TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, October 17, 2011

More on Michele Bachmann, Tax Geek

BachmannFollowing up on my prior posts (here and here): New York Times, For Bachmann, God and Justice Were Intertwined:

Michele Bachmann was 22 and newly married when, in the fall of 1979, she and 53 other aspiring lawyers arrived on the manicured campus of Oral Roberts University here. They were the inaugural class in an unusual educational experiment: a law school rooted in charismatic Christian belief....

Today, as a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota seeking her party’s nomination for president, Mrs. Bachmann often talks of her work as a lawyer, describing herself as a “former federal tax litigation attorney,” though not identifying her employer as the IRS. She points to her master’s degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, from a nine-month program in tax law.

But the far more formative experience was one she rarely discusses in front of secular audiences: the legal education she received at Oral Roberts University, founded by the Christian televangelist and Pentecostal faith healer of that name. It was, one fellow student recalls, a “Petri dish of conservatism and Judeo-Christian thought.” ...

She studied “legal institutions and values” with Herb Titus, a Harvard-trained lawyer who hears his philosophy in Mrs. Bachmann’s words.“Her belief is consistent with a biblical and a Christian understanding of the Constitution,” Mr. Titus said. ...

In 1986, Mrs. Bachmann graduated from law school and passed the Minnesota bar. That spring, Oral Roberts University turned its law school over to Christian Broadcasting University, now Regent University, founded by another televangelist, Pat Robertson. The law library was packed up and shipped off to the Regent campus in Virginia Beach. Mr. Titus became Regent’s founding dean.

Mrs. Bachmann went on to get her tax law certificate and join the IRS, for five years, handling run-of-the-mill tax cases, which mostly settled out of court. She tried just two cases, including one involving an American Indian who argued that treaties exempted him from paying taxes. (He lost.)

Mr. Titus says he can find a Christian perspective to tax law — “Go back to Romans: 13,” he said. “You only pay the government what the government is due” — although it appears that Mrs. Bachmann took the job mostly to help support her family. ...

“She doesn’t tout our school, obviously — she touts William and Mary, and you and I can understand why she does that,” he said. “If you run for public office, people say, ‘Where did you go to school?’ They’d like to see that your alma mater is still around.”

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