Senator Elizabeth Warren and a Democratic colleague want the Trump administration to determine whether a top Education Department appointee is using his position to benefit his former employer, the for-profit college company Bridgepoint Education Inc.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, are questioning whether Robert Eitel has complied with federal ethics law, and the administration’s own ethical guidelines.
Eitel recently resigned from Bridgeport to become a senior counselor to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The senators are concerned he may be playing a role in the department’s revision to the so-called “borrower defense’’ in the student loan industry.
According to the senators, federal rules allow students to be discharged if they show the educational institution defrauded them, an issue of key importance to Bridgepoint, which last year was ordered to forgive $23.5 million in student loan and pay an $8 million fine to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In their letter, the second time Warren has raised questions about Eitel’s government activity, the senators demanded documentation from the department describing what issues Eitel has examined since joining the department.
“Mr. Eitel is reported to be actively working on an issue that is of significant interest to his previous employer, known as the ‘borrower defense,’” regulation,’’ the senators wrote. “Thus it would appear that despite his conversion to a full-time government employee, Mr. Eitel remains in direct violation of the Ethics Pledge, and potentially other federal ethics rules.’’
By June 5, the senators want the department to provide ethics paperwork filed by Eitel, including financial disclosure and conflict of interest documentation, and a signed copy of the administration’s Ethics Pledge.
The administration’s pledge for newly appointed government employees includes the requirement that they will not “for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.’’John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.