As we noted recently, it looks like “critics” of for-profit colleges are up to their old tricks. A career Veterans Affairs (VA) bureaucrat, Charmain Bogue, failed to disclose payments to her husband by an special interest group that was pushing her to block veterans from using their G.I. Bill benefits at the school that they believe works best for them.
Now, newly disclosed tax filings raise questions about why the group—Veterans Education Success (VES)—failed to disclose its contract payments to Barrett Bogue or his consulting firm while VES was urging his wife to limit veterans’ educational choices.
Ultimately, the VA “backed down” in July, but in March, the VA had initially announced it would do exactly what VES had asked Charmain Bogue to do—suspend enrollment of GI bill students in certain schools. And, VES was somehow among the first to get the news, praising the decision several hours before the VA had even announced it.
A case study in how the DC influence game is played?
In November 2018, right around the time that Charmain became the head of education services at the VA, Barrett’s firm signed a contract for him to become a senior communication advisor to VES, charged with supporting “VES’ goal of improving communication and outreach across the country.” Business was now so good, he wrote, that he “submitted my resignation at my full-time job the next day.”
So, exactly how much has VES paid Bogue, or his firm Evocati, since late 2018?
Only they know. The recently released VES tax filing doesn’t disclose the amount. The form covers 2019 and discloses no payments to any contractors at all, which it may have been required to report. Despite more than $2 million in foundation and individual donations, VES disclosed the salary of just one employee, its President, Carrie Wofford, who made $120,000.
The timing of Wofford’s decision to hire Barrett Bogue appears to be more than coincidental. The same month that the VA announced Charmain Bogue’s promotion to head of education services, her husband landed a contract with VES that he said was lucrative enough that he quit his job. But VES didn’t disclose the payments on its annual tax return, as it may have been required to do.
VES should come clean about how much it paid the Bogues, and if appropriate, amend its tax return. The VA should explain how it allows an obvious conflict of interest, one that may run afoul of its own ethics regulations, to persist.