The campaign of Sen. Roy Blunt’s Democratic opponent is calling on him to return donations from a for-profit college accused of deceiving students.
Blunt should immediately return the donations and “issue an apology to Missouri students who have been ripped off by for-profit colleges while he pushed legislation to make it easier for them to prey on students,” said Abe Rakov, campaign manager for Democrat Jason Kander.
Kander is trying to oust Blunt in a close race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
An investigation by McClatchy found that Blunt, a Missouri Republican, is one of the top recipients in Congress of political contributions from the for-profit industry.
He’s received more than $100,000 in donations from the nation’s beleaguered for-profit colleges and their lobbyists this election cycle, public records show.
Blunt has close ties in particular to lobbyists hired by one for-profit company, Bridgepoint Education.
Bridgepoint, which operates Ashford University online, agreed in September to forgive $24 million in student loans in a settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over allegations that the company had misled students about the costs of borrowing.
The company’s business practices also have come under investigation from three other federal agencies and multiple states’ attorneys general.
Bridgepoint could lose its GI Bill certification because of its legal troubles, putting the benefits of 6,000 veterans enrolled in the school at risk.
More than a dozen of lobbyists who work for Bridgepoint have donated to Blunt. Some hosted fundraisers for him, and two used to work with him, according to a review of public records by McClatchy.
Blunt received $5,000 from Bridgepoint’s political action committee to boost his 2016 re-election campaign. He also got more than $30,000 in political contributions from former staffers and other lobbyists who now represent Bridgepoint in Washington.
At least four times, some of those lobbyists donated to Blunt within days of the senator pushing legislation that would help their for-profit clients fight government regulation or access federal aid dollars, McClatchy found.
Rakov said Blunt should take the lead of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who returned $8,000 in donations from Bridgepoint earlier this year. She said at the time that she wasn’t aware of the company’s legal woes.
If he doesn’t return the money, Rakov said in a statement, “Blunt is admitting that nothing will stand in his way as he continues his quest to remain in the Senate doing the bidding for Washington special interests and lobbyists.”
Blunt’s campaign has not responded to written questions about whether the senator would consider returning the donations.