November 12, 2014
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Scam: Websites Promising Jobs And Medicaid Are Instead Bait for For-Profit College Telemarketers

A network of U.S. marketing companies run glossy websites promising jobs, health benefits, food stamps, and heating assistance, sites with names like or But according to former employees of a company connected to these operations, the real purpose of these sites is a classic bait-and-switch: to get low-income people, single mothers, veterans, and unemployed older people on the telephone and push them into high-cost for-profit college programs.

Based on the accounts of these employees, and documents they have provided to Republic Report, the operations may well be in violation of federal statutes prohibiting deceptive marketing and unwanted telephone sales calls, as well as Department of …

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March 28, 2014

Which For-Profit College Lobbyist Are You?

I’ve just published a new 100-page e-book, Stealing America’s Future: How For-Profit Colleges Scam Taxpayers and Ruin Students’ Lives. You can buy it for 99 cents on AmazonI hope you’ll read it, because it is a critical moment for Americans to examine and speak out on the issue of for-profit colleges, the trade schools that bombard us with advertising promising students a better future through careers in fields like medical assisting, auto repair, and information technology.

Some of these schools do a good job training students for careers. But many of …

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November 18, 2013
Outside the room where the Department of Education holds its rulemaking sessions. Two of past three Assistant Secretaries for Post-Secondary Education later became lobbyists for for-profit colleges.
Outside the room where the Department of Education holds its rulemaking sessions. Both people who served as Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education under George W. Bush later became lobbyists for for-profit colleges.

Finally, A Chance To Curb the Abuses of For-Profit Colleges

This morning, in a packed room on the 8th floor of a K Street building, the U.S. Department of Education resumes talks in pursuit of a “gainful employment” rule aimed at penalizing for-profit colleges that leave students deep in debt and without decent paying jobs. It’s called a “negotiated rulemaking,” bringing together representatives of schools, students, and others, but the parties are too far apart for there to be a successful negotiation. Instead the discussions are sharpening the debate, and have pushed the Department toward articulating its own increasingly solid set of rules that might actually be strong …

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August 31, 2012

On HuffPost: To Get Better Policies, Expose Corrupt Politics

Huffington Post published this piece by me yesterday, as part of its Shadow Conventions series:

To grasp the harms caused when money dominates politics, start with for-profit colleges. This industry tripled in size during the last decade, spurred by deceptive recruiting practices, after its lobbyists loosened federal rules aimed at protecting students and taxpayers from fraud. It has become a monster, a league of Wall Street corporations and private equity-owned firms that get 86 percent of their revenues — $32 billion a year — from taxpayers.

While some for-profit colleges are honest and work to educate their students, many charge sky-high …

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July 27, 2012

Unions Contract Out to Lobbying Firms That Work for Anti-Worker Groups

The following is a joint investigation of In These Times and Republic Report.

By Mike Elk and Lee Fang

As labor seeks to communicate its message in the media and influence policy, many unions are looking to outside consultant firms. These groups sometimes provide the technical expertise, media suaveness, and necessary connections for unions to get their message out to the right audience. However, a recent joint investigation by In These Times and Republic Report reveals that several millions dollars of union members’ dues have been going to firms that are actively working against labor’s top priorities on behalf of business interests. In some cases, …

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June 21, 2012

Why Are a Former President of the MacArthur Foundation, and Former Governors Kean and Rendell, Paid By a For-Profit College Group?

Why would a leader with a good reputation affiliate himself with an industry that has a bad reputation?  If you’ve visited this website before, you might suspect that money is involved. And you’d be right.

On May 29, the New York Times published an editorial calling for government action to address spiraling college debt. The Times editorial noted that, with respect to one type of school, for-profit colleges, “a staggering 54 percent of those who had borrowed to pursue a bachelor’s degree had dropped out” and that dropouts from such schools were more likely to be jobless.

A few days later, the …

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May 15, 2012

This Is Why You’re Fat: The 2012 Farm Bill And The Real Obesity Lobby

Nearly half of all Americans will be obese by 2030, researchers reported at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Weight of the Nation conference in Washington earlier this month. 42 percent of us are projected to be obese, placing a huge strain on our already compromised health care system. Brian Fung at The Atlantic points out that the healthcare costs of obesity — $550 billion over the next two decades — is more than the U.S. Department of Defense asked for in its fiscal year 2013 budget.

There are a lot of reasons — chemical, psychological, environmental — …

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April 17, 2012
Infographic from the New York Times on fundraiser access to the White House

Journalists Begin To Take Notice Of Unregistered Lobbying Phenomenon

As we’ve noted, one of the biggest problems in Washington is the level of secrecy in lobbying. Communications consultants, lawyers, fundraisers, and other political professionals produce public pressure campaigns and make back room deals without ever registering as lobbyists, so the public is constantly left in the dark about who is really shaping our government. President Obama’s call to ban registered lobbyists from his administration, while steeped in good intentions, made the problem worse because many lobbyists simply deregistered, further enshrouding the corporate influence industry in secrecy.

Major media outlets are beginning to probe the problem:

— Over the weekend, the New …

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