February 21, 2021

Impact, or Coincidence? You Decide.

Impact, or Coincidence? You Decide.

Reflecting this Sunday, we noticed that recently a number of disclosures in Republic Report were rapidly followed by relevant actions undertaken by the targets of our articles — maybe minor, mostly cosmetic changes, but some progress. Were our targets feeling heat, or were these just coincidences? You decide.

1. We reported Friday that ultra-wealthy for-profit college baron Arthur Keiser appears to have taken control of tiny non-profit St. Andrews University, with a board of trustees now dominated by Keiser associates and not a single board member associated with the college or its town of Laurinburg, North Carolina. Four hours after we published, the St. Andrews website posted an announcement that the board of trustees had added one Frederick McCoy, Jr., “[a] native of Laurinburg” by a “unanimous decision.” 

2. We pointed out earlier this month that DC mega-law firm WilmerHale had posted a page where one of its most powerful lawyers, Clinton-family-Trump-family-oil-pharma-for-profit-college-banking-tech-police-department mouthpiece Jamie Gorelick, boasted of her close relationship with Joe Biden’s attorney general pick, Merrick Garland. Whatever was intended by this post, and whoever wrote and approved it, the page — “Ms. Gorelick was Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton Administration, and Judge Garland served as her top deputy. It was a working relationship and friendship that began at Harvard College….” — sure looked like a pitch to clients that Gorelick and Wilmer would be able to take care of your problems with the Justice Department in the years to come. A day after we published, that page was gone from the WilmerHale website.

In addition, an article soon appeared in TIME pushing back on the main point of our article, a matter that Politico covered six hours after we did: that Brian Boynton, a Wilmer lawyer who worked with Gorelick, and who has represented the for-profit college industry, had been hired by the Biden team to run the Justice Department’s powerful civil division — and in that role Boynton already had joined forces with a former top Trump Justice Department lawyer, now a private lawyer for Betsy DeVos, seeking to block a deposition of DeVos by lawyers for ex-students who were seeking debt relief because they had been scammed by for-profit colleges. Even though a federal judge had already decided that such a deposition was appropriate now that DeVos was out of office, and even though DeVos had expressed her vehement opposition to such debt relief, indicating that her testimony was relevant, Boynton and DeVos’s lawyer signed a brief calling the effort to depose her “a transparent attempt at harassment — part of a PR campaign that has been central to Plaintiffs’ litigation strategy from the outset.” Yet TIME somehow got spun to spout the absurd claim that the Biden DoJ blocking DeVos from giving evidence was “a return to civility… return to normal.. something to celebrate.”

Also, almost certainly another coincidence, an article soon appeared in the New Yorker painting a team of WilmerHale lawyers as champions of democracy (which they were) for preparing to take on Trump in a range of projected court battles over the election. 

3. In late January, we wrote about a website called “Nonprofit Colleges Online” that criticizes for-profit colleges with its text yet is dominated by a college search tool that was steering prospective students to for-profit colleges. Within a few days of us calling out this deception, for-profit colleges had disappeared from that lead generation website’s search results. 

4. On November 20, soon after both Politico and Huffington Post each reported that Timothy Shriver was under consideration for, and interested in, the jobs of secretary of education and deputy secretary of education in the Biden administration, we published an article pointing out that Kennedy family member Shriver, while he had done many fine, charitable things in his life, had long been paid to serve on and chair the advisory board of the private equity firm of Jeffrey Leeds, an investor in predatory for-profit colleges and a man who repeatedly hired prominent people to validate his efforts to block regulations to hold predatory schools accountable. On December 1, thirty-three organizations, and I, wrote to the Biden transition asking that the incoming president not hire people associated with predatory schools. Biden selected life-long educators Miguel Cardona and Cindy Marten to be education secretary and deputy secretary.

These all could have been coincidences. OK, not the one about Nonprofit Colleges Online. But it’s possible we had some impact, and the point I want to make is this: Republic Report thrives on tips — from whistleblower insiders, victims, crusading advocates, and anyone else who might notice something that looks corrupt or unjust. Outing abuses can trigger investigations or self-correction. Please keep sending tips — email: [email protected]. It might make a difference. Thanks.