Republican attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow said Wednesday he would return $24,500 in campaign donations he received from people affiliated with the shuttered for-profit Globe University and Minnesota School of Business.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last year that the schools issued thousands of student loans illegally and charged unlawfully high interest rates, and in 2016 a judge found the schools had defrauded criminal justice students. Attorney General Lori Swanson sued the schools for consumer fraud and illegal loans, prompting the court’s action.
“Because of recent litigation with the Attorney General’s Office, the Wardlow campaign is returning the donations,” Billy Grant, Wardlow’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
State DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin and Minnesota State College Faculty President Kevin Lindstrom condemned the donations at a news conference Wednesday, and said the next attorney general needs to be impartial and take on businesses that are hurting Minnesotans.
“It doesn’t take a campaign finance expert to really understand why the Myhre family would be donating as much money as they have to Doug Wardlow. It’s because they do want to get back into this state and ultimately they want to, for lack of a better word, buy off the next attorney general,” Martin said.
The DFL noted 10 people connected to Globe University, including owner Terry Myhre, donated to Wardlow. State Campaign Finance Board records show each of the donors gave either $2,000 or $2,500 on Sept. 17 and 18.
Jeanne Herrmann, the former chief operating officer of Globe University, gave $2,500 to Wardlow. When asked about the donations that she and others affiliated with the college made, she replied in an e-mail that they have consistently supported Republican candidates for state and federal office through campaign contributions and fundraisers.
“Questioning our motives in contributing to this campaign seems disingenuous at best,” Herrmann said.
None of the 10 people who donated to Wardlow have given money to any other candidates in 2018, according to the most recently reported state and federal campaign finance data. However, many of them have donated to other candidates in past years.
Globe and the Minnesota School of Business shut down after the U.S. Department of Education ended their access to federal financial aid programs. The business is now operating in Wisconsin as Broadview University, where Herrmann is chief executive officer.
Grant called the DFL’s credibility on the issue “laughable” and questioned when they are going to rebuke Democratic attorney general candidate U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison for past associations with “cop killers.”
Ellison participated in a fundraiser for Sara Jane Olson in 2000; she later pleaded guilty to helping put pipe bombs under police cars in the 1970s. He also took part in a 1992 rally to support a group working to stop gang violence. Some gang members connected to the group were later implicated in the murder of a Minneapolis police officer.
The recent Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll, which showed Wardlow with a 7-percentage-point lead, reflects that, “Keith Ellison is unfit to serve as Minnesota’s top cop,” Grant said.
He did not respond to questions about Wardlow’s stance on Swanson’s lawsuits against the for-profit school, and whether he would support allowing it to resume work in Minnesota.