June 5, 2012

Video: VA Democratic Party Chair, A Lobbyist For Predatory For-Profit Schools, Says He Can’t Cut Ties To ALEC

Video: VA Democratic Party Chair, A Lobbyist For Predatory For-Profit Schools, Says He Can't Cut Ties To ALECFor-profit college companies have been investigated for predatory business practices, providing worthless degrees with high levels of debt, and systematically deceiving tens of thousands of students. Yet these businesses continue to enjoy over $30 billion a year in taxpayer support, thanks to their elaborate use of lobbyists and political consultants. One of the leaders of this effort is Brian Moran, a lobbyist for the trade group the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU). Remarkably, Moran also serves as chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. Moran’s employer APSCU has repeatedly attacked the Obama Administration’s efforts to curb waste, fraud, and abuse by for-profit education companies. Last month, APSCU went as far to attack President Obama’s plan to shield veterans from predatory for-profit colleges with a history of defrauding members of the military and their families.

As first reported by Republic Report, APSCU is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate bill-writing front used by industry to lobby state lawmakers. On Saturday, Moran’s own Virginia Democratic party adopted a resolution to denounce ALEC, which has passed dozens of bills in Virginia to curb worker rights, deregulate pollution, and privatize government services.

The resolution pits Moran’s business interests as a lobbyist against those of his own party. Since we have covered both for-profit college lobbying and the influence of ALEC, we decided to travel to Fairfax last weekend to ask Moran about the conflict. Moran refused to take responsibility; at one point, he evasively described himself only as APSCU’s general counsel, when his actual title, as indicated on APSCU’s own website, is “Executive Vice President for Government Relations and General Counsel,” and Moran is frequently seen on Capitol Hill and in other corridors of power arguing for APSCU, which is charged with aggressively lobbying for the industry. In any case, Moran, placing business over party, refused to disassociate his lobbying firm APSCU with ALEC, telling us that he would not or could not take a position:

FANG: Your lobbying association, ALEC — I’m sorry, APSCU — is a member of ALEC. What do you think about the resolution here [the Virginia Democratic Party convention] denouncing ALEC?

MORAN: Uh, I’ve never attended an ALEC event. I don’t support the proposition that members of the legislature should wholeheartedly endorse or accept legislation written by a particular industry. I think legislators should exercise their own judgment of their conscience and that of their constituents.

FANG: Will your association, APSCU, quit ALEC?

MORAN: That’s not my own decision.

FANG: But you’re the top lobbyist for them–

MORAN: No, I’m not…

FANG: What’s your position? Head of government affairs?

MORAN:  General counsel. That is not my decision.

FANG:  You don’t do government affairs work?

MORAN: Yeah, but that’s not my decision–

FANG: That’s lobbying.

MORAN: But that doesn’t equate to being able to make that decision with respect to that.

FANG: So you’re not going to leave ALEC?

MORAN: I have no idea, it’s not my decision. […] You have attempted to put my hat on twice, you want me to be the chair of the party and APSCU at the same time. 

FANG: Uh, you are both. […]

MORAN AIDE: We’ll have to call security.

Watch it:

Moran’s claim that he has never attended an official ALEC function is meaningless. Moran’s own lobbying team has advertised its close relationship with ALEC. The APSCU website says that last year, the group worked with ALEC to develop a resolution celebrating the for-profit colleges that Moran represents —  and attacking Obama Administration rules aimed at imposing accountability on scam for-profit schools that leave students deep in debt and unemployed.

Moran’s lobbying job not only conflicts with his own party, it bring him into league with the GOP’s standard bearer. Mitt Romney’s recently disclosed education plan directly opposes the Obama Administration’s attempts to ensure that taxpayer money only goes to schools with some basic level of employment and earnings results. Asked how he reconciles his lobbying firm’s closeness with Romney’s positions over Obama, Moran deflected our question and ran to the bathroom.

Shortly after our ALEC conversation, Moran’s aides ejected Republic Report from the convention.