Newly-elected House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner’s (R-OH) close relationship with the private student loan company Sallie Mae came “under scrutiny by the news media and some lawmakers” during his race to replace Tom DeLay, and for good reason.
Sallie Mae and other loan companies have generously donated to him. In return, the former chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce “shepherded through Congress student-loan legislation that will affect Sallie Mae’s bottom line and offered assurances that he will protect such lenders’ interests.” Here are some of the lowlights:
SALLIE MAE SHOWERS BOEHNER WITH CASH: PoliticalMoneyLine examined the 2003–2004 financial disclosure forms from Boehner’s Freedom Project PAC. They found that out of $572,719 of individual donations, those “affiliated with the private student-loan industry gave the PAC $220,020, including $52,670 from officers of Sallie Mae.” In a separate analysis, the Center for Responsive Politics discovered that Sallie Mae is Freedom Project’s biggest donor, with donations totaling $122,470 since 1989.
SALLIE MAE HOSTED BOEHNER FUNDRAISERS AND GOLF TRIPS: Beyond donations, Boehner has personal ties to the company. For example, a Sallie Mae lobbyist “hosted a fund-raising dinner in her suburban Washington home for his leadership political action committee” and “a majority of the company’s top executives wrote checks for the event.” The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, “On several occasions, Mr. Boehner was a guest of Albert L. Lord, who was Sallie Mae’s chief executive officer from 1997 to 2005 and is now chairman of its board, on the company’s corporate jet, primarily for golf outings in Florida.”
SALLIE MAE SAYS JUMP, BOEHNER ASKS HOW HIGH: “Boehner has sponsored legislation strongly supported by private student lenders to restrict the ability of the U.S. Department of Education to make government student loans less expensive by cutting fees,” the Washington Post reported. Recently, Boehner supported a bill that “could deal a serious blow to the competing direct-loan program” by making student-aid budgets discretionary (variable from year to year), rather than mandatory. Sallie Mae and other private companies hope this change will allow Congress to reduce funding to their direct-loan competition.