Phi Beta Cons

How PIRG Scams Student Fees for Political Action

Leftists are unscrupulous when it comes to grabbing other people’s money and using it for their purposes. They’ve also become incredibly good at it, relying on their political allies to grease the rails so they can latch onto money, use it as they see fit, and avoid accountability.

We find this happening on many college campuses, where Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) siphon away student fee money for their off-campus activism. It’s an easy target, especially since most college officials are philosophical allies, quite happy to help the cause. In an illuminating article in the current issue of City Journal, “The PIRG — University Alliance” CUNY geology professor David Seidemann exposes this nasty business.

He reports that NYPIRG (that is, New York Public Interest Research Group) “raises more money than all other campus student groups and surreptitiously diverts those funds to its statewide lobbying operations. Compounding the problem, CUNY administrators exhibit blatant bias to promote the groups’s interests.”

The administration must know it’s doing something shady here because they refuse to allow any discussion of their role in funding NYPIRG, going so far as to shut off microphones and end a forum when members of the audience persisted in asking about NYPIRG funding.

Furthermore, NYPIRG has so wormed its way into CUNY that students can actually get credit for working on NYPIRG events and projects.

If you suspect that all of this is of dubious legality if not blatantly illegal, you have company. Seidemann’s faculty colleague Mitchell Langbert points out in a post on his blog, “Section 501 (c)(3) of the IRS Code prohibits education institutes from engaging in political lobbying or ideological advocacy, but here we have colleges funneling student activities money into direct political uses that are unrelated to student activities.”

I think there’s a strong case waiting for an attorney who really wants to promote the public interest.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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