President Obama called the idea a “no-brainer” last fall, predicting it would take billions of dollars from the profits of private lenders and give it directly to students, and many colleges were already moving to get loans directly from the federal government in anticipation of the next move by Congress.
But an aggressive lobbying campaign by the nation’s biggest student lenders has now put one of the White House’s signature plans in peril, with lenders using sit-downs with lawmakers, town-hall-style meetings and petition drives to plead their case and stay in business.
Since Democrats are needed to block the reform, Sallie Mae has enlisted two of the Capitol’s biggest Democratic heavyweights, Tony Podesta and Jamie Gorelick, to lobby on its behalf. Gorelick, who is quoted in the article, became very wealthy tending the “sewer of corruption” at Fannie Mae.
Tony Podesta is a leading lobbyist and the brother of John Podesta, former Clinton chief of staff and founder of the Center for American Progress (CAP).
Notably, CAP has played a leading role in fighting for this bill, particularly through Campus Progress, its student organizing arm. The top action alert on its site today isTell Congress: Put Students Over Banks.
Campus Progress doesn’t appear to have made note of this brotherly tension. This article mentions that the Podesta Group is lobbying on behalf of Sallie Mae, but doesn’t mention Tony. A blog post today reports that Sallie Mae is spending $8 million to fight student loan reform. Maybe it’s of some consolation that a miniscule percentage of the funds will probably make it back to the organization in the form of a donation from Tony?
And maybe they aren’t really facing off; John and Tony would seem to stand on opposite sides of this issue, given that the fight pits Campus Progress versus the Podesta Group, but there’s no evidence that there is any tension between them, on this or a whole range of issues.
Tony continues to capitalize on his ties to John, as he has throughout his career — he is arguably Washington’s top lobbyist, now that Obama has taken office. And here’s John toasting Tony at his over-the-top high society birthday party.
I suppose it wouldn’t be cool to bring up predatory lending at your brother’s birthday. But wouldn’t it be frustrating to have your brother fighting all of your organization’s hard work on a particular issue? (Assuming, of course, that you actually care about the issue.)