House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2009

Letter from Rep. John Kline to Education Secretary Arne Duncan re: Administration Advocacy for Direct Loan Conversion

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202 

Dear Secretary Duncan: 

Three days ago, the Office of Management and Budget published the Open Government Initiative, which OMB Director Peter Orzag pledged “will help to make government more open, transparent, and accountable to bridge the gap between the American people and their government.” In fact, the Obama Administration has made openness and transparency a marquee promise to the American people. Accordingly, I am surprised by the opacity of the Department of Education’s efforts to promote transition to the Direct Loan program.  

My letter dated November 3, 2009 requested detailed documentation of the Department’s efforts to encourage colleges and universities to comply with the proposed implementation of 100 percent Direct Lending. Then, and now, there are serious questions about whether taxpayer dollars have been used to advocate for legislation currently pending in Congress. Congress is constitutionally mandated to exercise oversight of the executive branch. The production of a mere nine documents, all of them widely available, in response to my inquiry is completely insufficient.  

Since my original request, troubling media reports continue to imply federal funds are being used by your agency to promote the Administration’s political and legislative agenda. On December 5, 2009, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial confirming that financial aid administrators are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution from the federal government. Because my concerns over the Department’s improper and potentially illegal activities persist, I would like you to provide the originally requested information, as detailed below:  

1.  Any and all documents relating to any communications between the Department of Education and any one or more persons that are not employees of the executive branch of the U.S. Government from January 21, 2009, to the present date concerning any of the following initiatives:

a.       the elimination of the Federal Family Education Loan program;
b.      the conversion to the Direct Loan program;
c.       the American Graduation Initiative; or
d.      other proposals included in the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009. 

2.  A log of any and all phone calls made by Department of Education officials to officials at institutions of higher education relating to the issue areas outlined in question 1 from January 21, 2009 to the present date, a description of the purpose of these phone calls, and the name and position of the party being called at the institution. 

3.  Any correspondence, e-mails, meeting minutes, notes, or presentations from January 21, 2009 through the date of this request that have been created by the Department, used by the Department, or provided to institutions of higher education about conversion to the Direct Loan program. 

As Congress moves forward with reforms related to our education system, I will continue to demand openness and transparency. The American people deserve no less. Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. If you have any questions, please contact Amy Jones or Kirk Boyle on my staff at (202) 225-6558.  

Sincerely, 

John Kline
Senior Republican

(Click here for a PDF copy of the letter)