Issa plans hearing on scandal-ridden education regulation

Top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa of California is quietly planning a hearing on a scandal-ridden new regulation just finalized by the Education Department, according to a June 13 letter he sent to New York Democrat Rep. Edolphus Towns.

The move comes as Issa has been investigating a related Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that was plagued by errors and, according to some GAO officials, political interference from top-ranking Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

It is also in response to a May 24 letter from Towns requesting a hearing. Towns’ letter walks through some of the numerous issues facing the regulation, including the role of a group of Wall Street short sellers who lobbied the Education Department hoping to profit from strict new rules on the for-profit college sector.

June 2, the Education Department finalized the regulation, which puts strict new rules on for-profit or “career” colleges. The regulations were intended to address concerns from critics the schools use high pressure sales techniques to lure unprepared students into enrolling.

(Amid scandals, Education Department finalizes regulation on for-profit schools)

Issa suggests he’s planning to focus especially on the impact of the regulation on the economy.

“As I share concerns regarding the potential impact of this regulation on jobs, my staff has been closely following this regulation. In addition, the Committee is planning to schedule a hearing in the near future on the regulation,” Issa says in a June 13 letter to Towns.

As reported by The Daily Caller, Issa has been investigating an undercover sting unit at GAO that produced an error-ridden report on for-profit colleges, including interviewing the team that produced the report, staining the agency’s normally unimpeachable reputation.

The report was crucial to providing political momentum for the regulation. But in November, GAO issued a slew of corrections; the corrected version of the report paints a less critical picture of the schools.

Issa’s investigation is focused on the undercover team itself, not the for-profit proof per se. The team is described as having a history of faulty work.

As reported by TheDC, an internal GAO evaluation about what went wrong on the for-profit report faulted pressure from far left Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin as the reason for some of the reports “most obvious inaccuracies.”

The evaluation said “congressional staff” demanded the inclusion of numerous details in the report and, facing the “extreme short time frames” given to complete it, GAO “stretched whatever we could find” to fill in a key detail.

“They wouldn’t have included those references unless they felt bullied,” one former GAO official told TheDC.

But Harkin has angrily denounced the GAO’s allegations, his staff claiming his innocence publicly in a memo and privately in phone calls to key insiders.