September 9, 2019

THE ONLY KIND OF "CHRISTIAN" WHO CAN SUPPORT DONALD (deviance alert):

'Someone's Gotta Tell the Freakin' Truth': Jerry Falwell's Aides Break Their Silence: More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world. (BRANDON AMBROSINO, September 09, 2019, Politico)

In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2014 and 2015, Michael Cohen hired Gauger's side business, RedFinch LLC, to rig online polls in Donald Trump's favor while he considered a run for the presidency. Gauger's work consisted of writing a computer script to repeatedly vote for Trump in two online polls; his company would get paid $50,000 in return. Instead, Gauger told the Journal that after a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Cohen paid Gauger roughly one-fourth of that amount--between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash--and gave him a boxing glove worn by a mixed martial arts fighter.

Through his lawyer, Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for tax fraud, making false statements to Congress and violating campaign finance laws, declined a request to comment for this article.

Previously unreported about this incident is that Trey joined Gauger on the January 2015 trip to New York, and posted a photo to Instagram showing a large amount of cash spread atop a bed in a hotel room. Liberty officials who saw the since-deleted post and described its contents said it raised questions about Trey's involvement in the pro-Trump poll-rigging effort.

"The idiot posted [a picture of] money on a bed?!" one current senior Liberty official said. "Why do that if you're not involved with it?"

Liberty officials also pointed to a tweet sent out by the university's Twitter account on January 23, 2014, linking to one of the polls that the Wall Street Journal reported Gauger had rigged. The poll was conducted by CNBC and asked readers to vote for the top American business leaders.

As a nonprofit, Liberty University is legally prohibited from engaging in "political campaign activity," to use the IRS' phrase, at the risk of losing its nonprofit status.

When asked about the tweet, Falwell told me he authorized the university's marketing department to send it as way of thanking Trump for speaking at Liberty. "A representative of the Trump business organization asked for Liberty University to use Twitter to encourage followers to vote for Donald Trump in the annual CNBC poll. We often get requests from Convocation speakers to promote their books, movies, music and other projects. And we do it all the time," Falwell said. "After speaking for free at [a 2012 Liberty] Convocation and being so complimentary to our University in his remarks, I considered Donald Trump to be a friend of Liberty University and was happy to publicize the poll in hopes that Liberty followers would be willing to vote for him on the heels of his very positive recent campus appearance."

Falwell noted that at the time the tweet was sent, "Donald Trump was not a candidate for president and no one at Liberty even knew he would run for President." However, as the Wall Street Journal reported--and as several sources independently confirmed in the course of my reporting for this article--Cohen had hired Gauger, a Liberty employee, to rig the poll in Trump's favor for the purposes of garnering support ahead of his presidential bid.


"A 501(c)(3) organization trying to influence a poll so that a candidate's fortunes are promoted or demoted is not permitted," said Eve Borenstein, an attorney and tax expert known as the "Queen of the 990," a moniker used to introduce her ahead of congressional testimony she gave about the IRS Form 990 in 2012.

While 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to "do objective analysis of [an] electoral horse race," said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, "tweeting out a rigged poll if Liberty knew it was rigged probably does not fall into that safe harbor."

Liberty officials said that the arrangement is characteristic of how Falwell wields power. "This paints a picture of how Jerry operates," one former high-ranking university official said. "Gauger gets promoted, [Liberty] contracts for RedFinch for online recruitment ... and [Gauger] gets hooked up with people like Cohen to make more money via RedFinch." And in the end, Falwell gets what he really wants: "A guy that will do whatever he is told."


Michael Cohen's connection to Jerry Falwell Jr., veers into deeply personal territory.

In May 2019, Reuters reported that Cohen helped Falwell contain the fallout from some racy "personal" photos. Later that month, Falwell took to Todd Starnes' radio talk show to rebut the claims.

"This report is not accurate," Falwell said. "There are no compromising or embarrassing photos of me."

Members of Falwell's inner circle took note of the phrasing.

"If you read how Jerry is framing his response, you can see he is being very selective," one of Falwell's confidants said. Racy photos do exist, but at least some of the photos are of his wife, Becki, as the Miami Herald confirmed in June.

Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants--including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty--photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.

At Liberty, Falwell is "very, very vocal" about his "sex life," in the words of one Liberty official--a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support.

Posted by at September 9, 2019 6:53 PM

  

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