California Representative Ted Lieu donated more than $50,000 from his campaign fund to Stanford University right before his son was accepted to the school, raising ethical concerns.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings revealed that Rep. Lieu gifted a total of $51,046 to his alma mater from February 2016 to June 2018. The donation raised a few eyebrows after his son’s social media accounts confirmed his acceptance to Stanford’s Class of 2025, suggesting possible admissions favoritism due to the gift.
Fox News reported that the financial gift raised scrutiny after a Twitter user posted about it. However, Twitter later suspended the user’s account and screenshots of the filings.
Uh. This is very bizarre. The account that tweeted about @tedlieu making contributions to Stanford out of his campaign account – and Lieu’s son now attending Stanford – has been suspended. pic.twitter.com/49h1qlWHRI
— Luke Thompson (@ltthompso) August 11, 2021
Legal Versus Ethical Concerns
The FEC states that while a candidate can give campaign funds to charitable organizations, the funds may not provide a personal advantage to the candidate.
Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith said that upon review, Lieu’s actions might raise ethical concerns. However, it does not automatically mean that the politician has done something illegal.
“In reality, it’s relatively common for parliamentarians, especially senators who may have accumulated large amounts of election money, to provide large sums of money to their alma mater,” he said.
A spokesperson from the Center for Responsive Politics, the group that runs the campaign finance watchdog organization OpenSecrets, told Fox News that campaigns are legally allowed to donate funds to colleges and universities. However, this is mostly common among lawmakers retiring from their positions.
“Campaigns can and do donate to charities and universities from their campaign funds, but it’s more common when a member is retiring and has leftover cash,” the spokesperson said in a Thursday email.
It remains unclear if Lieu pushed through with the donations to benefit his son’s chances of admission.