Report: Liberty Gave Millions to Conservative Groups
Liberty University gave millions of dollars to conservative groups in recent years, and a politically involved think tank on campus has continued spreading right-wing talking points and convening key players with an eye on future elections, according to a new report.
The conservative evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va., gave $2.2 million to the Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2018, reportedly for nonpartisan voter education, according to Politico. It also gave $300,000 payments to the lobbying affiliate of the conservative Heritage Foundation, the conservative group Citizens United and the Christian activist group Vineyard Outreach America.
Liberty’s former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., spent millions without the knowledge of its full Board of Trustees, according to the report. But a Liberty spokesman said the board’s executive committee, which can take action without the full board, gave the go-ahead for the payments.
Politico also explored issues raised by previous reporting on advertising done by the Falkirk Center, a Liberty think tank created in 2019 by Falwell and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. The advertising approaches the blurry line of what is and is not allowable for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations like Liberty, which are not allowed to back political candidates for office under federal law. Falkirk has spent more than $50,000 on advertising that Facebook identified as political this campaign season, often featuring President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, other conservative candidates or right-wing themes.
Falkirk has continued to hit similar themes since the election, tweeting a Nov. 19 call to “Defy the petty tyrants and their foolish dictates, and go enjoy a time of Thanksgiving with your loved ones.” Politico also reported that the center distributed information about allegations of voter fraud that have not proven true after the election and that one of its podcasts featured a Liberty professor — and former Republican Kansas attorney general — saying state legislatures could act to pick their own representatives to the Electoral College or otherwise take action that would result in Congress, not popular vote totals, deciding the presidential election that Joe Biden won.
Last week, Virginia pastors and evangelical leaders gathered with leaders at Liberty and Falkirk for a two-day event to discuss upcoming 2021 state elections, Politico reported, citing an agenda it obtained.
Liberty has defended the center’s actions as aligned with its evangelical Christian mission, with a spokesman arguing its spending and activity are nonpartisan.