Nelnet officials defended their contributions to the political campaigns of two Nebraska congressmen who voted last week against a bill that could cut interest rates on student loans.
The legislation, approved by the House last week and awaiting Senate approval, could affect the profits of large private lenders, including the Lincoln-based National Education Loan Network, Nelnet.
Nebraska Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith, who both voted against the House legislation, received thousands of dollars in contributions for their 2006 campaigns from Nelnet.
Representatives from Nebraska's congressional delegation have strenuously objected to allegations that the votes of any of Nebraska's House representatives are influenced by campaign contributions.
Fortenberry has not been available for comment since Tuesday.
Nelnet officials said Congress plans to pay for the interest-rate cut by "squeezing the lender incentives that could otherwise be passed on to students." In other words, they worry the cut in interest rates could end up costing students more.....
Federal Election Commission reports show that approximately $26,000 of Nelnet-affiliated funds made it to the campaign chest of Fortenberry for his 2006 congressional campaign....
Smith received $5,000 from Nelnet's PAC for his 2006 campaign.
The entire article demands a read. The only glaring omissions are the mentions that Nelnet was the largest contributor in the nation to the House Republican Campaign Committee in 2006 and that - surprise, surprise - the Bush Administration just negotiated a deal that allowed Nelnet to keep almost $300 million in ill-gotten, tax-subsidized profits without suffering any penalty.
When it comes to money, power, and politics, all rivers run together. This article doesn't explore all the streams and tributaries, but it at least does a good job of showing that, with Fortenberry and Smith, the flow is against the people they represent (Pardon the metaphor).
Luke Swarthout, a spokesman for U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (U.S. PIRG) puts it very succinctly:
"These tremendous (financial aid) subsidies are directly affected by congressional policy....
"Campaign contributions and lobbying payments are seen as and treated as greater investments in greater return and greater revenue."
College students will put up with a lot of crap: from higher tuition to one-hundred dollar textbooks; even being treated like criminals by the police when they go out for a drink. But, when their own Congressmen cast votes that would cost them thousands of dollars in interest on student loans - to assure greater profits for campaign contributors - that's just pushing them too damn far.
Nice to see the Daily Nebraskan push back - not with advocacy, but with the truth. I just hope, as voters, both parents and students are paying attention.