Harkin staff collaborated with interest group, outside law firm to edit witness testimony

Top aides to Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin collaborated with a special interest group and a law firm with a financial stake in the matter to edit the written and oral testimony of a witness at a key investigative hearing last year, documents obtained by The Daily Caller show.

Officials from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) and the James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich law firm edited Josh Pruyn’s testimony for a pivotal Aug. 4, 2010 hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), as did Harkin aides. (RELATED: Document suggests witness tampering by Sen. Tom Harkin’s office)

Pruyn, a disillusioned former employee of the for-profit Westwood College online, testified about high-pressure sales tactics used to enroll new students at the school. But ethics experts say the involvement of outside groups undermines the credibility of his testimony.

“That’s not an investigation, that’s just a charade,” said Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and formerly the top ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, “Witnesses’ testimony should be their own, not that of outside groups that ‘edit’ the testimony to say what they want it to say.”

The criticism is another blow to Harkin’s embattled investigation of the for-profit schools, following questions about an error-ridden Government Accountability Office (GAO) report commissioned by Harkin on the same subject and unveiled at the same hearing in which Pruyn testified.

As reported by TheDC last week, Harkin investigative counsel Ryan McCord supplied a suggested answer to Pruyn to help him distance himself from the Hoyer law firm. Pruyn followed McCord’s suggested answer almost verbatim in the hearing itself.

But emails and tracked document revisions show intimate involvement by the law firm in shaping Pruyn’s testimony, although the answer Pruyn gave in the hearing was technically true.

A Testimony Evolves

Before Pruyn even drafted his testimony, Angie Moreschi, a lawyer at the Hoyer firm, helped him brainstorm what he would include.

Pruyn and Moreschi were close. For instance, when Moreschi was injured in a December 2010 car accident, Pruyn sent her flowers, emails show.

The two met when Pruyn came to the Hoyer law firm to describe, over six to eight hours, his experience as an employee at Westwood College online. The Hoyer firm is pursuing four class action lawsuits against Westwood; it has “tried to make a business of suing” for-profit colleges, the sector’s top lobbyist has charged.

“Angie knows my story well enough I liked having her around” to help craft the testimony, Pruyn said Monday, adding that he is not a party to the lawsuits and the firm never paid him besides reimbursing minor travel expenses and taking him out for several meals.

July 23, twelve days before the hearing in which Pruyn would testify, Moreschi sent Pruyn an outline of his experiences working at Westwood based his interviews with her law firm.

“Here’s the outline I put together from our talk to get your thoughts together for your testimony,” she wrote.

“Thanks for helping with this, Angie,” Pruyn replied several days later. “I did much of the work last night (and used this as a guide to make sure I’m including everything).”

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  • Ventura Capitalist

    Stinking democrats.

  • joanf

    The Soros media hides the news again. The Daily Caller deserves a big thanks for advising us of what is going on in DC.

  • angry tea-bagger

    This scum also ripped off the gov’t from Fed farm subsides program – a biggest beneficiary of a very questionable SOCIALIST program.

    He ran this big scam veiled as an “ethanol” programs and pocketed everything…

  • johneb

    Thank you TheDC for doing investigative reporting. Fast & Furious, State Dept. Self-Dealing Contracts, Harkin is Commie Scum, all good stories.

  • hahaharkin

    There continues to be nothing on this in the once great Des Moines Register or any other Iowa news outlet. Thank you, Daily Caller, for being the one news organization willing to give this embarrassment to Iowa some scrutiny. Some of his activities are criminal, most are merely disgusting. And it will go on. Iowans don’t know because the media here doesn’t care.

    • Scrap Iron

      You are wrong.
      The media DOES care.
      Only their care is to insure no harm comes to Harkin.

  • tanstaafl

    This is the same guy, Harkin from Iowa, who last week referred to Republicans who want to put a stop to DC runaway spending (in general) and Obama’s runaway spending (in particular) as a “cult fringe”.

  • BarackMugabe

    Harkin doesn’t belong in prison — he belongs in a mental institution.

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