While AU Asks IRS to Investigate LU, LU Presses For Its Own Polling Place

Back in 2008, we noted several times how Jerry Falwell Jr. sought to do what he could to deliver the state of Virginia to John McCain, from refusing to accommodate local Obama rallies while hosting McCain rallies to registering thousands of Liberty students so that Liberty University “could go down in history as the college that elected a president.”

Despite Falwell’s efforts, he couldn’t deliver the state for McCain but a year later Liberty was able to take credit for delivering a Republican to the House of Representatives.

And now Americans United for Separation of Church and State is asking the IRS to look into Liberty’s partisan activities:  

“We have documented a clear pattern of partisan intervention orchestrated by top Liberty officials,” said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. “I believe the evidence is clear that Liberty officials have violated the law.”

AU’s letter – the result of more than three months of investigating – makes the following allegations:

• Falwell and other university officials used Liberty Champion, ostensibly a student publication but one that is actually subject to university control, to run a series of articles attacking Valentine and endorsing Garrett.

• University officials twice arranged for a “voter guide” published by the Virginia Family Foundation to appear in the Champion. The guide distorted Valentine’s views and was stacked to endorse Garrett. Copies of the Oct. 27 issue of the newspaper were mailed to all Lynchburg residents.

• On Election Day, Ergun Caner, a top university official, drove around campus with the College Republicans, rounding up voters.

• Falwell and other Liberty officials later boasted that their actions had swayed the election to Garrett. They have vowed to intervene in future elections.

“This is one of the most blatant and dishonest attempts to influence an election by a non-profit religious organization I have ever seen,” Lynn said. “We hope the IRS acts swiftly to stop Liberty’s overt partisan politicking.”

In semi-related news, due to the massive increase in voters in the district due to Liberty’s annual registration drives, LU has been pressing the Lynchburg City Council to move the polling place to somewhere that can better accommodate the crowds – i.e., somewhere that Liberty owns, like Thomas Road Church or a local LU-owned shopping center.

But the city council does not appear particularly keen to place the polling place in Liberty U’s hands and so, of course, Falwell and LU students are outraged:

Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. is denouncing City Council’s recent rejection of two LU-backed polling place sites as a “travesty” designed to suppress the LU student vote.

“It’s obvious to me the goal was to discourage as many Ward III citizens from voting as possible,” Falwell said, renewing LU’s concerns that Lynchburg First Church of the Nazarene, the current leading contender for the new voting location, is inaccessible and unsafe.

“You have to ask yourself what is the motive of the five Democrats on council in choosing a difficult-to-find church on a residential road that is not equipped to handle this kind of traffic,” Falwell said. “Something smells bad.”

Falwell, who said his students were angry and offended over the way this has been handled, said Nelson’s motion was nothing more than a “little game.”

“It was all designed to kill it (LU’s recommendations) without coming out and saying it,” he said. “It was transparent, and our students see through it.”

“I think you’re going to see much more turnout among the students in May than you would have if they had just chosen a safe, convenient polling place … The site they did choose does just the opposite. It makes it more difficult and more unsafe for people to vote.”

LU’s Student Government Association sent out a notice and set up a Facebook group urging students to attend the hearing Tuesday.

In those messages, the association described the upcoming City Council elections as the most important in LU history and said the “anti-Liberty folks” on council appear to be trying to dilute their influence by choosing a bad polling place to discourage them from voting.

“It is important you attend this meeting. This outrage must be stopped,” read the e-mail, which noted that buses will be provided to take students to the hearing.

Anyone want to place any bets on whether Liberty decides to use its local voting power in future city council elections to try and take out council-members who won’t do its bidding?