TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Are college fundraisers exempt from open-records statutes? That’s a claim without foundation.

A public university system sets up a fundraising arm to collect donations, entirely staffed by public employees and operated out of a government office building.If you don't see how that fundraising unit can be exempt from the disclosure laws that apply to government agencies, you're not alone.Neither did the attorney general of North Dakota,Wayne Stenehjem, who told the North Dakota University System that the records of money collected and spent by the North Dakota University System Foundation are a matter of public record and must be disclosed on request.In a ruling issued June 25, Stenehjem explained that there is essentially no separation between the university system and the privately incorporated "foundation" that the university system established in 1991 as a vehicle for receiving donations.The analysis was pretty much of a no-brainer, since the foundation has no staff or offices of its own, is run by board members who overlap with the State Board of Higher Education, and exists almost exclusively for the purpose of providing a vehicle to reimburse university system officials for expenses beyond what state law allows.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: It’s easier than ever to find out what private colleges, foundations and athletic associations are spending

The way that the IRS regulates nonprofit organizations is much in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. These headlines are a reminder that any nonprofit organization -- including a private college -- must make extensive disclosures to the IRS that are a matter of public record.A must-have document for anyone doing research on a private university, or the privately incorporated arm of a public university such as a foundation,  is the annual IRS Form 990.