U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today seized on headlines about rich parents cheating their children into elite universities, declaring his intent to eliminate an old tax break that lets donors contribute to colleges while their kids are being considered for admission.
Wyden announced that he'll introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate to "end the tax break for donations made to schools before or during the enrollment of children of the donor's family."
His spokesman Henry Stern tells WW this will be the first time Wyden has introduced such a bill.
"Middle-class families don't have access to this back door for their children," Wyden said in a statement. "If the wealthy want to grease the skids, they shouldn't be able to do so at the expense of American taxpayers."
Wyden's proposal comes a day after the FBI charged more than 50 people in a massive sting that nabbed wealthy parents—including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin—who allegedly paid to rig standardized tests and create fake athletic achievements so their children could get into prestigious schools like Yale and the University of Southern California.
The alleged mastermind of the fraud, William Singer, described his scheme as a creative variant on existing practices for the rich to rig the admissions system.
""If I can make the comparison, there is a front door of getting in where a student just does it on their own, and then there's a back door where people go to institutional advancement and make large donations, but they're not guaranteed in," Mr. Singer testified, according to The New York Times. "And then I created a side door that guaranteed families to get in. So that was what made it very attractive to so many families, is I created a guarantee."
Today, Wyden pledged to slam the back door.
"While the prosecutor attempted to distinguish these crimes from payoffs in the form of buildings or stadiums to secure access for the undeserving, it is all part of the same corrupt system," he said. "The federal government shouldn't be perpetuating this system by awarding tax breaks to these contributions, contributions that return to the donor a benefit of inestimable value."