Liberty University could lose tax-exempt status after shocking recording went viral: columnist
Jerry Falwell Jr. (left) and Donald Trump (right). (Image via Falwell's Twitter)

Conservative Liberty University is potentially running afoul of the tax code by claiming to be a nonprofit organization while having a main goal of electing political candidates, according to a MSNBC columnist.

In a recording obtained by Politico, Liberty University President Jerry Prevo told Scott Lamb, who was then the university's senior vice president for communications and public engagement, that he wanted the university to be more effective at political activity.

"Are they getting people elected? Which is one of our main goals," Prevo said. "Are they really motivating our conservative people to really get out to vote? If they are, we ought to be seeing some changes in elected officials — and we are to some extent. All I want to do is to make us more effective."

Prevo was discussing the university's internal think tank, the Standing for Freedom Center, which describes itself as an organization dedicated "to uphold[ing] the Christian faith and defend[ing] America's Constitution."

Prevo's remark could have major implications for the school, MSNBC's Steve Benen reports.

"Under federal tax law, Liberty is a 501c3 institution — which is the same tax-exempt designation given to houses of worship and non-political charitable organizations. As far as the IRS is concerned, the evangelical university is entitled to its tax-exempt status because it's a school, focused primarily on education and spiritual matters," Benen explained. "The revelations in the Politico report are important because they call Liberty's purpose into question. If the school exists to influence election outcomes, then it's not entitled to a tax exemption."

Read the full report.