Why Rubio’s first real scandal isn’t going anywhere

Perhaps “scandal” isn’t the most accurate word to describe the controversy in which Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) finds himself embroiled. It is, however, a matter of contention for which the Florida senator will have to answer and that could arrest the rise in his stock value as a 2016 candidate.

According to a June, 2014 letter obtained by Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur, Rubio personally requested deputy secretary of education go easy on the for-profit Corinthian Colleges. That institution was accused by federal investigators of deliberately harming students with a “predatory lending scheme.” Even though it was under investigation, Corinthian Colleges continued to accept millions of dollars in federal aid.

“It has been brought to my attention that the U.S. Department of Education has recently placed extreme financial constraints on Corinthian Colleges, Inc. by restricting the company’s timely access to federal financial aid. It is my understanding the Department of Education has requested extensive documents be provided by Corinthian Colleges for review, and Corinthian has acted in good faith to try to provide these documents as expeditiously as possible,” Rubio wrote.

In the following months, Corinthian Colleges shuttered its 28 campuses, including the one operating in Rubio’s home state, and was fined $30 million by the Department of Education for up to 947 “confirmed cases of misrepresentation of job placement rates.” The college’s 16,000 students who had been enrolled in what they had believed to be reputable degree programs suddenly found themselves adrift.

The cost of higher education has become a major issue in the 2016 Democratic primary. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s “ready for boldness” petition demands that the party’s presidential nominee pursue a plan that would make attending a four-year institution a “debt-free” proposition. Hillary Clinton’s aides have confirmed that they are looking into the prospect of fully subsidizing up to two years of college attendance, a policy Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has already embraced.

The far-left regards a college degree as both a fundamental right and a prerequisite necessary to secure even modest prosperity. When President Barack Obama noted correctly that too many college students are graduating with degrees in, for example, art history and are finding themselves with few career prospects, the left lashed out at him and compelled him to apologize for this justifiable albeit unduly specific observation. “Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks,” Obama wrote to an irate student who needed a “safe space” after the president dared speak the truth. “I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history.”

But if the left believes that a four-year non-profit college is an essential rung on the ladder to success, they see for-profit colleges as little more than a scam. In the case of Corinthian Colleges, they’re right. Democrats might want to make sure that Hillary Clinton doesn’t pass up the chance to wound Rubio for his defense of this particular institution, and she might try to live up to her liberal supporters’ expectations. But Clinton will find that her own associations with a for-profit college will necessarily mute any criticism she might want to make of Rubio.

“Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton disparaged America’s troubled for-profit college industry on Tuesday despite the close ties she and her husband enjoy with Laureate, America’s largest for-profit education corporation by enrollment and a company beset by charges of financial instability and unethical practices,” The Daily Caller’s Eric Owens reported.

Laureate scored a marketing coup when it hired Bill Clinton in 2010 as its global pitchman. In his position as honorary chancellor, he has gone around the world over a dozen times — to places such as Peru, Malaysia and Spain — to hawk the company.

The for-profit education juggernaut pays Clinton a secret sum of money for his globetrotting efforts. Neither Clinton nor Laureate will disclose exactly how much it is.

The former president gets other perks as well as cash. In 2012, for example, Laureate Education was one of a handful of sponsors of the Clinton Global Initiative’s CGI University.

Hillary Clinton has also been squarely in cahoots with Laureate. As Secretary of State, she helped legitimize Laureate in the eyes of the world by making the for-profit education behemoth part of her State Department Global Partnership.

“The new book ‘Clinton Cash’ says government grants to the school’s nonprofit affiliate soared when Hillary became secretary of state,” a New York Post report revealed. “As Bubba played pitchman for Baltimore-based Laureate University, the State Department steered a $1.9 million grant to the nonprofit, the book claims.”

If Rubio is to be seriously wounded by this controversy, it won’t be Hillary Clinton who wields the rhetorical blade. It will fall to the press to make the case that the Florida senator put his state’s interests above those of Corinthian Colleges’ defrauded students. It would be perfectly justifiable for the press to continue to investigate Rubio’s links to this for-profit school as they have of the Clinton Foundation’s myriad ethical lapses and fundraising improprieties. But the press can only do so much damage to a politician’s image; it takes a rival political apparatus to define a candidate in negative terms. In this case, Clinton cannot do that.