Paul L. Caron
Dean



Saturday, July 11, 2020

After Harvard And MIT Sue To Block International Student Visas For Online Courses, Trump Tweet Threatens Tax Exempt Status Of Colleges

New York Times, As Universities Seek to Block Visa Rules, Trump Threatens Tax Status:

Harvard and M.I.T. want a court to protect foreign students taking online classes. After a hearing, President Trump said he was ordering a review of universities’ tax-exempt status.

Trump

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/07/after-harvard-and-mit-sue-to-block-international-student-visas-for-online-courses-trump-tweet-threat.html

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Comments

You would think the left would learn. You take a swing at Trump, and he is going to pop you back. He is not a "Bush" republican.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Jul 11, 2020 8:08:33 AM

Ok, but where’s the lie

Posted by: Anon | Jul 11, 2020 11:16:03 AM

Although both the First Amendment and federal law - which prohibits the IRS from scrutinizing tax-exempt organizations “based on their ideological beliefs.” - would seemingly prevent President Trump from revoking the tax-exempt status of universities because of their alleged “Radical Left Indoctrination,” he might be able to seriously threaten their federal funding, or at least trigger federal investigations which, by themselves, can have a serious impact.

Interestingly, students or professors who are conservative, or for whatever reason support Trump’s policies, seem to have the power to trigger just such an action.

There have been numerous reports where state universities have allegedly violated the First Amendment rights of students, professors, and/or invited guest speakers - often those whose views oppose or even attack so-called “radical left” positions - and in some cases it appears that even judges have agreed.

In such a situation, any student or faculty member - or perhaps even an outside organization - might file a formal complaint - anonymous or otherwise - under Executive Order 13864 (issued March 21, 2019).

The order mandates that “to advance the policy described in subsection 2(a) of this Order, the heads of covered agencies SHALL in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, take appropriate steps, in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment, to ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.” [emphasis added]

The policy set out in Section 2(a) requires “compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions.”

The mandatory nature of the order was made very clear by the President’s remarks:

“Taxpayer dollars should not subsidize anti-First Amendment institutions. . . . Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech, not silence free speech. . . . protect the First Amendment and First Amendment rights of their students, or risk losing billions and billions of dollars of federal taxpayer dollars. . . . If a college or university doesn’t allow you to speak, we WILL not give them money. “ [emphasis added]

So a single simple formal complaint that a state university violated the First Amendment by unfairly impeding or even threatening to impede First-Amendment-protected speech which was critical of so-called “radical left” views, but was more tolerant and permissive of speech which aligned with such views, could trigger a formal federal investigation.

Federal investigations, even if there is little likelihood that funding will actually be terminated, can be very expensive, embarrassing, disruptive, and otherwise harmful to any university unfortunate enough to become subject to one.

Those who doubt that federal complaints and investigations can have a major impact on university policies need only look at the effect complaints filed by students under Title IX have had on university policies regarding date rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Naturally, students and faculty with” left-leaning” views can file similar complaints if there are similar violations on their campus regarding those viewpoints, but it remains to be seen if such instances are as numerous as those more frequently reported interferences with conservative views, or if federal agencies will treat them as equally serious and as warranting investigation.

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Jul 11, 2020 11:33:05 AM

Harvard takes five times as many legacies as ordinary applicants. That is enough to challenge its tax exemption regardless of this. Trump shouldn’t back down.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jul 12, 2020 3:09:09 AM

I knew I was scrolling through a LawProf John Banzhaf before I got to the byline.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 12, 2020 8:21:20 AM

It's weird how all of the outrage commenters here expressed over purported political IRS targeting by the Obama administration over the course of YEARS of DAILY Taxprof coverage, is completely absent here in the face of this naked and brazen desire by Trump to have the IRS target liberal organizations.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 13, 2020 8:51:54 AM

UT: "purported political IRS"

Which you called a conspiracy theory and a hoax, as I recall, even after Lois Lerner plead the 5th before Congress and the IRS issued an apology to a Jewish group for targeting it.

Contrast those actual government actions and admissions of guilt with Trump's tweets, which will cause no actions by the IRS, mark my word.

No hypocrisy on your part, of course, right?

Posted by: MM | Jul 14, 2020 7:42:24 PM

Read the second TIGTA report and get back to me. I'm sure you can find it in the >1,700 days of continuous Taxprof coverage of the purported Obama IRS scandal. If not, well, look it up yourself like an adult. There was no political animus found. Both liberal and conservative search terms entered by IRS personnel.

And if you really want to talk about statements to Congress, I'll remind you of how many felons the Trump admin has created by lying to it. And of course Trump was faaaaar too scared to talk to Mueller. So spare me the hypocrisy on your part.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 15, 2020 8:21:25 AM


UHT: "And of course Trump was faaaaar too scared to talk to Mueller. "

As I read his report, if he even wrote it, I recall Mr. Mueller stating that he chose not to subpoena the President because it would take too long.

And if we're on the subject of *false* statements to Congress, let me rattle some names off the top of my head: Brennan, Clapper, Clinton, Comey, Holder, Power, Rice. Quite the collection of Obama administration officials who aren't in jail for the very same offence that a handful of Trump campaign officials, some very low-level, were punished for. So much for equal application of the law.

Here are the official DOJ announcements that the IRS improperly targeted non-profit groups during the Obama administration, and in settling their claims of viewpoint discrimination. Hundreds of them, by the way, all conservative-leaning, and in one prominent case pro-Israel. Evidently, it was all just a big coincidence, because, after all, the federal government apologizes for this sort of political discrimination all the time:

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-jeff-sessions-announces-department-justice-has-settled-plaintiff-groups

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-announces-settlement-z-street-over-improper-irs-treatment

P.S. I maintain my position that nobody should waste his or her time verifying any assertions you make, as you cannot or will not do the absolute minimum to substantiate them. In other words, nobody should take your word for anything. I'd be reluctant to agree with you on tomorrow's weather report.

Posted by: MM | Jul 17, 2020 8:52:31 PM

UHT: "Read the second TIGTA report and get back to me."

P.S. I actually read the TIGTA report, and commented on it here at the time. It did not conclude what you claimed. The IRS was only found to have scrutinized so-called liberal groups in 2005-2006, during the Bush administration. And the volume then was nowhere near the collossal fishing expedition that Lois Lerner and the Obama DOJ went on:

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/10/the-irs-scandal-day-1612-inspector-general-finally-debunks-ideological-targeting-of-conservative-gro.html

Honest question: Do you get up in the morning with the intent to distort and misrepresent the facts? Because you just did that on like 3 different topics in one comment...

Posted by: MM | Jul 17, 2020 9:03:28 PM