party will be providing “rides up to Lafayette (Clinton’s campaign office) on Sunday November 6th and Tuesday November 8th” where any willing volunteers will help with phone banking and canvassing.
The email next explicitly lists precisely who “our candidates” are, naming Hillary Clinton as well as the Democratic candidate for Governor of Indiana, John Gregg, and two other Democrats running for Senate.
An anonymous source affiliated with the school pointed out that the email was sent using what is called the “everyone_list,” which he explained goes to everyone at the school, potentially constituting use of university resources to promote a political candidate.
Indeed, the Internal Revenue Code prohibits all 501(c)(3) organizations, like Wabash, from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
More specifically, the IRS notes that while “organizations may engage in some activities to promote voter registration, encourage voter participation, and provide voter education,” such activities “will violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention if they engage in any activity that favors or opposes any candidate for public office.”
What’s more, the policy’s discussion of prohibited communications specifically cites “whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office,” “whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election,” and “whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election” as decisive characteristics of political campaign intervention.
Finally, the IRS explains that 501(c)(3) organizations “may encourage people to participate in the electoral process,” as Mong did, but says they must do so “in a non-partisan manner,” specifically stating that “voter education or registration activities conducted in a biased manner that favors (or opposes) one or more candidates is prohibited.”
Wabash has since confirmed with Campus Reform that Mong was told “not to use the college’s email for any such purpose in the future,” saying the school “did not authorize his email” and he “was not acting on behalf of Wabash College.”
Additionally, Jim Amidon, the school’s director of strategic communications and chief of staff to the president, noted that “Wabash has also sent an email to all students and staff reminding them that college resources may not be used for political campaign activities.”
While Mong’s email explained that food and transportation would be provided, Amidon ensured Campus Reform that “no college resources will be used in connection with the events his email described.”
Campus Reform also contacted Mong for comment, but he did not respond in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski