Clare McCann, a former senior policy adviser in the US Department of Education, has been accused of lobbying for the education sector shortly after leaving her position to work for Arnold Ventures, a limited liability corporation.
McCann Submits a 14-Page Comment About the Issue
McCann submitted a 14-page comment with a colleague to the department in March, calling for policy changes that could affect online education. This led to a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Accountability Foundation for McCann’s communications while in government.
According to the Biden administration’s “ethics pledge,” political appointees who leave government service agree not to lobby the Executive Branch “for the remainder of the administration or two years following the end of my appointment, whichever is later.”
However, according to experts, McCann’s activity was technically not lobbying and therefore wouldn’t violate the ethics pledge. Lisa Gilbert, Executive Vice President of Public Citizen, compared it to a former official writing an op-ed in a newspaper.
What is the Issue All About?
In a published article in FOX News, McCann’s swift transition from government work to attempting to influence policy outside the government has sparked concern over the revolving door of political appointees. This is when political appointees move between the government and outside special interests.
McCann’s work is seen as an example of such behavior. Tom Jones, President of the American Accountability Foundation (AAF), called for the revolving door at the Department of Education to be closed and for people who have abused the system to be held accountable. McCann was a senior policy adviser for over a year, starting in the spring 2021, but left her position just seven months later.
Involvement of Arnold Ventures
The comment that McCann submitted with Arnold Ventures was in response to the department’s request for public comment about its proposed guidance to third-party services and institutions. The guidance currently under consideration is for the online program managers (OPMs), which are outside contractors that recruit students for and operate schools’ online academic programs.
These companies are officially considered third-party services, which means they are involved with the administration of “any aspect” of an institution’s federal student financial aid. As a result, these companies can be subjected to stricter federal oversight, which critics argue will ultimately harm the schools and students they serve.
Arnold Ventures, headed by Texas billionaire John Arnold, has denied that McCann has done anything wrong. According to the administration’s ethics pledge, McCann should not have lobbied the Executive Branch for the remainder of the administration or two years following the end of her appointment, whichever is later.
The Department of Education has similarly rejected the notion that McCann had violated the administration’s ethics pledge. In any case, experts have stated that McCann’s activity was technically not lobbying and therefore did not violate the ethics pledge.