CREW Exposed

Hypocritical CREW Implicated in Dark-Money Scheme

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) made its name by calling out conservatives who received support from businesses to argue their interests. But what would happen if a big-shot liberal donor had business interests that also needed protection in D.C.?

This story played out in 2010, when Congress and the Obama Administration were proposing new regulations on for-profit colleges, including the University of Phoenix, which was run by the late liberal billionaire John Sperling. Curiously, CREW sided with the for-profit industry against most liberals, leading some (most notably Mike Elk, a journalist then writing for the left-wing American Prospect) to wonder if CREW was being secretly funded by Sperling or another for-profit college consortium.

Based on IRS records that have become available in the interim, we can now connect the dots from CREW to a non-profit funded by University of Phoenix’s Sperling to advocate on its behalf.

In our new report “Bad Education,”  we unpack the network of political consultants, 501(c)nonprofit groups, and pass-through grants that helped Sperling’s Aurora Foundation send up to $150,000 to Washington’s purported watchdog in a scheme that CREW would surely condemn were it committed by a right-of-center organization.

There’s an amusing cast of characters: Melanie Sloan, the partisan “watchdog” turned apparent industry shill; Jim Gonzalez, the Sacramento Democratic political consultant and architect of a sketchy web of dubious 501(c) groups; John Sperling, the billionaire for-profit education titan whose Aurora Foundation was the source of at least much of the money that funded Gonzalez’s network; and  even Thomas Mattzie, the former organizer who admitted to taking money from donors that he “believed” included Sperling after shilling for the for-profit industry.

So read the whole thing. CREW, often presumed by the media to be pure as the wind-driven snow, come out looking more like late-winter leftovers on the sidewalk. It’s no less than this lapdog organization deserves.

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