A potential self-funding Republican congressional candidate is already under fire for deceptive practices at a chain of for-profit colleges he owns.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today ripped Berkeley College owner Tim Luing, a possible challenger to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) in New Jersey’s 5th district, for luring students “with inflated promises of job opportunities and earning potential.”
Last October, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs accused Berkeley College of predatory practices
The allegations followed a two-year investigation that involved undercover operations and a battle over subpoenas.
“New Jersey needs a Representative who’s going to work across the aisle to find solutions that puts more money in the pockets of families, not a scam artist who has ripped off Jersey students and families,” said DCCC spokesman Mike Gwin.
Berkeley College, which is owned by the Luing family, engaged in aggressive recruitment and debt collection tactics, including “tricking students into taking out loans directly from the college,” the consumer affairs department said in its lawsuit.
“Our investigation into Berkeley College reveals that their recruiters appear to say whatever they think a prospective student wants to hear, especially when it comes to academic programs, employment, transfer credits, and federal student loans – regardless of the truth – to convince them to enroll,” said New York City consumer affairs commissioner Lorelei Salas. “These aggressive recruiting tactics are designed to prey on the hopes and dreams of consumers seeking improved career prospects and greater financial security to better care for themselves and their families.”
Among the allegations in the city’s lawsuit: tuition is nearly $13,000 per-semester – more than three times what City University of New York charges – but they spent less than half of what CUNY does per student.
The cost of a bachelor’s degree is nearly $170,000, according to the college website.
Berkeley College targets people of color and first-generation college students from low-income families, the lawsuit charges.
The graduation rate for Berkeley College is just 36%, far behind the national freshman retention rate, according to collegefactual.com.
“Predatory schools like Berkeley profit from students’ attempts to better their lives—and leave students saddled with crushing student loan debt,” said Jane Greengold Stevens, the co-director of the special litigation unit of the New York Legal Assistance Group.
Luing would have the ability to self-finance a campaign against Gottheimer, a two-term Democrat known as the “human fundraising machine.”
The 50-year-old Saddle River resident is already familiar to national Republicans: he serves on the steering committee of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and raised over $250,000 for GOP candidates last year.
Luing has contributed more than $480,000 politicians – mostly to Republicans, but also to some Democrats.
He contributed to Chris Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign ($2,700) and to his Leadership Matters for America PAC ($5,000). In 2014, he contributed $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $1,500 to Cory Booker’s U.S. Senate campaign. He sent $1,000 to Barack Obama in 2008, after hosting a June 2007 fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani in that cycle.
The two-term congressman is already fundraising off a possible Luing candidacy.
“A self-funding opponent is eyeing this seat, and he’s a serious threat with the full backing of the NRCC,” a Gottheimer campaign e-mail seeking campaign contributions said this morning. “This is exactly the type of candidate the NRCC wanted to throw into the ring: a self-funder who is ready to vote with the Tea Party extremists on everything,”
Gottheimer has $4.1 million cash-on-hand as he prepares to seek re-election in a district almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
Donald Trump carried the 5th in the 2016 presidential election.
A former Clinton White House speechwriter and Microsoft executive, Gottheimer ousted seven-term Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage) in 2016 by a 51%-47% margin. He was re-elected last year by 41,291 votes (56%-42%).
Luing did not respond to a 4:13 PM call on Feb. 25 from the New Jersey Globe to discuss his possible run for Congress.