Faculty in the News
Moritz College of Law faculty members are increasingly finding themselves in the spotlight as reporters seek them out for expert comment on today's headlines. The topics cover a wide range, such as the death penalty, artificial insemination, and voting machines. Just as varied are the locations of the publications or news outlets, ranging from small town newspapers to wire services with international distribution.
The following is a list of selected media coverage for Moritz faculty members. The links below will direct you to sites that are not affiliated with the Moritz College of Law. They are subject to change, and some may expire or require registration as time passes. Contact Barbara Peck, Chief Communications Officer, for any media requests at (614) 292-0283.
Donald B. Tobin Media Hits
The following is a list of selected media coverage for Donald B. Tobin. The links below will direct you to sites that are not affiliated with the Moritz College of Law. They are subject to change, and some may expire or require registration as time passes. (Return to Faculty Bio)
Professor Donald Tobin was interviewed by the Boston NPR station on its show Here & Now about the Internal Revenue Service's investigation into groups classified as social welfare organizations (marked by the 501(c)(4) tax classification). The IRS was in search of groups that are not focusing primarly on the social welfare of the country, but have a strong political advocacy facet. Political advocacy groups might want to be classified as 501(c)(4) organizations because under that classification they do not have to disclose their donors.
"The key is if you going to be engaged in candidate-type advocacy, and if you're going to intervene in elections and engage in election advocacy, we want disclosure of who your donors are," Tobin said.
“What groups are trying to do here is avoid having to disclose,” Tobin continued. “By earning the classification of social welfare, they’re avoiding the campaign disclosure that’s required for political organizations. So that’s really the underpinning of why we have this mess of the IRS having to get in and investigate and figure out whether an organization is political or not.”
A Fine Line Between Social and Political
May 16, 2013
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a New York Times article about the law regarding investigation by the Internal Revenue Service into social welfare groups. The article circulates on Section 501(c)(4) groups (tax-exempt social welfare groups classified as having no political affiliation), which are defined by the tax code as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” However, a 1960 law states that these groups can intervene in politics as long as their primary focus is on social welfare.
Tobin argues that the tax law actually defines political advocacy much more broadly, “using a facts and circumstances” test that political ads placed by Section 501(c)(4) groups would fail.
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Bloomberg Businessweek article about a scandal caused by the Internal Revenue Service’s review of political nonprofit groups. IRS employees had used keywords such as "patriot" and "Tea Party" to flag groups for extra scrutiny. In March 2010 a surge in Tea Party activism had led groups to form across the country, and some applied to the IRS to become 501(c)(4) organizations or social welfare groups.
Tobin said the benefits of 501(c)(4) status mean that the IRS can’t simply look at the organization’s stated purpose.
“You’re trying to get behind what people are saying and make sure what people are saying is really the truth,” he said. “That can seem very invasive but at some point it needs some kind of information about the group to determine whether it’s valid or it’s not.”
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in an NBC News article about the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny on certain types of independent advocacy groups. Such groups were flagged by the IRS for further investigation for if they had names such as "Tea Party."
Tobin, an expert on how tax laws apply to political activity, explained that “the IRS is always in a very precarious position” in trying to enforce rules on 501(c)(4) organizations since “whenever a group is being investigated, it may complain that it is being done for political reasons.”
He went on, explaining that “the IRS needs some way of culling through the mass of information that they get” in order to figure out which groups need further scrutiny. “The IRS does need some sorting device.” But, he said, “I wish the IRS had looked for a neutral term like ‘party’ rather than ‘Tea Party.’”
Tax of today has long history on file
Apr. 15, 2013
Associate Dean Donald Tobin was cited in an article in the Columbus Disptach about the history of income-tax.
Wall Street Faults State Lobby Law
Oct. 10, 2012
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article on a new New York law that requires trade associations that lobby state government to publicly disclose their sources of funding. Banking and insurance groups are fighting against donor disclosure. "My gut tells me that New York would be able to say that there's a substantial relation between the disclosure requirement and an important government interest," Tobin said.
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in a Roll Call article about "dark money" in politics. The article focused on 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations who do not have to disclose donors, being used to fund political ads. Two such groups - Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity - have spent $173.8 million on campaign ads, which is more than the top four super PACs combined. Where the money came from is unknown. The article says Tobin favors requireing tax-exempt groups like the ones above to disclose contributions and expenditures over $25,000. "Tobin also suggests allowing for external complaints regarding abuses of tax-exempt status and putting enforcement in the hands of an independent, nonpartisan commission made up of former IRS veterans," the article said.
The Newark Star-Ledger quoted Professor Donald Tobin in an editorial demonstrating how Ann Romney and her horse Rafalca benefit from government benefits. "My wife does dressage. We have a horse and we can’t deduct anything, because it’s a hobby,’" Donald Tobin, a tax law expert at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, told Forbes. "When I’m doing something that’s just for fun and not intended to make money, why should other people be subsidizing it?"
Professor Donald Tobin was referred to in a Forbes article for his addressing the House Ways & Means Oversight subcommittee about tax-exempt charities. The article was about charities that abuse tax exemptions.
The article was also published by The Christian Science Monitor.
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in an article by Forbes, which inquired about taxes and Mitt Romney’s investment into Rafalca, a horse to be rode by equestrian Jan Ebeling in the dressage competition at the London Olympics.
“My wife does dressage. We have a horse and we can’t deduct anything because it’s a hobby,’’ Tobin said. “When I’m doing something that’s just for fun and not intended to make money, why should other people be subsidizing it?”
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in an Alaska Dispatch article that analyzed whether the John Edwards case will affect campaign finance laws.
“If we lived in a different world and this money had gone to a nonconnected valid (super PAC), there would be no problem here,” Tobin said of Edwards’ association with super PACs. “This was not express advocacy. … It’s not electioneering, and it doesn’t even feel like a campaign contribution.”
The article was also published by MinnPost.
Buying A Political Ad? Let A SuperPAC Foot The Bill
Mar. 16, 2012
Professor Donald Tobin weighed in on a National Public Radio article about the effects of super PACs on the 2012 GOP campaign, especially in regard to TV advertising. The article also ran online on Vermont Public Radio.
Tobin said, "One of the things that I think political scientists are going to look at is — is there a saturation point where you know there's just a law of diminishing returns ... you've reached everybody and they know your message and so shouting louder and longer doesn't necessarily help."
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Huffington Post article about the IRS investigating whether Tea Party organizations and perhaps political groups actually qualify for tax exemptions under the 501(c) (4) designation.
"The idea is to get the proper information from the organization so you can make the proper decision," Tobin said.
Secret money is funding more election ads
Feb. 8, 2012
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted by The Washington Post in an article about campaign finance and super PACs in the wake of the Citizens United ruling. A tax law expert, Tobin said political advocacy groups are taking advantage of a murky legal landscape between tax and election laws.
He argues that many of the social-welfare groups now spending big on campaigns are flouting the intent of tax laws, which did not envision groups formed solely to dance on the line between issue advocacy and direct participation in elections.
“There’s no way that Congress expected groups like Crossroads GPS to be social-welfare organizations,” Tobin said. “They used to be groups that were focused on social welfare and did a little politics on the side. This has turned that idea on its head.”
Kasich seeks taxes on oil, gas drilling
Jan. 18, 2012
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in an article in the Columbus Dispatch regarding Governor John Kasich seeking to tax oil and gas drilling.
“The question is whether the tax is at such a level to discourage the activity,” Tobin said.
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted on a Center for Responsive Politics blog about the possibility of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations having their status revoked for intervening in political campaigns. "Lots and lots of things that would not be considered 'express advocacy' by the FEC, the IRS would consider intervention in a political campaign," Tobin said.
I.R.S. may tax gifts to groups active in politics
May 12, 2011
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in the New York Times, MSNBC.com, and other media outlets about the possibility the IRS may tax political contributions to certain types of organizations. “There are a whole heck of a lot of people misusing (c)(4) groups as a means of getting around campaign finance regulations, and we lack a coherent system of laws to deal with that,” said Donald B. Tobin, a legal expert on campaign finance and tax laws at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. “Now here’s a stick, frankly, that says there are consequences for doing that.”
Secret Cash Dominates in State Court Races
May 12, 2011
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in Business Week about the increase in unidentified donors contributing money to state judicial races. Anonymous contributions are legal in both Michigan and Ohio—and that's the problem, says Donald B. Tobin, a professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law who specializes in campaign finance. "Whenever you have a lack of disclosure, you have a feeling of corruption or the feeling that you're not getting a fair day in court."
Stakes are high in tax battle over Ohio casinos
May 10, 2011
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in the Chillicothe Gazette regarding the battle between the state of Ohio and casino developers over taxes. Donald Tobin, a tax law expert at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, said casino developers are vulnerable on CAT because casinos are a new industry to the state, with no established precedents in Ohio law or general business practices. "Ohio courts are only bound by the law developed in Ohio," Tobin said. "It's an interesting case. The court is going to have a more difficult time interpreting the law given the lack of previous history and court decisions (regarding casinos in Ohio)."
Democrats opt for pragmatism on secret donors
Apr. 29, 2011
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted on MSNBC in an article about political ads run by 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations. “The problem with highly connected people like Karl Rove or Bill Burton forming these groups is it is hard to believe that successful politicians will have no idea who gave to the independent organizations," Tobin said. He continued, "but that doesn’t mean that a successful president will not know who his friends are. “This clearly raises significant concerns regarding the corruption of money and politics. You have situations where donors and candidates know of the support but no one else. Large, secret, contributions are a recipe for abuse and corruption.”
Five 2012 story lines to watch in 2011
Apr. 28, 2011
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in an MSNBC article about the top five stories to watch for in the upcoming presidential election. Under number four, New Channels for Money, the story said: "Donald Tobin, an expert on the intersection of tax law and campaign finance law and a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, predicts 'an amazing explosion of these 501c4s in 2012.'”
Former TV anchor glad she challenged IRS
Apr. 3, 2011
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in a Columbus Dispatch article about a local television anchor who challenged an IRS ruling that prohibited her from deducting the cost of clothes and other business expenses on her taxes. The decision doesn’t surprise Donald B. Tobin, associate dean of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Tobin teaches a class on federal income-tax law and uses the case of a saleswoman at a high-end clothing store as an example. In that case, the saleswoman argued that she had to wear clothing from the store while she worked, but that she never would have worn it otherwise, so she deducted the cost as a business expense. The IRS disallowed the deduction. “It only cares about whether you can use it, not if you actually do use it,” Tobin said.
Professor Donald B. Tobin recently published an Opinion Editorial in Roll Call about CEOs contributing company funds in support of political candidates. The piece states: “A corporation can have a business purpose for making a political contribution, and such a contribution would not necessarily violate the executive’s fiduciary duty to the shareholders, but the CEO cannot make a contribution from the corporation that is based solely on the CEO’s friendship with the candidate. CEOs simply cannot use the corporate treasury as a personal piggy bank.”
Professor Donald Tobin was recently mentioned in The Christian Science Monitor is a story about massive campaign funding organizations that use the tax law to protect the anonymity of their donors. The story states: “What could the IRS do about it? According to Ohio State tax professor Donald Tobin, quite a lot actually. (Thanks to the TaxProf blog for posting this). It could subject the donors to the gift tax. It could reclassify these groups as Sec. 527 organizations, which would require them to name their sugar daddies. It could sanction the lawyers who give the green-light to these outfits. Another option: The IRS could sanction the SuperPACs themselves and make them pay tax on those funds they improperly contribute to campaigns.”
Republicans' secret formula — 501(c)(4)
Oct. 21, 2010
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story editorial about the use of 501(c)(4) organizations in political campaigns. The story states: "‘The IRS ought to act, but this is not their fight,’ Donald B. Tobin, a professor of tax law at Ohio State, told me. ‘Their mission is to collect revenue, not to regulate political campaigns.’”
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in a Minnesota Independent story about a ministry linked to the Republican Party of Minnesota that has called the execution of gays “moral.” The story states: “Donald Tobin, a professor of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said, ‘In light of how blatant some nonprofits have been, this seems like it’s the lesser of the blatant.’ He said the IRS looks at all the facts and circumstances to see if a nonprofit has intervened for or against a candidate for office.”
Professor Donald Tobin was mentioned in a Wall Street Journal story about “quirky” tax breaks. The story states: “This provision has some twists. Donors to 529 college-savings plans may bunch up to five years of annual gifts—as President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, did for their daughters a few years ago. If circumstances change, the donor can withdraw the money with little or no penalty, says Donald Tobin of Ohio State University.”
Filing errors keep candidates off ballot
Sep. 3, 2009
Donald Tobin was quoted in a Columbus Dispatch article regarding the technical errors made on ballets by several candidates for the Columbus City Council election in November. The story states: "Bexley resident Donald Tobin, an associate dean at Ohio State's Moritz College of Law, said the intent of the law seems to be to keep somebody from running in two forms, or running in the general election as a write-in after losing in the primary. An advisory from Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office in 2007 said the law applies to people who have filed to run for an office, even if that filing was rejected and they never actually were on a ballot. The result, Tobin said, is that people who make a technical error on a petition to run get tossed out. 'You have a law that is being interpreted in a way that actually hurts the process,' he said. 'The people who lose are not just the candidate, but also the people who wanted to elect that candidate.'"
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in an article on Columbus Local News web site about a Westerville man’s refusal to pay school property taxes citing that the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled the state’s school funding system unconstitutional. The story states: “ ‘The supreme court's rulings in DeRolph v. Ohio don't invalidate local rules on the collection of property taxes,’ said Ohio State University law professor Donald Tobin, associate dean for faculty.
‘What they said was that the formula used by the state for school funding was unconstitutional, but they did not invalidate laws requiring citizens to pay property taxes,’ said Tobin, who specializes in tax law.”
Voteless suburbanites feed city treasury
Aug. 1, 2009
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in a Columbus Dispatch article on the proposed income tax increase in Columbus that will have an affect on suburbanites, though they cannot vote on the issue. The story states: “Washington, D.C., is the only place Tobin could think of where it's illegal to tax people who live in the suburbs. ‘It's not necessarily completely fair, but it's constitutional,' he said. 'And it's not bad to pay Columbus. I live in Bexley, and Bexley wouldn't be anything if Columbus wasn't sitting next door.’”
Opponents question Ohio governor on slots revenue
June 23, 2009
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in an Associated Press story regarding Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s proposal to implement slot machines into the state’s lottery. The story states: “But Ohio State University law professor Donald Tobin said opponents were ‘in a bind’ because Ohio law gives the Legislature the ability to expand the lottery.”
Nashville pastors shun national pulpit protest
Sep. 30, 2008
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Tennessean story that was also published in the USA Today about ministers around the country who purposefully endorsed presidential candidates from the pulpit, knowing that it possibly was a violation of their tax exempt status set by the IRS. The story states: “Ohio State law professor Donald B. Tobin, who specializes in tax and campaign finance, says if preachers want a tax break they have to live by IRS rules. ‘The Supreme Court has said that you are not entitled to a tax exemption,’ he said. ‘What is interesting to me is that churches feel they have a right to the benefit no matter what they do.’”
Partisan Sunday Sermons Test Federal Tax Laws
Sep. 29, 2008
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Wall Street Journal about U.S. ministers who endorsed presidential candidates from their pulpits. The story says: “Briefed on the content of the sermons by Messrs. Card, Emrich and Bacon, Donald Tobin, associate law-school dean at Ohio State University and a former Justice Department attorney, said they all broke the law. ‘He's using church resources in order to make his endorsement known. That's a violation,’ Mr. Tobin said, referring to Mr. Emrich in Wisconsin. ‘It's going to be very difficult for the IRS not to take action" against the protest, he said. ‘They may go after the most egregious....They can't in any kind of good administration of the Internal Revenue codes allow people to blatantly violate them.’”
Three courts clear way for early voting in Ohio
Sep. 29, 2008
Professor Dan Tokaji was quoted in an Associated Press story about three rulings in Ohio courts regarding a weeklong time that new Ohio voters can register to vote and cast an absentee ballot almost immediately afterwards. “‘There are some forces in the Republican Party that seem bound and determined to suppress the vote by any means necessary,’ said Dan Tokaji, an elections law expert at The Ohio State University who filed a friend-of-court brief siding with Brunner.”
Ministers plan pulpit protest over endorsement law
Sep. 27, 2008
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Detroit Free Press stories about ministers who were being encouraged to endorse presidential candidates from their pulpits. The story states: “Ohio State law professor Donald Tobin, who specializes in tax and campaign finance, says that if preachers want a tax break, they have to live by IRS rules. ‘The Supreme Court has said that you are not entitled to a tax exemption,’ he said. ‘What is interesting to me is that churches feel they have a right to the benefit no matter what they do.’”
Politics From Pulpit Will Deliver Challenge to IRS
Sep. 24, 2008
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Wall Street Journal story about U.S. ministers being encouraged to endorse a presidential candidate from their pulpits on Sunday. The story states: “Some experts say the churches are misguided, and their nonprofit status can be lawfully regulated. ‘Congress has created a provision’ to exempt churches from taxes, ‘and that provision has restrictions,’ says Donald Tobin, associate law-school dean at Ohio State University and a former Justice Department attorney. Churches ‘are obligated to follow them if they want the benefit.’”
TV ad backing gay marriage doesn't mention Prop. 8
Aug. 18, 2008
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story regarding a television advertisement backing same-sex marriages. The commercial’s producers say that the advertisement is not intended to defeat California’s Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriages in the state. “The ad calls on people to 'support the freedom to marry,' " said Donald B. Tobin, a professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and an expert on tax and election law. "In the midst of an initiative campaign, this kind of call-to-action advocacy should be seen as lobbying against the current initiative."
TV ad backing gay marriage doesn't mention Prop. 8
Aug. 16, 2008
Professor Donald B. Tobin was quoted in the Los Angeles Times in an article reviewing the legality of some campaign ads involving California's Proposition 8. "The ad calls on people to 'support the freedom to marry,' " said Donald B. Tobin, a professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and an expert on tax and election law. "In the midst of an initiative campaign, this kind of call-to-action advocacy should be seen as lobbying against the current initiative."
Obama Pastors' Sermons May Violate Tax Laws
Mar. 10, 2008
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Wall Street Journal story about the nonprofit organizations campaigning on behalf of presidential candidates. “Donald Tobin, an associate dean at Ohio State University law school, who formerly worked for the Justice Department on nonprofit tax matters, adds that nonprofits cannot make endorsements or engage in a ‘pattern and practice that is designed to support one candidate over another.’ After being read sections of the Trinity sermons by the Journal, he said, ‘There does seem to be a pattern of attempting to tip the scales in a way for Barack Obama. And churches shouldn't be doing that.’"
'Corporation sole' viewed as tax scam by experts
Oct. 1, 2007
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser regarding an IRS warning to self-proclaimed clergy members who are attempting to misuse a law to avoid paying federal income taxes. The story states: “Donald B. Tobin, a former U.S. Department of Justice tax attorney, said challenging the IRS on corporation soles is almost pointless. ‘Nobody has ever succeeded with one of these,’ said Tobin, who now teaches law at Ohio State University.”
Judge bails on lawsuit involving religion
July 28, 2007
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Columbus Dispatch story about a Franklin County judge’s decision to dismiss a case against a local pastor accused of taking nearly $1 million from his congregation. The story says: “(Judge Charles A.) Schneider's concern about getting involved in church matters is understandable, but he's taken a fairly broad view of what an ecclesiastical decision would be, said Donald Tobin, an Ohio State University law professor who specializes in nonprofit organizations. ‘Courts have been willing to intervene in order to ensure that church funds are not diverted for illegal purposes,’ he said.
Ministers back Blackwell, challenge IRS
Aug. 29, 2006
In a Columbus Dispatch article about Christian ministers publicly announcing their endorsement for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for governor and challenging an IRS crackdown on political activities by churches, Professor Donald Tobin said he saw nothing improper. He said the event was not held on church property and didn't employ church resources and the pastors emphasized they were speaking as individuals. "My call if I were their lawyer is that what they're doing is OK," Tobin said. "I think it's really important for those of us who don't like active involvement of churches in politics to recognize that there are still First Amendment issues that allow these pastors to speak out. And maybe it's an important thing for voters. Why is it bad for voters to know that these people ... support Ken Blackwell?"
Romney aided conservative groups
Aug. 17, 2006
Professor Donald Tobin is quoted in this Boston Globe story on Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's private foundation giving $50,000 in 2005 to two prominent conservative think tanks that have provided him with a platform as he readies for a potential run for president. "There is a political interest here that says why is Mitt Romney now giving his money to the Heritage Foundation and what is he trying to accomplish?" said Tobin. "But if I were a Republican candidate, it would absolutely make sense to give money to organizations that would promote issues I support."
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in this New York Times article about a little-known Senate lobbying proposal that would require the disclosure of money spent on the kind of grassroots campaigns that involve paying lobbyists to recruit large numbers of people to call or write or e-mail their lawmakers and press their views on, say, school prayer or trigger locks or greenhouse gases.
Read Professor Donald Tobin's op-ed piece in Roll Call that addresses the current controversy surrounding the filibuster and judges.
The Morning After: Ohio As Ground Zero
Nov. 3, 2004
Professor Donald Tobin was interviewed on Democracy Now concerning provisional ballots.
Bloomberg reported possible legal battles that could be fought after the election. Professor Donald Tobin said that a lot of the disputes were worked out beforehand.