June 26, 2014
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U.S. Gas Exports Flow Through DC Lobbying’s Revolving Door

Even as President Obama pursues an aggressive new public effort to fight global warming by regulating U.S. power plants, his administration is quietly advancing an energy policy — exporting America’s liquid natural gas (LNG) — that may well raise the volume of climate-increasing greenhouse gases even more than emphasizing coal, while at the same time polluting U.S. communities through increased use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracking. (The American Petroleum Institute notes that “a government-industry study found that up to 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing.”) Worse, …Continue Reading »

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June 6, 2014
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Obama Task Force on Chemical Dangers: Strong Enough?

Last year, a devastating chemical plant explosion in the town of West, Texas,  killed 15 people and injured 160 more.  The tragedy seemed to reawaken in President Obama a determination to improve safety and security at America’s industrial chemical facilities, whose dangers, from catastrophic accident or terrorist attack, led him, as a Senator, to call them “stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country.”  Obama spoke movingly at a memorial services for the Texas victims.  And he issued an executive order directing federal agencies to develop a plan for action to prevent future disasters.

The President’s task force, minutes …

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May 6, 2014

Suze Orman Warns Against Private Student Loans, Yet Teaches at University of Phoenix

Last year I reported that Suze Orman had been hired by the University of Phoenix to teach an online personal finance course and had appeared at a Capitol Hill event where she promoted the school, which is the largest for-profit college in the country.  It was difficult to understand how a woman who proclaims herself “undeniably America’s most recognized expert on personal finance” could accept such a role when, for many people, enrolling at a for-profit college can be the worst financial decision they make in their entire lives.  While some graduates …

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April 28, 2014
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For-Profit Colleges Spend Big On Lobbyists to Fight Obama Regulation

With the May 27 deadline approaching to submit comments to the U.S. Department of Education, big for-profit colleges are pulling out all the stops to gut the Obama Administration’s proposed “gainful employment” rule, which is aimed at curbing predatory career training programs.  Taking some of the $33 billion a year they’ve been getting from taxpayers, the industry is spending big on lobbyists, with a continued heavy emphasis on hiring former Members of Congress and ex-Capitol Hill staffers. Buttressed by a steady flow of campaign contributions from the for-profit college industry to legislators, these lobbyists lean on their former …

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February 22, 2014
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WOW: You Won’t Believe What This For-Profit College Lobbyist Just Said (and Did)!

Steve Gunderson, the former congressman (R-WI) who heads APSCU, the lobbying group for America’s for-profit colleges, seems to be getting desperate. The industry he represents is seeking once again to block the Obama Administration from issuing a “gainful employment” rule that would, eventually, cut off federal student aid to career training schools that consistently leave their students with overwhelming debt.

But in contrast to the last time this fight occurred, in 2010-11, in this round the dispute is taking place against the backdrop of mounting law enforcement investigations and whistleblower lawsuits against the industry, greater public awareness of …

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October 15, 2013
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Who Owns The Awful Corinthian Colleges? Wells Fargo, Marc Morial, Pension Funds

Last Thursday, California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, sued Corinthian Colleges, one of the country’s biggest — and worst — for-profit college companies, for “false and predatory advertising, intentional misrepresentations to students, securities fraud and unlawful use of military seals in advertisements.” Harris’s lawsuit claims that Corinthian, which operates the schools Heald, Everest, and Wyotech, deceived prospective students, investors, and accrediting agencies about its graduates’ job placement rates and other critical information. Five years ago, the company paid $6.6 million to settle similar claims by the California AG, but the bad behavior allegedly did not stop.

Corinthian, which gets about 90 percent of its …

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August 6, 2013
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Bezos’s Purchase of the Post Leaves Graham with Kaplan For-Profit College

Among the many questions raised by Jeff Bezos’s purchase of the Washington Post newspaper is: What will become of the rest of the old Washington Post Company, publicly traded and run by the Graham family?

The fact is that the Post Company was already dominated, in several respects, by its lucrative Kaplan education subsidiary, which includes the Kaplan for-profit college division, as well as a standardized test preparation business.

Kaplan accounted for 55 percent of the Post Company’s revenue last year. By the time of a long, tortured 2011 Post newspaper investigation of how Kaplan had come to dominate the …

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May 30, 2013
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What I Just Told the Obama Administration About For-Profit Colleges

The U.S. Department of Education is now engaged in a series of public hearings on higher education issues, including reforms to curb the abuses of predatory for-profit colleges. It is also accepting written comments from the public.  I attended the opening hearing last week in Washington, DC, and I tweeted (May 21) about the powerful presentations of reform advocates and the stonewalling strategy of for-profit colleges.  For several years I have been in touch with numerous former students and staff of for-profit colleges. Some have filed with the Department harrowing accounts of deceptive and abusive practices by these …

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