Billy Gribbin

Sens. Burr and Coburn Push for DoE Probe


Posted by Christopher Prandoni, Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010, 3:34 PM PERMALINK


With the Obama agenda receiving a thorough rebuke on November 2nd, liberal prerogatives are sure to take a back seat in the 112th Congress. In response to the impending Congressional logjam, Democrats are utilizing obscure federal agencies to implement their preferred policies.  

With Cap-and-Trade dead, the EPA is issuing strict rules to inhibit the construction of coal fired power plants. The National Labor Relations Board and National Mediations Board are facilitating unionization, as Card Check is unlikely to pass congress anytime soon. In the same vein, the Department of Education has issued rules which would prohibit for-profit colleges from receiving federal aid if data shows that their graduates have poor records of repaying government loans—a metric being called “gainful employment.”

Cutting off federal aid to profit schools would put them at an even greater competitive disadvantage. Public schools, being funded by the state, do have many of the same budgetary constraints as their private counterparts. Financial reform has been hard to accomplish in public education; after all, no politician wants to be the one cutting off resources to a local college.  The increased regulations being proposed by the Department will only serve to further imbalance a playing field which is already tilted in favor of taxpayer-funded public schools.  That the Obama administration supports this approach should come as no surprise; under such liberal guidance the Department always serves to expand its domain rather than the interests of the nation’s students.

Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have requested that Kathleen S. Tighe, Inspector General for the Department of Education, initiate an investigation into the Department’s handling of its upcoming regulations. In their joint letter, the Senators expressed alarm concerning the Department’s recent “gainful employment” proposals:

“Information has become available that raises serious concerns about whether some negotiators failed to comply with the organizational protocols governing the rulemaking process and other laws governing these proceedings. In addition, publicly available documents indicate the Department may have leaked the proposed regulations to parties supporting the administration’s position and investors who stand to benefit from the failure of the proprietary school sector.”

The Senators’ note that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was submitted in July by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) regarding “the extent to which Education has knowingly relied on, or has been manipulated by, the views of individuals who seek to advance their financial interests in the for-profit industry by publicly criticizing certain for-profit education entities and companies.”  The CREW inquiry has not yet been met with a response.

Burr and Coburn go on to cite information obtained from a Florida public records request, revealing that Edie Irons, Communications Director for TICAS, emailed an embargoed copy of the program regulations to various individuals a full day before the document’s scheduled release.  The Senators are concerned that if such information is being prematurely and selectively distributed it may have easily fallen into the hands of groups which “stand to benefit financially from the failure of the proprietary sector.”

The pressing questions asked by Sens. Burr and Coburn are made even more urgent by the Department’s mysterious recalcitrance in providing answers.  With controversial regulations such as these, and the future of American education at stake, the Department of Education cannot afford to remain silent much longer.

Click here for a copy of the Senators' letter.

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Obama's Attack on Chamber of Commerce Backfires


Posted by Christopher Prandoni, Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, 4:34 PM PERMALINK


The last month has seen typical political salvos rise and fall from both sides of the aisle, but the election-season attack that won’t go away originated from the White House.  In early October, President Obama lashed out at the United States Chamber of Commerce, intimating shady dealings with foreign donors.  Unfortunately for the President, his remarks have become an albatross the Democratic Party will be wearing into today’s elections.

A recently released Fox News poll shows that the Chamber of Commerce has a 48% approval rating amongst registered voters, a slight lead on Barack Obama’s 47%.  The Democratic Party as a whole is faring even worse, trailing by 42%.  These numbers come just days before an election that is already expected to swing in Republicans’ favor, possibly upsetting the balance of power in both the House and Senate.

The Chamber of Commerce is a massive lobby representing the interests of a large swath of American businesses and associations.  This election cycle, the Chamber has spent the vast majority of its campaign contributions furthering the cause of Republican candidates. Obama went for an easy smear, despite receiving over twice as much as McCain in contributions from the business community, as ATR has recently reported: “So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won’t tell you where the money for their ads comes from.”  This line of vague accusation has been taken up and echoed by others in the Obama administration and Democrat leaders, despite even the liberal New York Times concluding that “there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual.”

If Obama and his fellow Democrats wish to root out shady campaign contributions from special interests, they needn’t look farther than their own doorstep. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the largest outside spender for the 2010 elections has been a public sector union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which spent more than the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads/Crossroads GOP, the two biggest Republican spenders.  Rounding out the top five spenders this cycle are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Education Association (NEA), which combined with AFSCME in spending tens of millions of dollars advancing Democratic candidates.  That so much of the Left’s war chest comes from labor unions—many of which force membership upon workers—should be the real scandal going into this election.

Fortunately, the public hasn’t been taken in by the current administration’s hypocrisy.  In the same Fox News poll cited above, labor unions scored 38% in public approval: 4% behind Democrats, 6% behind Republicans, and 10% behind Barack Obama’s whipping boy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but when it comes to the Democrats and their union cronies, their time for fooling around at all is approaching its end.

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