Monmouth University has been put in a precarious positions and is in jeopardy of losing its IRS tax exemption status thanks to Middletown’s extremely partisan Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger.
On October 19th the good mayor, who moonlights as an adjunct professor at Monmouth University, used Monmouth’s email system to write a partisan letter of support for Pam Brightbill and Tony “the fibber” Fiore, the Republican Candidates for Middletown Township Committee. This letter also contained biased and untrue claims against their democratic opponents.
In his partisan zeal, he then emailed this letter which was titled “message from the mayor”, to a dozen of his fellow Middletown republicans and asked them to forward it to as many residents as possible.
(click here for larger view of email)
As an organization exempt from federal income tax pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Monmouth University is prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening (including the publishing or distributing of statements) in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office. Even activities that encourage people to vote for or against a particular candidate on the basis of nonpartisan criteria are prohibited. According to the IRS, whether an organization is engaging in prohibited political campaign activity depends upon all the facts and circumstances in each case.
A. While the University encourages students and employees to exercise their civic duty by registering and voting, and further encourages political debate and discussion, the University prohibits the use of University resources to support partisan political efforts. In addition, University policy prohibits the following.
- Employees are not permitted to utilize University resources to support political candidates. This includes the use of University letterhead, postage, e-mail accounts, message boards, or other University resources.
- Employees should not post political statements (e.g., bumper stickers) on University-owned vehicles or uniforms.
- No one is permitted to release the names of University employees or students to an outside party, including but not limited to providing such lists for political purposes.
- Campaign contributions on behalf of the University are not permitted….
The penalties that may be incurred by Monmouth Univ. because of the mayor’s senseless use of the University’s email system for partisan politicking is as follows:
A. If the IRS finds that the University has engaged in prohibited campaign activity, the University could lose its tax-exempt status and could be subject to an excise tax on the amount of money spent on that activity.
B. In cases of flagrant violation of the law, the IRS has specific statutory authority to make an immediate determination and assessment of tax. The IRS can also ask a federal district court to enjoin the University from making further political expenditures.
C. In addition, contributions to organizations that lose their section 501(c)(3) status because of political activities are not deductible by the donors for federal income tax purposes.
In the coming weeks it will be interesting to find out just what the out come of this incident will be. Scharfenberger’s careless one-upsmanship and biased partisan politicking using Monmouth University’s resources, is clearly a violation of Monmouth’s policies that govern such activities and puts the university in clear danger of losing it’s tax exempt IRS status.
This incident is just the latest example of how ethically challenged Scharfenberger is.
Lets hope that Monmouth University decides to take the proper disciplinary actions against the mayor for putting the institution in such a potentially bad situation.