Who’s Really Behind Lawmakers’ Attacks on Regulation?

Paul Blumenthal from the Sunlight Foundation describes on The Huffington Post how the for-profit college industry is leveraging campaign contributions to convince Congress to do the industry’s bidding.

Pending Department of Education standards for for-profit colleges are among the many regulations anti-regulatory lawmakers have been complaining about. Why are the rules so dastardly? The Department of Education wants to hold for-profit colleges accountable by requiring them to ensure that their students graduate prepared for the workplace and can maintain gainful employment. The rules would cut federal funding for for-profit colleges (which receive a greater share of taxpayer dollars than do traditional colleges) if they do not meet the gainful employment standards.

Lawmakers have sent several letters to the Department of Education voicing their opposition, Blumenthal writes, and certain representatives' views on the issue appear to be influenced by their polticial donors:

Campaign finance records show thirty-five contributions totaling $40,500 to Reps. Buck McKeon and John Kline from executives, employees, and political action committees of Corinthian Colleges, Education Management Corp., and the Keiser University system reported on May 28, 2010. The two Republican congressmen each held the position of ranking member of the Education & Labor Committee in 2010; Kline is currently the chairman of the committee. 

Blumenthal also finds that the transmission of the letters often occurred amid a flurry of campaign contributions from the for-profit college industry:

Rep. Alcee Hastings signed his name to more letters than any other congressman. Hastings received seven contributions totaling $7,400 over the course of one week in April. This occurred in between Hastings signing a letter on March 22 and a second letter on April 30. 

In some instances, the contributions were almost Pavlovian: “[Rep. Donald] Payne would sign a fourth letter on September 8, a date on which he also reports receiving a $1,000 contribution from Bridgepoint Education.”

This kind of quid pro quo is what often frustrates America about Congress, and it’s exactly why we need to maintain skepticism about congressional attacks on regulation, regardless of the issue.

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