For those of you interested in the canine progress at St. Thomas, I have good news and bad news.

First, the good news: I have been upgraded from chief of Canine Complaints to director of the Department of Dog Advocacy.

From the many emails I got about my Dogs on Parade blog for The Scroll last September, I know that this development will be met with five wags out of five tails. Included with the emails were pictures of Amy Schwartz’s Flor and Fred the Yorkie, belonging to Carol Bruess. Very waggy tails. Jeri Rockett’s dog stopped chasing squirrels on the quad long enough to offer congratulations and support.

In this high political season, I have taken my promotion as a very positive sign of the boss’ interest in this issue. With this support, I immediately consulted with Stephen Colbert about the mechanics of forming a super Political Action Committee, USTPets, to further our positions on leash laws, dog pounds and pooper scoopers.

Colbert assured me that money could soon be rolling in from Purina, PetSmart and the Alliance of Veterinary Medicine. I am preparing my media ad campaign. For the centerpiece, I thought of Karen Batdorf’s Gucci poochie. The fashionista pup sports stylish cardigans and beachwear and dances to Tick Tock behind the circulation desk. Who could resist? I planned write-in dog-friendly initiatives for the South Carolina caucuses. I made posters for my window. And you will be glad to know that the USTPets super PAC will not sling mud; our groomers objected.

Now for the bad news – imagine my dismay upon reading general counsel Sara Gross Methner’s column today. To protect our non-profit 501(c)(3) status, I have to forego my political advocacy.

I totally understand this. We cannot jeopardize nonprofit status by engaging in campaigning, even on behalf of dogs. To do so could leave the university with a huge tax liability to cover, and this would not be prudent fiduciary responsibility on our students’ behalf. Still, Veronica Thouin’s fox terrier Chris is going to be so disappointed, and Mark Dienhart’s bulldog Winnie may refuse to slobber on me after I raised her hopes.  We were counting on that super PAC activity.

To make matters worse, South Carolina held its caucuses last month!

And, I have office windows facing the street – I can’t even put a picture of Taffy and Tootsie in my window with a catchy “Bark If You Like Dogs” headline. I wonder if I should try to lobby Steve Laumakis, with his quad-facing office, to take up the cause.

In the meantime, I will write letters to the editor (without using my fancy UST directorship title and new department affiliation), wear paw print buttons with discretion, and maybe see if Bo on Pennsylvania Avenue will come to campus for a yap session.


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3 Responses

  1. Teresa S. Collett, St. Paul

    As a fan of the newly created Department of Dog Advocacy, I was deeply distressed by the director’s announcement that the department must forego advocacy of reasonable leash laws, no-kill dog pounds and use of pooper scoopers

    Because the department is non-partisan, while the director, Dr. Alexander, was consulting Stephen Colbert, I was talking with Bill O’Reilly. Bill assured me that we could expect support from across the political spectrum for our platform, and I was hopeful we might even get time to make our pitch on both his and Colbert’s shows.

    In reading the UST policy I discovered this paragraph:

    “The university may take positions on public policy issues. However, it must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, if the university delivers a message favoring or opposing a candidate, it is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition. A political statement can identify a candidate not only by stating the candidate’s name but also by other means such as showing a picture of the candidate, referring to political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of a candidate’s platform or biography.”

    UST policy (and IRS regulations) defines “political campaign intervention” as “publication or distribution of written or printed statements or the making of oral statements on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate.” The emphasis is mine.

    UST general counsel has confirmed that the school’s policy and the IRS permit “issue advocacy,” but prohibit “candidate advocacy.”

    Happily, this means that the Dog Advocacy Department’s media campaign to promote pooper scoopers can go forward as soon as the department obtains funding. Sadly, however, it also means that Dr. Alexander and I can only show individual support for Taffy’s and Tootsie’s candidacy for the Ramsey County Animal Control Board, not as representatives of the University. Perhaps we should think about a candidates’ forum, even though that requires we give equal time to that despicable cat that is running. Sigh.

  2. Susan Stabile, Minneapolis

    I appreciate that your post may be intended as merely entertainment. Nonetheless, it does not seem to me to be an accurate account of UST’s policy. The policy makes an important distinction (one allowed by IRS regulations) between issue advocacy and candidate advocacy. The former is clearly permitted by law and UST policy, while the latter is not. Your post can be read to suggest that our policy prohibits both.

  3. Donna Baisden

    Enjoyed the column, Susan – made me smile, which is a nice way to start the day!


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