Domestic, Ethics, For-Profit, Legislation, Required - Written by on Friday, July 29, 2011 7:17 - 0 Comments

Harkin and Staff Under Fire for Allowing Witness Tampering

photo: CBS

by Elbert Chu


Not only were “gainful employment” regulations perceived as soft on for-profit education, now Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and his staff involved in prep for the HELP committee admit they allowed a special interest group and a financially vested law firm to script answers for witnesses.  Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, led the charge in creating the “gainful employment” regulations. The Daily Caller reports:

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.

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 law firm in question happened to also be involved in lawsuits against Westwood College, so they had every incentive to make Pruyn’s testimony as damning as possible. Even a fellow Democrat says the level of collaboration was fishy:

Don Goldberg, a Democratic veteran of the Clinton administration and Capitol Hill, says Harkin’s staff “crossed a line.”

“Coaching on how to answer a question goes to the heart of the independence of these oversight hearings,” Goldberg told TheDC. “In my ten years on Capitol Hill we never gave a witness an answer to a question.”

via The Daily Caller

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