by Dr. Steven J. Allen
A new TV ad campaign seeks to overturn a key reform of the Trump administration. In the name of veterans, the campaign attempts to lure President Trump into breaking his word, endangering educational institutions in a difficult time.
In an ad by “Veterans Education Success,” we see servicemembers in uniform, overseas, and hugging their children, and shaking hands with President Trump. The images remind me of the strong support the President has had among active and retired military, who voted for him by 60-34 percent in 2016.
The ad calls on Trump to sign House Joint Resolution 76. That’s a measure designed to reinstate an excessive Obama administration regulation regarding “borrower defense.” As explained by the U.S. Department of Education: “If your school misled you or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws, you may be eligible for ‘borrower defense to loan repayment forgiveness,’ which is the forgiveness of some or all of your federal student loan debt.”
The Trump regulation protects students who are defrauded by schools’ misrepresentations, while it sets up a process to differentiate fairly between legitimate claims and frivolous ones. Under the Obama rule, advocacy groups encouraged a flood of claims, valid or not, into the new Trump Administration. Schools that did nothing wrong could be forced to put their credit on the line to cover huge potential loan-forgiveness, even if claims are ultimately found false.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., former president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund supporting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), noted that the old rules could too easily lead to the punishment of colleges that were trying their best to serve students. The new rules, he wrote, are better for HBCUs, which primarily serve low-income students who are among the first in their families to attend college. “The new [Trump administration] rules provide flexibility for schools to make changes to their course offerings and graduation requirements based on costs, student interest and employer needs without being characterized as fraudulent.”
So why is Veterans Education Success trying to stop the new rules? The answer is rooted in the hatred that many (not all) liberals have for education choice. They oppose homeschooling, charter schools, and other alternative forms of K-12 education because they like the idea of a government-run school monopoly. When it comes to post-secondary education, they want to protect the shared monopoly of government-subsidized and well-endowed colleges and universities even as the quality of higher education declines and the cost skyrockets.
Around 2010, the Obama administration targeted proprietary colleges and universities, so-called “for-profits,” working with left-wing foundations, class-action lawyers, teachers unions, short-selling investors (those who profit when companies lose value), and politicians like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chaired the Senate education committee. Harkin’s work was so biased that Republicans walked out on a committee hearing he held on the topic.
Harkin aide Carrie Wofford founded Veterans Education Success in 2013. Since then, the main activity of VES has been to attack proprietary schools in the name of veterans. Veterans, VES told us, attend these institutions because they are tricked into doing so. VES views the same adult men and women who fight wars as too weak to think for themselves. In fact, most people who attend such schools do so because the schools tailor themselves to the needs of veterans, of people with children or full-time jobs, and of those who need to go to colleges nearby or online – but VES arrogantly thinks it knows better.
Wofford is a fixture among liberal Democrats in Washington. She was mentioned as a possible Obama secretary of labor. She’s the niece of the late Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA) and the wife of Colin Crowell, who was a longtime aide to Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), senior counselor to Obama’s FCC chairman, and the head of Global Public Policy and Philanthropy at Twitter. Remember the Human Rights Campaign, at whose annual dinner in 2016 Hillary Clinton infamously attacked “deplorables”? Wofford has served on HRC’s board of directors.
Wofford’s vice president at VES is Ricki Seidman, a Clinton administration Justice Department official who was a senior investigator for Investigative Group International, founded by Terry Lenzner, chief private eye for the Clinton political machine. (Dick Morris, once Bill Clinton’s chief strategist, called efforts at political espionage by Lenzner and the Clintons “a kind of secret police going on here,” “absolutely chilling.”) Seidman is best known for her efforts to dig up dirt on Supreme Court nominees such as Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. She coached Christine Blasey Ford in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. In the 2008 campaign, she was Joe Biden’s communications director.
That’s who’s behind the VES campaign. President Trump, his administrations’ appointees, Congressional Republicans, and veterans at large need to see and understand VES’ ideological furiosity and where it really wants to go. Among veterans, it’s a Trojan Horse.
As recently as January 13, the Trump White House vowed to protect the administration’s reform of the old, onerous Obama regulation. Further, the President on May 19 issued an Executive Order calling on “agencies to rescind, modify, waive or provide exemptions from regulations that may inhibit economic recovery.” It’s not the time to hurt schools on which veterans depend for educational opportunity, and it’s not the time to listen to the likes of VES.
Steven J. Allen, J.D., Ph.D., is Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C.
Photo “Veterans Education Success Ad” by Veterans Education Success.