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U.S. Gas Exports Flow Through D.C. Lobbying’s Revolving Door

by David Halperin, Republic Report.

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, the policy also could hurt U.S. consumers by raising energy prices.

As awareness of the harms of LNG exports has grown, public protests are increasing.  Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) charged last week that gas exports may be illegal. But the gas industry is using highly paid revolving-door Washington lobbyists, Democrats and Republicans, to push policymakers to accelerate these bad decisions. They also are using the Ukraine conflict as a hook, arguing that U.S. exports can reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia.

While the coal industry, once heavily bipartisan in its friendships, has increasingly deepened its love affair with the Republican Party, natural gas has become the Democrats’ fossil fuel of choice. White House senior advisor John Podesta earlier this year defended the decision to emphasize natural gas as a more-climate friendly source of power generation. But there’s a difference between producing gas for the U.S. market, which, despite all the environmental hazards, helps reduce energy prices for U.S. consumers and businesses, and shipping that gas overseas, which could produce a bonanza for big energy companies but potential harms to most everyone else in the U.S..

That doesn’t seem to concern the Democrats and Republicans alike who are cashing in as paid advocates for this gas rush.

The clearest example of how U.S. natural gas exports are flowing through the D.C. lobbyist revolving door is last week’s announcement that Heather Zichal, who until recently was President Obama’s deputy assistant for energy and climate change, was named to the board of directors of Cheniere Energy, Inc.  Cheniere, in 2012, became the first company to obtain the critical approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to export U.S.-produced natural gas overseas, from its Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana.

Zichal’s background is in politics and policy work, not geology, construction of energy facilities, or other private enterprise activity. Part of her appeal for Cheniere, undoubtedly, is her knowledge of how to influence the Obama administration, and her connections to Obama and his team; she is apparently highly regarded by Obama, who personally pressed her not to leave the administration. Cheniere’s statement of Zichal’s qualifications for board service is this: “Ms. Zichal has extensive knowledge of the domestic and global energy markets as well as the U.S. regulatory environment.” As an Obama official, Zichal already was advancing the cause of gas and fracking, and discussing the potential for LNG exports.

But a review of lobbying disclosure forms reveals that Cheniere is far from alone in hiring revolving door advocates for its cause.  Many of the Washington lobbyists who already have been pushing government to unleash the flow of LNG exports have high-level connections to the Obama administration or to senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The newest winner in the LNG lobbying effort is the giant natural gas holding company Sempra Energy, which last week became the second company to receive FERC approval, to export gas from its existing Cameron LNG terminal, located in Hackberry, Louisiana, and now used for gas importing.  Sempra, like Cheniere, already had cleared a separate hurdle from the Department of Energy to export LNG to countries such as Japan and nations of Europe.

Sempra has employed a battalion of DC lobbyists who, like Zichal, can take advantage of the connections they built working in government — a classic illustration of how ambitious people now use taxpayer-funded public service as a stepping stone to lucrative K Street careers where policy chops, persuasive skills, and D.C. connections are sold to the highest bidder.

Sempra’s lobbyists for LNG exports include:

  • A team at Ogilvy Government relations, whose website makes it easy for corporations to select the right lobbyists by color-coding their headshots, blue for Democrats and red for Republicans. Ogilvy took in $60,000 from Sempra for lobbying Capitol Hill and the Department of Energy on LNG exports and “general energy issues” in the first quarter of 2014. The Ogilvy lobbyists include: Moses Mercado, who is a former deputy executive director at the Democratic National Committee and 2004 campaign adviser to now-Secretary of State John Kerry and has donated about $248,000 to political candidates over the past 15 years; Dean Aguillen, a former aide to Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and donor of $175,000 to politicians over 15 years; Gordon Taylor, who worked as a House of Representatives staffer for both Democrats and Republicans and has donated over $200,000 to politicians in the past 20 years; Chris Giblin, former chief of staff to Rep. John Carter (R-TX) and donor of some $236,625 in the past 15 years; and Dee Buchanan, former chief of staff to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).
  • David Leiter, the president of ML Strategies, a former Senate chief of staff to John Kerry and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy. His firm got $30,000 from Sempra in the first quarter of 2014 to lobby the House, the Senate, the Energy Department, the Commerce Department, the White House and Kerry’s State Department on LNG exports. In the past 20 years, Leiter has contributed some $137,116 to politicians, almost all to Democrats, but also, in 2010, $1000 to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), now the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
  • Lisa Epifani, a former Assistant Secretary of Energy and White House aide under President Bush and before that a senior GOP staff member for the Senate Energy Committee, who lobbied with the firm Van Ness Feldman before leaving last month for a position with Chevron. She received $20,000 in 2014′s first quarter for DC lobbying on LNG exports.
  • Sempra overall reported spending $470,000 in the first quarter of 2014 on lobbying on a range of issues, including LNG exports, and listed Scott Crider and Tim Ransdell as its in-house lobbyists on that issue. Another energy company with a stake in the Cameron export terminal, the U.S. unit of France-based GDF-Suez, reported spending another $110,000 on lobbying, including LNG exports.

Asked for comment, Sempra Energy responded to some of my questions in writing. A message from company spokesman Art Larson stated, “Sempra Energy employs a low carbon strategy that is described in detail within the corporate responsibility report we released yesterday (June 25). We support reasonable rules and regulations to ensure that all natural gas producers are operating to an appropriate standard – one that protects consumers, the environment, the energy industry and our nation’s access to this abundant supply of domestic energy.” In response to my question about whether Sempra selects its Washington lobbyists in part because of their career connections to executive and legislative branch officials, Sempra’s response, not surprisingly, was some form of “duh”: “Developing major infrastructure projects of interest to our customers and shareholders and participating in the public debate over major public policy issues requires inside and outside resources that help advance an open dialogue with regulators, government officials and the local communities where we operate. Engaging with these stakeholders to make our views known and understand their concerns is an important part of the process.”

Neither the Ogilvy lobbyists nor Leiter responded to my requests for comment. A Van Ness Feldman partner, responding to my query re: Lisa Epifani, wrote to me, “Since you are a lawyer, I hope you’ll appreciate that our firm is not in a position to talk about the work we do for a client. We are required by the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct not to discuss client information.” (You all might be aware, though, that lawyers frequently, with client authorization, speak about their clients’ interests.)

This article originally appeared on Republic Report.

This article also appears on Huffington Post.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Jeb Bush Denounces Obama Rule To Hold For-Profit Colleges Accountable For Burying Students In Debt

by David Halperin, Republic Report.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) last week denounced President Obama’s proposed “gainful employment” rule, which is aimed at holding accountable those career education programs that take taxpayer dollars but consistently leave their students with overwhelming debt. According to a post on Twitter by the trade association of for-profit colleges, APSCU, Bush on Wednesday told that organization’s annual convention in Las Vegas, “The new [gainful employment] regs are a sledgehammer to the entire field of higher education.”

Bush, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has styled himself a champion of K-12 education policy reforms, and just two days earlier, Bush, addressing K-12 issues, had tweeted that “strong accountability policies yield rising student achievement.” But in the context of higher education, Bush seems less interested in hold poorly performing schools accountable. While APSCU’s name — which stands for Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities — stresses the free-market image it wants to project, the biggest for-profit colleges receive about 86 percent of their revenue from taxpayer dollars.

Given their strong dependence on federal dollars, it’s not surprising that for-profit colleges are large donors to candidates for federal office, and the industry made a major investment in in the 2012 campaign of Mitt Romney, who strongly endorsed for-profit higher education on the campaign trail. Any potential 2016 presidential candidate might be attracted to the financial largesse of APSCU’s members.

Although some reputable, responsible colleges are members of APSCU, the organization is dominated by large publicly traded and private equity-backed companies, many of which — Corinthian, ITT, Education Management Corp., Kaplan, Career Education Corp. — are now under investigation by federal law enforcement agencies, state attorneys general, or both. Pending lawsuits brought by government authorities charge that big for-profit colleges have engaged in deceptive advertising; coercive boiler-room recruiting targeted at veterans, single mothers, and others; misrepresentations about program costs and job placement; student loan fraud; and other misconduct.

President Obama has said that some for-profit colleges are “trying to swindle and hoodwink” students, because they only “care about the cash.” Their students, the president has said, “can’t find a job. They default…. Their credit is ruined, and the for-profit institution is making out like a bandit.” Acting to protect the bad behavior of such companies, APSCU has led the charge to block the gainful employment rule, which would cut off federal aid to career college programs that, because of a toxic combination of high prices and low quality, leave graduates and dropouts alike with student loan debt they cannot repay.

Bush’s appearance at the APSCU convention was “presented” by USAFunds, a federal student loan guarantee company that has had a questionably cozy relationship with giant student lender Sallie Mae.

This article originally appeared on Republic Report.

This article also appears on Huffington Post.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Leader Of Attack On Obama Global Warming Plan? Rudy Giuliani’s Firm

by David Halperin, Republic Report.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, New York’s Rudolph Giuliani became “America’s Mayor,” mobilizing his city and standing as a defiant foe of the forces of terrorism. Then, after the devastating force in the New York area of Superstorm Sandy, Giuliani, campaigning in 2012 for Mitt Romney, again presented himself as a protector of the people, charging that President Obama’s reaction to Sandy was “disgraceful.”

But when it comes to curbing forces that could lead to more violent storms like Sandy, Giuliani is decidedly not on the side of protecting people. Because there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is rapidly causing climate change, and that climate change leads to extreme weather events. And Giuliani’s own law firm is now at the forefront of efforts by the coal industry to block President Obama’s groundbreaking effort to regulate the burning of fossil fuels, specifically carbon emissions from power plants.

In 2005, Giuliani expanded his already extensive business activities by joining the 60-year-old Bracewell law firm, now called Bracewell & Giuliani. The firm has nearly 500 lawyers spread across 10 offices, including New York, Washington, D.C., Dallas, London, and Dubai.

Bracewell & Giuliani are particularly active as lobbyists and litigators on behalf of fossil fuel industries — oil, gas, and coal.

The day before the Obama administration issued its new rule for power plants, Scott Segal, a Washington lawyer with Bracewell & Giuliani, was already denouncing the rule in the New York Times. “Clearly,” Segal said, “it is designed to materially damage the ability of conventional energy sources to provide reliable and affordable power, which in turn can inflict serious damage on everything from household budgets to industrial jobs.” Segal, who represents Arch Coal, Southern Company, and others in the coal and power industries, has been lobbying to oppose the rule. He told the Times that he would sue to block its implementation.

One of Segal’s partners in the D.C. office of the Giuliani firm, Jeff Holmstead, previewed for The Wall Street Journal last week what arguments the coal industry will make in the lawsuit.

Holmstead is a classic revolving door lobbyist, having parlayed a job as an associate White House counsel under President George H.W. Bush, where he worked on environmental regulations, into a job as an environment practice lawyer-lobbyist at the powerhouse firm Latham & Watkins. There he represented the Alliance for Constructive Air Policy, a group backed by coal-fired power companies that opposed air pollution rules. He also became an adjunct scholar at Citizens for the Environment, a spinoff of the Koch brothers’ Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Holmstead returned to government under George W. Bush, heading the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation from 2001-2004.  While he was at EPA, according to his law firm bio, Holmstead was “the architect of several of the agency’s most important initiatives, including … the Mercury Rule for power plants.” It’s bold of Holmstead to claim credit for this set of rules, because the Washington Post reported in 2004 that they contained language identical to that in “two memos sent to federal officials by a law firm representing the utility industry.” The name of the firm? Latham & Watkins, Holmstead’s previous employer: “A side-by-side comparison of one of the three proposed rules and the memorandums prepared by Latham & Watkins — one of Washington’s premier corporate environmental law firms — shows that at least a dozen paragraphs were lifted, sometimes verbatim, from the industry suggestions.” Holmstead’s explanation to the Post for adopting so much language from his old firm: “It came to us through the interagency process.”

In 2003, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and James Jeffords (I-VT) wrote to Holmstead asking him to respond to evidence that, in 2002, he gave false testimony to Senate committees about the EPA’s assessment of how new regulations revisions would affect ongoing lawsuits against utilities for violating the Clean Air Act.

Holmstead followed his time at EPA by joining Bracewell & Giuliani, where he has lobbied for Southern Company, Duke Energy, Arch Coal, and others in the coal and power industries. Thursday, I attended a panel discussion held by the group Resources for the Future, at which Holmstead attacked the new Obama rule.

These are Giuliani’s men on the ground seeking to block measures that could slow global warming.  But what of Giuliani himself?

As a candidate for president of the United States in 2008, Giuliani was asked by CBS News about climate change.  He responded, “There is global warming. Human beings are contributing to it.” Then he gave his solution: coal. “I think the best answer to it is energy independence. We’ve got more coal reserves in the us than they have oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. If we find a way to deal with it and use it so it doesn’t hurt the environment, we’re going to find ourselves not contributing to global warming and also being more energy independent.” Giuliani then discussed other sources of energy.  But he wasn’t candid about the fact that thus far there has been no success in cost-effectively making coal “cleaner” so it doesn’t hurt the environment. And he didn’t mention that his firm represented the coal industry and other energy companies.

As the Ukraine crisis unfolded in March, Giuliani again criticized President Obama as ineffective, contrasting him with Russian president Vladimir Putin, of whom he said, “That’s what you call a leader.”  But if he wants to be a true leader, then Giuliani needs to call off his law firm from blocking efforts to curb the very real and very dangerous threat of global warming.

Mayor Giuliani’s office said he was not available to respond Thursday and was headed out of town for two weeks.

This article originally appeared on Republic Report.

This article also appears on Huffington Post.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Top Donor For House Education Chair Is For-Profit College Facing Federal And State Fraud Probes

by David Halperin, Republic Report.

As reported recently by OpenSecrets, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has no serious opposition in her bid for re-election, yet has received more than $800,000 in campaign contributions. More than half of that money has come from outside North Carolina, much of it from corporate special interests.

The biggest industry donating to Foxx, who is chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, is the for-profit education industry, which is fighting to stop the Obama administration’s “gainful employment” rule. That regulation, for which public comments are due this week, would hold predatory companies in the career education industry accountable for its heavily documented waste, fraud, and abuse of federal tax dollars and for the countless students across the country who have been left with worthless degrees and overwhelming debt.

For-profit colleges don’t have any credible arguments against the gainful employment rule, so instead they use the thing that talks loudest in Washington: money. And they have plenty of it; despite declining enrollments and plunging share prices amid mounting public awareness of industry abuses, the for-profit colleges have cash to spend, because their industry has been getting as much as $33 billion per year from taxpayers.

The single biggest donor group to Foxx, by almost a factor of two, is Santa Ana, California-based, for-profit Corinthian Colleges.

Corinthian, which operates Everest, Heald and WyoTech colleges, has a troubling record. The company faces a major lawsuit from California attorney general Kamala Harris, who has charged that Corinthian has engaged in “false and predatory advertising, intentional misrepresentations to students, securities fraud and unlawful use of military seals in advertisements.” Corinthian is also under investigation by a group of 16 state attorneys general (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and Pennsylvania) into its recruiting and business practices, and faces a separate probe by Massachusetts’ AG.

Federal investigators also are probing Corinthian. In June 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a subpoena to the company concerning student recruitment, degree completion, job placement, loan defaults and compliance with U.S. Education Department rules. In September 2013 Corinthian reported that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating claims that the company violated the False Claims Act with respect to its recruiting and financial aid practices and by, among other things, manipulating attendance records to keep federal aid for students no longer in attendance. In December 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notified Corinthian that it expected to pursue legal action against the company for violation of federal laws with respect to private students loans.

And in January, even the U.S. Department of Education, whose enforcement efforts have generally failed to address for-profit colleges abuses, moved toward taking tough measures with Corinthian, saying in a letter to the company that there were signs of “systematic deficiencies” in its operations and charging that the company “has admitted to falsifying placement rates and/or grad and attendance records at various institutions and because of ongoing state and federal investigations into serious allegations.”

Corinthian fared poorly under a trial run of an earlier version of the gainful employment rule, which would take away eligibility for federal student grants and loans from schools whose graduates and dropouts are consistently unable to repay their student loans. Schools with high prices and poor records of training and placing students tend to flunk the gainful employment test, because their students borrow too much and earn too little after leaving.

Foxx in the past has invoked the Nazi Holocaust in discussing regulation of for-profit colleges, and on another occasion stated that she has ”very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt.”

Corinthian is a member of the for-profit trade association APSCU, which is leading the opposition to the gainful employment rule. Corinthian also spent $310,000 in the first quarter of 2014 for its own lobbying team, included former Rep. Vic Fazio (D-CA) from the law firm Akin Gump.

Foxx, along with House Education Committee chairman John Kline (R-MN), another major recipient of for-profit college campaign cash, has led the effort in the House to oppose the gainful employment rule and other measures to curb abuses by for-profit colleges. Foxx is lead sponsor of the “Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief Act,” which has nothing to do with actual academic freedom, but instead would block the gainful employment rule and also would relax federal standards so for-profit college boiler room operations can more easily engage in coercive recruiting of students.

CQ has reported that Kline is urging House Appropriations Committee members to include a policy rider in the Labor-HHS-Education bill blocking the gainful employment rule.

This article originally appeared on Republic Report.

This article also appears on Huffington Post.

Photo: Rep Virginia Foxx via Flickr

Study: Blacks, Latinos, Low-Income Live Closest To Dangerous Chemical Plants

by David Halperin, Republic Report

new study released Thursday finds that the Americans who live near hazardous chemical industrial facilities are disproportionately African American or Latino, are more likely to live in poverty, and have lower incomes and education levels than the national average.  These trends accelerate rapidly as one gets closer to the “fenceline” areas nearest dangerous chemical plants.

More than 134 million people live in danger zones created by about 3,400 U.S. facilities that manufacture chemicals, produce paper, treat water, generate electric power, refine petroleum, or otherwise use or store hazardous materials. Millions more people work in or visit these areas.

The study examined the people living close to chemical plants and found:

  • The poverty rate for the fenceline zones is 50 percent higher than for the U.S. as a whole.
  • Average household incomes in the fenceline zones are 22 percent below the national average.
  • The percentage of adults in the fenceline zones with less than a high school degree is 46 percent greater than for the U.S. as a whole.
  • The percentage of Blacks in the fenceline zones is 75 percent greater than for the U.S. as a whole.
  • The percentage of Latinos in the fenceline zones is 60 percent greater than for the U.S. as a whole.

The study was produced by The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, a group of organizations connected to the Coalition for Chemical Safety (in which I participate as an advisor to Greenpeace).

In the wake of the April 2103 West, Texas, chemical plant explosion, which killed 15 people and injured 160 more, President Obama issued an executive order directing federal agencies to improve the safety of our industrial chemical plants. The Obama administration is now conducting a review of these issues.

There are serious risks that today’s chemical plants could unleash a catastrophic accident, like the 1984 pesticide plant disaster at Bhopal, India, which caused 20,000 deaths. In an average year, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board reviews some 250 high-consequence chemical incidents involving death, injury, evacuation, or serious environmental or property damage.

There is also the possibility that terrorists could trigger a chemical plant attack in our country. In 2003, a government panel warned that chemical plants in the U.S. could be al Qaeda targets. Media investigations have highlighted weak or nonexistent security at these facilities, with gates unlocked and chemical tanks unguarded. As a senator, Barack Obama referred to chemical plants as “stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country.”

For years, our coalition has  urged the government to take action to move chemical plants toward safer chemicals and processes. Now, Christine Todd Whitman, head of the EPA under President George W. Bush, and Lisa Jackson, who held the same job under President Obama, have each called for government to mandate safer chemicals.  But wealthy chemical companies, like the ones owned by the Koch brothers, and their lobbyists have long used campaign contributions as weapons to block reforms, and they are still doing so today. Again, it was Senator Obama who said it best: “We cannot allow chemical industry lobbyists to dictate the terms of this debate. We cannot allow our security to be hijacked” by special interests.

Today’s study defines this struggle: on the one hand, some of the wealthiest Americans, like the Koch brothers, pressing Washington to stop reforms to make chemical plants safer; and on the other, the poorest, least powerful people in society at greatest risk of harm or death from these facilities.

President Obama needs to make the right choice to protect all Americans and our national security.

This article originally appeared on Republic Report.

This article also appears on Huffington Post

Photo: Eric Allix Rogers via Flickr

Jeb Bush To Address Convention Of Predatory For-Profit Colleges

by David Halperin, Republic Report

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) will be the keynote speaker at the Las Vegas annual convention of the trade association of for-profit colleges, APSCU, according to the group’s website.  Although some reputable, responsible colleges are members of APSCU, the organization is dominated by large companies, many of which — Corinthian, ITT, Education Management Corp., Kaplan, Career Education Corp., DeVry — are now under investigation by federal law enforcement agencies, state attorneys general, or both. Pending lawsuits brought by government authorities charge that big for-profit colleges have engaged in deceptive advertising; coercive boiler room recruiting targeted at veterans, single mothers, and others; misrepresentations about programs costs and job placement; student loan fraud; and other misconduct.

President Obama has said that some for-profit colleges are “trying to swindle and hoodwink” students, because they only “care about the cash.” Their students, the president has said, “can’t find a job. They default…. Their credit is ruined, and the for-profit institution is making out like a bandit.” Acting to protect the bad behavior of such companies, APSCU has led the charge to block President Obama’s proposed “gainful employment” rule, which would cut off federal aid to career college programs that, because of a toxic combination of high prices and low quality, consistently leave their students with insurmountable student loan debt.

As Bush weighs a run for the White House in 2016, he may be attracted to the immense wealth of the for-profit college industry, which has been receiving more than $33 billion a year from federal taxpayer money, and uses a good chunk of that money to make campaign contributions and buy the allegiance of politicians in Washington. Although the industry provides plenty of cash to Capitol Hill Democrats, it is closely aligned with the Republican Party, and in 2012 it bet big on Mitt Romney, who praised for-profit colleges on the campaign trail and turned out himself to be an investor in the industry.

But as the public becomes increasingly aware that for-profit colleges have been ripping off taxpayers and ruining students’ lives, there are risks of keynoting the APSCU conference.  In 2012, Michelle Rhee took some heat — and not just from me — for speaking. (The other keynote that year, Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, stressed his commitment to accountability for K-12 schools receiving federal money, an applause line that got no applause among the for-profit college barons in attendance, since their lobbying is focused precisely on avoiding accountability.)

In 2013, APSCU announced its keynote would be Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and boasted that Mullen’s appearance at the convention would “be a truly extraordinary moment for private sector education, bringing increased visibility and respect to the sector.” For reasons unknown, Mullen canceled. (I had written an article questioning his decision to appear, given the well-documented abuses and deception of veterans by many players in the for-profit college industry.)  APSCU then found a willing replacement for Mullen — former presidential candidate General Wesley Clark.

But although those speakers addressed a for-profit college industry whose abuses were already well-known, the  industry’s reputation is even worse now, as the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, and Department of Education have launched investigations or filed lawsuits against APSCU members, and more than 30 state attorneys general are collaborating on major probes of the industry. Prospective students and investors have been getting the message, and enrollments and share prices have plummeted.

But rather than commit to serious reforms, the industry continues to focus on its biggest strength: lobbying and buying influence with politicians.  Joining Jeb Bush as an APSCU speaker this year is former senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE), who has financial ties to the industry.

Bush has made K-12 education “reform” a central component of his policy agenda, with a focus on privatization — charter schools and vouchers.  While APSCU’s name — which stands for Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities — stresses the free market image it wants to project, the biggest for-profit colleges receive about 86 percent of their revenue from taxpayer dollars.

This article originally appeared on Republic Report.

This article also appears on Huffington Post

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr