Ashford University investing in Iowa, screwing American students

(Good piece, important issue to consider when it comes to costs & accountability in higher ed. - promoted by Mark Langgin)

This evening, Chris Kirkham with The Huffington Post wrote a scathing article about Ashford University, which is a for-profit college located in Clinton, Iowa that has 76,000 students, 99% of them take classes online.

This online college has been basically robbing students blind, 60% to 70% of people who enroll there drop out and are stuck with huge debts.  What’s worse, the public corporation running the school has been robbing the federal government blind too.  Huffpost reports that nearly 85% of their revenues, nearly $600 million last year, came from the federal government.

Now, you may ask, how is this happening in our backyard without more of an uproar? One reason might be the campaign contributions and political glad handing that the parent company for Ashford University, Bridgepoint Education, has undertaken this past year.

Bridgepoint Education PAC contributed at least $7,250 to Iowa politicians in 2010.  The contributions have been mixed between D’s and R’s, but the Clinton County Republican Central Committee was able to squeeze $350 from their PAC.   Click here to see the Bridgepoint Education PAC campaign finance records.  Bridgepoint Education also invested over $40,000 on lobbyists in 2010.

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Many happy couples, one unhappy Steve King

Congratulations to the same-sex couples who received marriage licenses in Washington, DC today, the first day same-sex marriage became legal in the capital. The city council had approved same-sex marriage rights last fall, but “because Washington is a federal district, the law had to undergo a congressional review period that expired Tuesday.” The weddings will begin on March 9 because of a mandatory waiting period.

One person who wasn’t celebrating today was Representative Steve King. He complained yesterday that Republican leaders in Congress didn’t push “hard enough” to overturn the D.C. city council’s decision on marriage equality.

Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), have introduced a resolution in Congress to overturn the city council’s ruling, which Congress can do because Washington is a federal district, and not a state.

King took Democrats to task, also, for not allowing a vote on that measure.

“There’s a certain level of understanding that this pro-same sex marriage agenda is a Pelosi agenda; it’s a leftist, liberal agenda,” King said. “There are a lot of items we need to be fighting, and this is a big one.”

Look on the bright side, congressman. Maybe Iowa will become less of a gay marriage “Mecca” now that same-sex couples can get married in DC (as well as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire).

Seriously, I find it encouraging that Democratic leaders in Congress didn’t feel political pressure to overturn DC’s decision on marriage equality. This issue is losing its potency for the Republicans, and their House and Senate leaders seem to recognize that, even if Steve King doesn’t.

Although King has little sympathy for gays and lesbians who want the same civil marriage rights he enjoys, he did find in in his heart last week to stand up for Washington lobbyists:

[Y]es lobbyists do a very effective and useful job on this Hill. […] Somebody needs to stand up for the lobby, it is a matter of providing a lot of valuable information.

Click over to Think Progress for a more detailed transcript and video of that moment.

This thread is for any comments related to King’s messed-up priorities. The scariest thing is that when it comes to gay marriage, he’s not even on the super-crazy end of the GOP spectrum.

UPDATE: I know it doesn’t pay to go looking for logic in comments by Steve King, but even by his standards, this is bizarre. King argues that since House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank is gay, and Frank doesn’t want the federal government interfering in a consensual relationship between two adults, then Frank should oppose prevailing wage requirements for federal contractors. King’s idea is that contractors and their employees are “consenting adults” who should be able to agree on a wage of their choice. (By that reasoning, King would want to do away with the minimum wage and other labor laws.)

Media Matters Action has the video clip and transcript here. Other King video “highlights” are here.  

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Republican "family values" on display in Iowa Senate

Last Thursday, the Iowa Senate approved a bill that would improve the health and well-being of Iowa working mothers and their children. In addition, this bill would reduce many employers’ health care costs while lowering employee turnover and absenteeism. Unlike legislation that pits business interests against the needs of working families, this bill would be a win-win.

Nevertheless, almost the whole Republican caucus voted against Senate File 2270, which promotes workplace accommodations for employees who express breast milk.

Follow me after the jump for background on this bill and Republican opposition to it.

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Obama's "five worst nominees"

Over at the Mother Jones blog, Kate Sheppard, David Corn and Daniel Schulman compiled a list of “Obama’s Five Worst Nominees.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner doesn’t make the cut, which surprised me until I read the short bios of appointees who are likely to put corporate interests ahead of the public interest. In alphabetical order:

William Lynn, for whom the president made an exception to his policy on lobbyists in government. Lynn was the chief lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon before becoming deputy secretary of defense in the Obama administration.

William Magwood, a “cheerleader for nuclear power” who has “worked for reactor maker Westinghouse and has run two firms that advise companies on nuclear projects.” Obama nominated him for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Scott O’Malia, who was apparently suggested by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. O’Malia “was a lobbyist for Mirant, an Enron-like energy-trading firm” and lobbied for weakening the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to which Obama appointed him.

Joseph Pizarchik, who helped form policies in Pennsylvania to allow disposal of toxic coal ash in unlined pits. Obama named him director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Islam Siddiqui, whom Obama appointed to be the chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. trade representative. Jill Richardson has been on this case at La Vida Locavore; see here and here on why Siddiqui is the wrong person for this job.

I wouldn’t suggest that this rogue’s gallery is representative of Obama appointees, but it’s depressing to see any of them in this administration.

In the good news column, Obama has decided to renominate Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, along with five other nominees who didn’t receive a confirmation vote in the Senate last year.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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The Insurer's Drop List keeps growing ...

(Thanks to jamess for this important diary. For a first-person account of another way some insurance companies respond to serious illnesses, read How I lost my health insurance at the hairstylist's. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

As you may have learned last week from LA Times reporting, and from Congressional Hearings, that Insurance companies routinely try to drop your Insurance policy, if you happen to get one of their “Hot List” illnesses.

Getting any of these illnesses, can Trigger the Insurance Company’s “Cancellation Police”, into action.

Denial Specialists scour your medical history, and cross-check that against your application, looking for any reason to Cancel, or rescind, your Insurance policy, thus saving the Insurance Company untold thousands in future payments for your expected Care. Denial Specialists, of course, earn bonuses for each Policy they cancel. What a system!

Those 4 illnesses (out of the 1000+ such Triggers) previously disclosed are:

breast cancer, high blood pressure, lymphoma and pregnancy

Well thanks to the tough questioning of the Oversight and Investigations Sub Committee, at least 2 more Triggering Illnesses have been disclosed, as indicated in the video and transcript of the Hearing:

The 2 other newly disclosed “Drop List” illnesses include:

ovarian cancer, and brain cancer

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