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OBAMA’S BEST FRIEND’S FOR-PROFIT UNIVERSITY FACES FEDERAL INVESTIGATION

Well, well, well

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Back in 2015, the University of Phoenix was hit with an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. At the time, the University of Phoenix was considered one of the largest and most high-profile for-profit colleges in the country.

The initial investigation was centered around the school’s parent company – Apollo Education Group, looking into the company’s advertising uses for potential deceptive practices with the intent to lure new prospective students. Through the course of the probe, Apollo was required to turn over a large swath of documents dealing with their marketing, tuition, and military recruitment practices going back to January 2011.

These sort of complaints regarding deceptive marketing by for-profit schools are not new, as many schools of all sizes have repeatedly received such accusations including misrepresenting graduation rates, job prospects, and other information in the effort to recruit new students and continue to see profitability. This initial inquiry was part of a series of regulations implemented by the previous administration under former President Obama.

The Obama administration implemented a program through the Department of Education as of July 1, 2015, known as the “gainful employment rule.” This rule cut off federal student loans to for-profit programs that have too many graduates fail to get “good” jobs after graduation and was expected to cut funds to a significant amount of higher education and job training programs.

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As part of this series of investigations, major for-profit chain ITT Educational Services was charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission among other prominent for-profit schools.

More than two years into the initial investigation, the University of Pheonix is still undergoing a federal investigation. This comes even after a private equity firm with close ties to Obama made a deal to purchase the for-profit college.

The Daily Caller reports –

“The Vistria Group is run by Martin Nesbitt, who’s been described as Obama’s best friend and is also chairman of the Obama Foundation. The Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, agreed to be bought in February 2016, and Vistria completed the $1.1 billion purchase a year later.”

Nesbitt and Obama were close friends dating back to 1980 when he played basketball for Princeton University, playing for the same team as Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s brother. According to the Chicago Tribune, Nesbitt is known to play basketball and golf with Obama even still today. He also acted as the treasurer for the Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and he currently heads the Obama Foundation. The Obama Foundation is currently tasked with planning Obama’s presidential library in Chicago. Nesbitt’s wife, Anita Blanchard, is the obstetrician who assisted Michelle in delivering Malia and Sasha Obama at birth.

The Daily Caller explains that “the deal included an agreement that Vistria Chief Operating Officer Tony Miller would serve as chairman of Apollo Education board of directors. Miller had previously served as the deputy secretary of education for the Obama administration, which was cracking down against for-profit universities through his tenure and beyond.

But despite the Trump administration’s sharp rollback of Obama-era regulations, the Federal Trade Commission has continued its investigation into the University of Phoenix.

Miller pledged Vistria would operate Apollo Education “with the highest ethical standards” when his firm purchased the company. At the time, the company faced multiple federal and state investigations for deceptive or unfair marketing practices.”

The University of Phoenix has seen its enrollment drop from nearly a half million to about 140,000 in 2016 in wake of Obama investigations and regulations against the university. The Obama administration’s regulations also forced Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute — two major for-profit universities — to close their doors in 2014 and 2016, respectively.Vistria’s purchase took Apollo Education private following 22 years as a publicly-traded company. The move meant Apollo Education no longer had to file regular public reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission about the university’s activities, including the status of the federal and state investigations it faced.“How opaque this all is now,” said higher education authority Dahn Shaulis, who publishes College Meltdown, a data and research driven site that monitors universities. Shaulis, who is critical of for-profit universities, told TheDCNF that all meaningful information has dried up after Nesbitt took the company private.

“Previously, you really had a good idea of what their enrollment was, looking at their balance sheet and their extensive SEC reports,” Shaulis told The DCNF. “Now, that information has just disappeared.”

Apollo described the detailed and ongoing investigation it was facing in its 2016 10-K annual report.  This is the last report filed by Apollo as a publically traded company. In the report, Apollo disclosed their receipt of an “civil investigative demand” from the FTC in July 2015, explaining the commission wanted “to determine if certain unnamed persons, partnerships, corporations or others have engaged or are engaging in deceptive or unfair acts or practices in or affecting commerce in the advertising, marketing or sale of secondary or postsecondary educational products or services or educational accreditation products or services.”

Apollo further elaborated explaining the FTC inquiry was looking for information on a “broad spectrum of the business and practices of University of Phoenix,”  detailing how the commission was reviewing its “marketing, recruiting, enrollment, financial aid, tuition and fees, academic programs, academic advising, student retention, billing and debt collection, complaints, accreditation, training, military recruitment and other compliance matters.”

Apollo also stated emphatically they were making every effort to comply and cooperate with the FTC probe, but it had no intention of complying with the commission’s demand for documents dating back to January 2011. This, in turn, prompted the FTC to file a Motion to Compel in the District of Arizona. U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton agreed and issued an order to comply with the FTC’s demands in January 2016.

Apollo then informed its investors in the  2016 10-K report to the SEC that it “cannot predict the eventual scope, duration or outcome of the [FTC] investigation at this time.”

The Daily Caller reports of how the state of California also joined in the investigation into Apollo when “then-Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, began California’s probe into Apollo Education in August 2015 with an “investigative subpoena” issued against the company, which focused on “its recruitment of military personnel and veterans.” Harris is now a U.S. senator and is reportedly preparing a presidential bid for the 2020 election.

The California subpoena required the university “to produce documents and information regarding the business and practices of University of Phoenix relating to members and former members of the U.S. military and California National Guard, including marketing, recruiting, billing, financial aid, accommodation and other services for military personnel,” according to the 10-K.

There were revolving door and conflict-of-interest problems with Vistria and Apollo Education’s leadership, Politico reported in 2016. The outlet noted that “several key players are either close to top [Obama] administration officials, including the president himself, or are former administration insiders — especially Miller, who was part of the effort to more tightly regulate for-profit colleges at the very agency now charged with approving the ownership change.”

Nesbitt and Miller also turned to a number of prominent Democrats to lend it lobbying and legal influence when it faced a number of problems stemming from the Obama administration.

The Department of Education substantially weakened the student aid Title IV capital requirements from 25 percent to 10 percent, according to news reports. The 25 percent requirement imperiled the $1.1 buyout billion deal.

“I think every way you look at this transaction is questionable and suspicious,” Bush administration-era Department of Education Assistant Secretary Diane Jones, told the New York Post when the new capital terms were announced.

To help him with his relations with Congress, Nesbitt hired Jonathan Samuels — a former Obama White House aide who focused on lobbying Congress. He also hired Amy Brundage, Obama’s White House deputy communications director to head Vistria’s communications through her role with public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker, according to USA Today.

David Halperin, an outspoken critic of what he calls “predatory” for-profit universities, disclosed in a June 2016 report that a number of other prominent Democratic operatives also work for Apollo Education. He identified two Hillary Clinton bundlers, Steve Elmendorf and Alfred Mottur, who served as lobbyists for the company as well as former Sen. Harry Reid senior advisor Jake Perry, who also served as a lobbyist.

Apollo further enlisted Jaime Gorelick, Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general, to fight a 2015 Department of Defense ban on recruitment and enrollment of active duty military personnel after the Pentagon charged that the university violated a 2012 Obama executive order banning deceptive and aggressive recruitment practices by for-profit universities.

Gorelick was hired as a partner and chair of the regulatory and government affairs department at the Washington law firm of WilmerHale.

In the acquisition, Nesbitt partnered with Apollo Global Management (which has no relation to Apollo Education) — an aggressive private equity firm to buy the university. The company describes itself as an “opportunistic investor” dedicated to “opportunistic buyouts and build-ups, corporate carve-outs and distressed investments,” according to the company’s website.

The Apollo Global’s strategy commonly includes massive employee layoffs and the closure of operations, according to the company’s website, which has occurred since the acquisition.”

USA Today ranks the University of Phoenix as one of “America’s Top 20 most-hated companies,” as of a February 2018 report. This stems from the many investigations, the layoffs, and campus closures causing significant hardship for a great many people. This dubious “honor” is shared with other scandalous companies with less than savory reputations for misconduct and impropriety such as Weinstein Company, Equifax, and Wells Fargo.

 

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Ex-Ohio State Coach Busted For Lewd Pics He Took In The White House As Sick Scandal Erupts

The end result was not what he expected

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The White House is known to have some controversy. However, the latest turmoil surrounding it has nothing to do with the people inside or the building itself. Instead, news outlets have been reporting on former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith who was caught taking lewd pictures while he visited the White House. The end result was not what he expected, and the hammer is about to come down.

Fox News reported,

“Former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith allegedly took lewd photos of himself in a bathroom at a White House, ordered thousands of dollars worth of sex toys sent to his office and had sex with a staffer on the college’s campus, according to a report. Documents and receipts obtained by sports outlet Stadium showed Smith ordered more than $2,200 in erotic toys, camera equipment and clothes. He allegedly had the items shipped to his office at the Ohio State Woody Hayes Athletic Center in 2015. It also reportedly obtained lewd photos of Smith while he was wearing a suit from April 20, 2015, the same day the football team was at the White House for a visit after the team, the Buckeyes, won the national title in 2014. Another photo allegedly showed Smith placing his genitalia next to a White House bathroom towel that had the Seal of the President of the United States.

Smith’s ex-wife Courtney Smith told Stadium that the former coach “took multiple photos of his penis inside the Ohio State coaches’ offices” and he “photographed himself in the coaches’ offices receiving oral sex and having sex with an OSU staffer.” Stadium reached out to Brad Koffel, Smith’s attorney, who said he had “no idea” about the lewd photographs and erotic toys. The lawyer accused the media outlet of “receiving stolen property.” “If anyone of this is published or referenced, we will refer to the county prosecutor,” Koffel told Stadium. “This is a felony.”

Smith was fired by Ohio State last month after a history of domestic violence allegations became public. His ex-wife Courtney Smith alleged Smith was abusive toward her multiple times and the college was aware of the incident. Smith has denied the allegations and the two divorced in 2016. Head Coach Urban Meyer was placed on paid leave as the school investigated if the coach properly handled domestic abuse allegations against Smith. Ohio State announced the probe would wrap up on Sunday and the findings would be given to the school board of trustees, USA Today reported.”

Watch Stadium reported,

“Documents and receipts Stadium has obtained show Zach Smith ordered more than $2,200 in sex toys, male apparel and photography equipment and had the items delivered to him at Ohio State’s Woody Hayes Athletic Center in 2015. The Woody Hayes Athletic Center houses all Buckeye football operations. All of the items were delivered to “Zach Smith, Woody Hayes Athletic Center, 535 Irving Schottenstein Drive, Columbus” between February and May 2015. Copies of some of those documents are listed below. Courtney Smith said Zach Smith took multiple photos of his penis inside the Ohio State coaches’ offices, inside the White House when the Buckeyes visited in 2015 and also photographed himself in the coaches’ offices receiving oral sex and having sex with a OSU staffer.

After winning the 2014 national title, the Buckeyes were honored at the White House on April 20, 2015. One photo of Smith’s penis, taken on April 20, 2015 according to a time stamp, shows Smith in his black suit he wore to the White House event. Another photo of Smith’s penis includes a White House bathroom towel featuring the Seal of the President of the United States. Stadium will not publish the penis photos or the photos of the Ohio State staffer, who is no longer working with the football program. Brad Koffel, Zach Smith’s attorney, said Friday that he had “no idea” about the photos and sex paraphernalia sent to Smith to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

After providing Koffel with copies of some of the sex orders and photos, I asked Koffel: What was the purpose of Zach Smith taking those photos in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and the White House, and why were the sex items delivered to him at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center? Did Urban Meyer have knowledge of this information? The following was the entire text exchange between Koffel and myself.

Koffel: Sounds like extortion. Thanks for the texts Brett. I’d get a lawyer if I were you.
McMurphy: Not extortion. I’m not asking for money nor have I received any money. I’m asking for your comment to my original question: what was the purpose of taking these photos and why were the items delivered to the Woody Hayes Center? And did Urban Meyer have knowledge of any of this?
McMurphy: As a courtesy, as you said you would extend, here are my questions: what was the purpose of taking these photos and why were the items delivered to the Woody Hayes Center? And did Urban Meyer have knowledge of any of this? Thx u
Koffel: You know these were accessed illegally. Another felony
McMurphy: I don’t know how they were accessed. Can you answer my questions please
Koffel: You absolutely know or should know these were obtained without my client’s consent. If not, you do know.
Koffel: *now
McMurphy: What are the answers to my questions?
Koffel: You have my answers & my advice. Tread very lightly.
McMurphy: You didn’t answer my questions? So you have nothing further?
Koffel: Not him except with his face. Gag gifts. The oral sex is not him.
McMurphy: Want to double check: White House picture with his tie and wedding ring that are visible from media photos of the event is not him?
Koffel: Nope
McMurphy: Thx u
Koffel: This is receiving stolen property.
Koffel: If any one of this is published or referenced we will refer to the county prosecutor. This is a felony ORC 2913.04
Koffel: Also you are under RC 2913.05

The items that Smith had delivered to him between February and May 2015 included men’s spider enhancer triple c-ring, WildmanT ball lifter red, body wear CS2 metallic erotic c-strap gold and snakeskin, Candyman men’s jock suspenders, as well as PetitQ open slit bikini brief and studio pro product table-top poto lighting kit which arrived at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The products, while mostly from Amazon, also came from companies such as Gypsy B, Devil’s Wink, and Captain Camo to name a few. Just two days ago Toledo Blade announced that Smith had been arrested on the suspicion that he had been drinking and driving in February of 2013 however he plead guilty and got a lesser charge. Reporters were told by Koffell that Ohio State coach Urban Meter was not aware of the arrest from 2013 and that it has never been previously reported until Tuesday.

In July, Smith was fired after the reporters of unreported domestic violence allegations which included the 2009 arrest while he was a part of Meyer’s coaching staff in Florida. However, while Meyers was asked over nine times about Smith’s domestic violence incidents he denied knowledge of them every single time. Nonetheless, Ohio State University announced they would be starting an investigation. Shortly thereafter, Meyer admitted he had lied about not knowing of the incidents but maintained that followed proper protocol. The result of the investigation is still unknown, however, it will end at the end of the 14-day investigation whereby the OSU Board of Trustees and President Michael V. Drake will be notified first and then the media.

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Trump Just Blindsided Muslims In Bold Move Overnight, He’s Done

The White House will be notifying lawmakers of the president’s decision

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There are now several reports stating that President Donald Trump will be canceling the $200 million worth of foreign aid that was set aside to “stabilize” the war-torn nation of Syria.

The AP is reporting that officials with knowledge of the move have said that the White House will be notifying lawmakers of the president’s decision to withhold the funding and spend it elsewhere.

Here is more on this aid package via The Daily Caller:

“President Donald Trump’s administration will withdraw funding for aid programs in northwestern Syria, according to reports from administration officials.

The funding cuts are to the State Department’s “stabilization” programs in northwestern Syria, reported CBS News, citing administration officials. The programs include countering violent extremism, supporting independent media, as well as strengthening local civic and government institutions.

At Trump’s request, the State Department has been reviewing areas in Syria where the U.S. can scale back its financial commitments while focusing its efforts on areas liberated from the Islamic State. As the programs in northwestern Syria are phased out in the coming months, the money will be shifted to help support the counter-ISIS mission in northeast Syria.

The move to cut funding for northwestern Syria comes after Trump froze over $200 million in recovery aid for the entire country in late March. State Department officials said the latest cuts are “distinct from that amount.”

The State Department told CBS that “$200 million of stabilization assistance for Syria is currently under review at the request of the President.”

“Distinct from that amount, U.S. assistance for programs in northwest Syria are being freed up to provide potential increased support for priorities in northeast Syria, as will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing assistance review, including the D-ISIS campaign and stabilization efforts,” according to the report.

Because it has already been cleared of ISIS militants, northwestern Syria is not seen as a priority for the Trump administration, which has sought a narrower mission of fighting the remnants of ISIS in the country’s eastern half. The northwest is also an extraordinarily complex place, partially under Syrian government control but also home to Idlib, a rebel stronghold, and Afrin, where Turkish forces have been battling U.S.-backed Kurdish militia groups.

Washington has provided almost $900 million in non-lethal and stabilization aid to Syrian assistance since 2012, according to the State Department. Funding for humanitarian aid, which is distinct from the stabilization programs, will continue, administration officials said.

“We remain committed to countering ISIS and al-Qaida, in Syria and elsewhere,” a State Department official told Axios. “We will continue to provide life-saving, needs based, humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Syrians, including those in northwest Syria.”

The $200 million in recovery aid was originally pledged by the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a February meeting of the US.-led coalition to defeat ISIS. But we are now starting to learn that only weeks later, the White House ordered the State Department to delay the funds pending the outcome of a spending review.

The Daily Caller reports:

“The cancellation of stabilization funding is in line with Trump’s inclination to avoid a leading role in the Syrian war. While he has stopped short of withdrawing the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops deployed to Syria, he has repeatedly signaled a desire to let other governments take the lead in post-war reconstruction.

The loss of U.S. funding will be more than offset by an additional $300 million pledged by coalition partners, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia, according to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

“Many coalition partners have made pledges and contributions in recent months and the United States appreciates all partners who have stepped up to support this critical effort,” she told the AP.

The proper extent of U.S. involvement in Syria has been an open question in Washington for several years, but the debate has taken on new urgency as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nears victory in the seven-year war. Backed by Russian and Iranian forces, Assad has regained control of most of central and southern Syria, leaving only pockets of rebel territory in the northwest and a U.S.-backed Kurdish autonomous region in the east.”

The cancellation of stabilization funding is just one more promise kept by the Trump White House. Where he pledged to avoid having the U.S. take a leading role in the Syrian war. Although he did not withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops deployed to Syria nor did he mention any withdrawal in the future, he has repeatedly said he his goal is to let other governments take the lead in the post-war reconstruction of a nation which is far from being stable.

Although the loss of these funds will be felt it will be offset by an additional $300 million which has already been pledged by coalition partners. One of which includes Saudi Arabia who has pledged $100 million.

The AP is reporting that in acknowledgment of the changing of power the White House plans to tap James Jeffrey as special envoy to Syria. Jeffrey is a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and a career foreign service officer. Jeffrey will hold the title of “special representative for Syrian engagement” and report directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or the President.

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