Liberty University has been running ads in Iowa that are supposedly intended to recruit new students but feature Newt Gingrich praising the university. But this is purely coincidental that it just happens to be right before the Iowa caucuses in which Gingrich is running.
LU says the ad is a commercial for the school, not Gingrich or his campaign, and is just one part of the university’s larger national marketing strategy.
But other sources suggest the ad’s timing and prominent showcasing of Gingrich was an attempt to boost the former House speaker’s profile in Iowa for the caucus.
The New York Times’ political blog, The Caucus, reported that Gingrich’s cash-strapped campaign was getting an assist from “well-financed allies” in the form of LU and the conservative magazine Newsmax, which aired a 30-minute special about Gingrich over the weekend.
While neither TV spot carried an express endorsement for Gingrich, The Caucus said both had “pro-Gingrich messages” and “appeared intended to help the former House speaker win the caucuses,” which Iowa will hold tonight.
As a tax-exempt institution, LU is barred from campaigning for political candidates. But Mat Staver, dean of LU’s law school, said he’s confident the ad is on sound footing.
“The ad is not designed to endorse Newt or anyone else,” Staver said in an interview Monday. “…We’re not speaking about his positions. We’re not comparing him to another candidate. We’re not promoting his election.”
“In fact, it’s to the contrary,” he said. “Rather than Liberty endorsing Newt Gingrich, Newt Gingrich is speaking favorably about Liberty.”
Yeah, this is totally not a signal to the predominately religious right Republicans in Iowa that Gingrich is one of them and it’s okay to vote for them. Nothing to see here. Move along.