UDC: The Little School with the Big Lobby D.C.'s public university spent nearly $400,000 lobbying the feds. And about all it's gotten is a lawmaker wearing a UDC shirt.

Unearmarked: UDC’s lobbyist says she once saw a congressman sporting the school’s logo.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery

It’s never easy to be a lobbyist for the University of the District of Columbia. Especially not in 2011. Since taking over the House, Republicans have banned earmarks. President Barack Obama’s budget—which features a few goodies for the District’s comparatively unknown public university—languishes in political gridlock. In the heat of the summer, you don’t have to snoop around to find out that the school could use some help: The administration building on its brutalist, 1970s-era campus is still equipped with a boiler. It’s steamy inside.

“It’s hot in here now,” says Aimee Occhetti, who back in 2009 took a job as the school’s first federal lobbyist. Occhetti, whose taste runs to bright blazers and a short haircut falling just above her eye, finds her office a little more rumpled. “It’s either hot, too hot, too cold.”

Alas, Occhetti’s boss hasn’t made things any easier. He’s been in the news this year over dubious university-funded trips to places like Cairo, where he spent a few hours visiting a UDC sister school before sightseeing and shopping. It’s likely that the profligacy represented the first time many folks on the Hill had ever heard of UDC.

“It may be problematic,” Occhetti, UDC’s vice president for government relations, says. At least one member of Congress has already mentioned Allen Sessoms’s expenses to her, although she won’t say who it was.

Sessoms may be hindering the lobbying office now, but as it happens he also created it. Sessoms, the former president of Delaware State and New York’s Queens College, singled out federal lobbying as a focus for his administration while interviewing for the president’s job, according to former Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso. He kept his promise. In 2010, the under-resourced institution spent some $167,000 lobbying the feds—far outpacing every other four-year D.C. institution. In fact, the number is nearly double that of Georgetown University, the second-biggest lobbying spender among the city’s universities.

Sessoms, who took the job in 2008, hired Occhetti in February 2009 to lead the school’s government relations office. The school already had a lobbyist for local government, Thomas Redmond, but registration records state that Occhetti was UDC’s first employee to lobby the federal government.

From 2009 until the end of June 2011, UDC spent $394,000 on lobbying the federal government. The president’s rationale for ramping up efforts was simple: He’d been charged with making UDC into a great state university, and federal funding could help him achieve that.

It sounds great, but for one problem: All that money hasn’t brought one federal dollar to UDC.

That’s not for lack of trying. Using two outside lobbying firms on top of Occhetti and an in-house lobbyist colleague, UDC chased a variety of earmarks: for a green law school, a teaching academy, the “UDC Renewable Energy Institute.” Two of the earmarks, worth a total of $750,000, did get into committees. But the university’s chances of receiving any at all died when Republicans banned earmarks.

The lobbyists also tried to influence Obama’s budget proposal, which ultimately set aside $2.5 million for the development of the UDC community college. Occhetti says being in the budget is so amazing that she almost fell out of her chair when she heard about it. But a proposal is just a proposal, and with the budget locked in negotiations, it’s not clear whether the school’s lobbying dollars will help it become any more than that. After Obama compromised on D.C. abortion funding to achieve consensus in an earlier budget discussion, it’s not hard to imagine him trading away UDC, too.

That would leave the university $394,000 poorer after two years of lobbying, with no money to show for it. “I can’t help that Congress changed,” Occhetti says.

The explanation, though, doesn’t quite cover it all: Occhetti started her job in February 2009, giving her nearly two years to cajole a Democratic Congress before Republicans took over last winter.

Occhetti says it’s not fair to compare the lobbying spending at UDC and other District universities. The law that requires lobbying clients to disclose how much they spend is vague enough, she says, that other schools can find ways to get around the law. She says that UDC, by contrast, reports as much as they can out of an abundance of caution.

“The Lobbying Disclosure Act doesn’t give you a nice calculation of, OK, punch in how many hours a week you did this and that,” says Patrick Bateman, another lobbyist at UDC.

A calculation, though, is exactly what Georgetown, the District university that came in second to UDC in 2010 lobbying spending, uses to make its disclosures. While Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s in-house lobbyist, wouldn’t talk about other universities’ government relations operations, he says Georgetown’s lobbying expenses are rigorously checked.

When Fleming takes a Georgetown employee to lobby Congress, for example, administrators use a formula to figure out how much that lobbying cost. The formula considers, among other things, the employee’s salary, vacation days, and office space. It even factors in different rental rates on Georgetown office buildings. Given that Georgetown isn’t making wild estimates for its disclosures, then, it’s fair to compare the two universities’ expenses.

UDC’s hired guns also say the 36-year-old school needs their services much more desperately than do other local universities, which can take advantage of alums in Congress or Catholic Church affiliations. While all District universities’ efforts are hurt by the lack of voting representation, the others (with stronger alumni networks or other institutional ties) aren’t in quite as dire a position, according to University of Virginia politics Professor James D. Savage, who works as UVA’s executive assistant for federal relations.

“[UDC]’s not just a small school,” says Savage. “They have no hand to play.”

Savage, who has studied higher education lobbying, agrees that it would be difficult to account for every dollar a university spends on lobbying. Dues paid to groups like the Association of American Universities, for example, can end up being used to pay for lobbying that benefits a school, but don’t show up in an itemized fashion on lobbying disclosure forms. (Then again, big associations don’t tend to win earmarks for specific schools, but rather to push for broad priorities.)

The lobbying, though, may not last forever. At a June Board of Trustees meeting, Ibrahim Koroma, the school’s chief financial officer, warned that UDC might have to slash its budget in 2012, even reducing budgets for books and academic conference trips.

“Nothing is sacred,” he said at the meeting.

Occhetti thinks cutting the lobbying budget would be too bad, despite the lack of concrete legislative achievements. UDC, for example, has seen some success with congressional schmoozing. Twenty-one members of Congress attended a reception on May 10, and got a mention in The Hill for it.

“Before I got here, nobody knew what UDC was [in Congress],” Occhetti says. Even if UDC hasn’t received money yet, Occhetti says, it’s important to have a presence around lawmakers.

But all that goodwill is useless if it ultimately doesn’t benefit the larger university. Savage says receptions are superfluous for some schools, which can bank on the name their institutions have won in other ways, like by excelling academically, athletically, or simply by being bigger.

Occhetti did get at least some good news recently. Walking around Congress, she saw Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., wearing a UDC shirt, one of about a dozen UDC gave to supportive legislators. Several people were commenting on it.

“It was kind of a big deal,” Occhetti says. Grijalva turned to her, she recalls, and said the shirt was advertising that didn’t cost anything. A spokesman for Grijalva confirmed the story.

It would be one of the first free things in an expensive campaign that has had few results so far.

Our Readers Say

We gave this reporter ample information to construct a fair story. We didn't expect a positive article, but we certainly didn't expect or deserve the smirking editorial that is this piece.

Information ignored: The government relations effort secured $1.3 million from the President's stimulus package (the university would not have received these resources were it not for the fact that we now have professional lobbyists who monitor available federal resources). The writer also interviewed at least two people that we know of - outside UDC - who are familiar with the efforts here (interviews we arranged, by the way) who gave an objective assessment of the changes that have occurred over the last three years. Not a word from them made into this hit job. Also, it’s not always about money. Our government relations efforts have produced the first Congressional internship program ever engaged at the university. Members of Congress will employ UDC students in their offices, and that gives real work experience to our students. Isn't that the real bottom line?

Keep in mind, UDC's current efforts to bolster federal lobbying has had exactly two years to match what the private and all the other public universities have been doing for decades. We don't expect to be at their level right away, but we have to compete for the same resources. We have to perform at the same level in all areas. And we have to engage Congress ourselves - because of the unique political circumstances surrounding DC and, by extension, UDC.

Is it the suggestion of this writer that we NOT compete for these resources, just like all other universities? UDC is the only public university in Washington. It has educated tens of thousands of people - and has a legitimate place in this city. To insinuate that it somehow should not behave like its peers is nonsense. The university is evolving physically, academically and operationally. It is a real, live institution with great faculty - and great students that will continue to make significant contributions to the fabric of this city.
Embarrassing. I learned more from the Etter letter than from the article. And what's with the fashion reporting and what does Ochetti's appearance have to do with it that the photo doesnt show? There is plenty of real material to dig into at UDC without resorting to shooting the messengers.
So am I to imply from this editorial that Georgetown spends an "appropriate" amount on lobbying? Is it all a coincidence that the reporter went to Georgetown?

And what exactly do Georgetown and UDC have in common other than being located in the same city that permits this comparison?
There is no doubt that UDC has many, many long-standing problems; it is imbued with the hallmarks of dysfunction. This dysfunction is exacerbated by the inability of UDC and the community in which it exists to speak openly and honestly about those problems. This article is one instance of that; so what if the department of government relations spent money on lobbying for the University? At least they’re trying to make a difference.

It is time for the press to begin real reporting on the situation at UDC. Here are some suggestions: entrenched faculty and staff who are unable or unwilling to update their skill sets; support departments that are unable to provide basic services to the University and its students; a tenure and promotions process that does not reward faculty and staff for doing quality work; lack of basic customer service skills across the University; an executive administration that is unable to effectively work with faculty and staff to make basic improvements. I could go on. Many faculty, administrators and staff at UDC are also doing exceptionally good jobs. I count myself in that group; we work very hard under extremely trying and annoying circumstances to provide the type of education and services our students deserve. These are stories that need to be told as well.

This snarky one-dimensional reporting does nothing to spark the type of conversation that is needed.
Most "news" media are "for profit" entities and some will do almost anything besides reporting fairly or accurately in their pursuit of profits. The blessing of freedom of speech allows them to say or print what they want to insinuate almost anything. Their only obligation is to feed their families. Whether they can sleep at night because of the bending of the truth, inaccuracies and omissions they commit while doing their work is not my concern. Even among the most respected news media organizations there have been instances of poor and misleading reporting in a rush to get "the story" (the income production) out there. Letters to the editors and aired e-mails and Tweets just serve to sell more of the same. Letters to the advertisers might be more effective. One of the responsibilities we all have in the information age is to be skeptical and truth check everything. Grandpop said,"Don't believe everything you hear (read)." Unfortunately, it may be hard to believe anything these days.
From Georgetown's Website.
"Since 1814, 154 Georgetown faculty and alumni have served in Congress and there are currently six senators and 12 representatives in office today." So Georgetown, with all of its boosters, private funding and alumni in Congress is allowed to engage in the federal process, but a small city school, new to the game is being scrutinized for its efforts? Elitist much, City Paper? The fact that 21 MOC's did attend an event is a big deal (or big F'IN DEAL if your Joe Biden)! The fact that law makers are wearing their tshirts and sharing in the pride of a small city school alongside the Georgetown alum is a big deal! Of course Georgetwon has this down to a formula because it is old hat for them and there are teams of consultants, alumni, faculty, lawyers, and lobbyists at their disposal. What an unfair comparison! The fact that UDC has essentially one lobbyist who is assisted by two small outside consulting firms and in only three short years has already received mention in the President's budget, created an internship program in Congress for the students, experienced a couple of near misses, and received over a million in funding is really credit to their efforts. Well done UDC. Way to run with the big dogs! Show a little home town pride City Paper!
After reading the article above, I am left to wonder why the lobbyists at UDC have not balanced the federal budget. Two whole years of lobbying effort and they couldn't raise our economy out of a recession, while bringing on tons of dollars in a climate of austerity? What are they doing over on Van Ness?

Seriously, this article represents another UDC hit piece in a long line of UDC hit pieces perpetrated by journalists who need a story of corruption or waste and turn to an easy target. While it is true the UDC has had financial troubles and ethical troubles in the past, President Sessoms has charted a clear course to creating a vibrant intellectual community at the only urban public land grant institution. Instead of yammering on about $369,000 spent over two years and a lack of results in a very short period, how about come over to the Law School and interview some students who give of their time in legal clinics to meet the needs DC residents who aren't able to pay for legal help. How about focusing on the growth and expansion of the campus at Van Ness? (Full disclosure: I am a proud UDC Law Student. I chose this school because of a commitment to serving DC citizens.)

How about writing a story about a lobbying department who, with minimal staff and minimal resources, has increased the visibility of UDC on Capitol Hill as well as aided in career guidance for students interested in work on the Hill? Expecting ten year results from a lobbying department that is two years old creates an easily criticized straw man.

The problem with this article is the lens it views UDC. The author sees a small, public school with some bad marks for mismanagement in the past. The author claims the lobbying department has produced no results in two years, and insinuates that this lack of results is an indictment on the institution.

Here is the correct frame: Georgetown University has a $1 billion endowment and a cadre of graduates at all levels of government including a living former president, as well as over 200 Georgetown alumni working on the Hill. George Washington has a $1.114 billion endowment, and a cadre of graduates at all levels of government. UDC has an endowment under $20 million. You read that right; UDC’s endowment is 2% the size of the other institutions. UDC relies on the federal government for most of its budget. Presently, there is one known UDC student working on the Hill.

It only makes sense that this university would spend time, money, and effort on lobbying in excess of more established universities. If UDC is going to become what the District needs it to be, it will have to do so with the help of the federal government since there is no state government to support it. UDC is growing, as Mr. Etter pointed out. Cheap shots from the cheap seats are not helpful.
Alan, Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill on February 17, 2009. Aimee Occhetti, UDC's first lobbyist, became a registered federal lobbyist on April 20, 2009. I don't see how any federal lobbying could influence what UDC received from the stimulus, more than 2 months after it became law.

For the commenters who say that at least UDC lobbyists are trying, why can't UDC spend lobbying money too: UDC had to close an entire campus in July because the temperature was too hot for its outdated cooling system (http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/159532/44/Its-No-Snow-Day-UDC-Closed-Due-To-Excessive-HEAT). Wouldn't UDC's and taxpayers' money be better spent on basic improvements like a new cooling system than on congressional receptions and T-shirts, considering the lobbying's sparse returns so far?
UDC's performance for students is appalling and their costs are tremendously high. The percentage of students who graduate within 6 years is among the lowest in the nation at less than 20%. Also, they have one of the highest pay packages at an average of over $90,000/year. This is what Pullitzer award winning columnist Steve Pearlstein has concluded: "To put it bluntly, the District doesn't need -- and probably can't support -- a quality land-grant university. Its population is too small and its tax base too narrow. Most of its public school graduates are unprepared to do college-level work. And the most pressing need of its businesses and its unemployed residents is for an effective teaching machine that can make up for the deficiencies of the public school system and train its residents for the tens of thousands of "middle skill" jobs offered by the regional economy."

So how many more UDC staff and students will post on here about how it's awful that people point out how bad a job UDC does?
Mr. Sommer,
Do you really think you are in a position to tell UDC how to spend its money? It appears as though you do. The fact that UDC closed due to heat was, as a student, very frustrating. But to equate spending money on lobbying Congress to spend some much needed cash on improvements seems like a wise investment. For nearly 40 years UDC did not lobby Congress, and that explains at least part of the situation UDC is in. Lobbying Congress is a step in the right direction, towards improvement of facilities. And to the commenter named Tom M.: the tax base for UDC and for DC is of no relevance here. Comparing DC to a state is a misnomer since the entire District depends on Congress to allocate money to the District. Arguing that DC can't support the institution in the way other states can is true. DC isn't a state at all, and needs federal help.
Finally, UDC has real issues, as Tom S. points out. The solution is not to cut and run on UDC, when it has never been properly funded. Sessoms has outlined a way forward, and UDC can be a source of pride for DC and our country. Throwing money at UDC won't work, but allocating money to UDC under the leadership in place will make an impact.
Edit to one sentance in my last post:
But to equate spending money on lobbying Congress to spend some much needed cash on improvements seems like a wise investment to spending on infrastructure is a false comparision.
Actually, You Dee Cee, the comments all state that UDC has problems. What we are objecting to is Will Sommer's reporting on the Department of Government Relations, which was poorly reported and written.
Will, in response to your post about the funds awarded to University by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA / the stimulus bill): you are certainly correct that the bill became law in February 2009. You are also correct that Aimee Occhetti registered the University as a lobbying registrant in April 2009, as required by law.

What you did not mention, and did not inquire about with me, our public relations office, or anyone at the University, was: (1) when Aimee was hired by the University, (2) when the University's lobbying expenditures cross the $11,500 or “two contact” threshold, and (3) what steps the University took after the bill had been signed into law to secure and administer the ARRA funds. If you had inquired, this is what you would have learned:

(1) Aimee began her employment on February 2, 2009. The law passed on February 17, 2009. The insinuation that no efforts were made during the passage of the bill is baseless.

(2) The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires an organization that employs staff for federal lobbying purposes to register as a “lobbying registrant” when either: (a) total lobbying expenditures pass $11,500 in a given quarter, or (b) two or more "lobbying contacts" have been made. Once this threshold is crossed, the organization has 45 days to register. The University’s federal relations program did not “begin” on April 20, 2009; it simply crossed a legal threshold and filed a document stating so. To base your analysis solely on a single Lobbying Disclosure Act document provides a highly incomplete and misleading picture. Again, a simple inquiry about this to our office would have significantly helped.

(3) Upon President Obama's signature of ARRA into law, all $787 billion in funding and tax cuts did not immediately flow from the U.S. Treasury and into the public's pockets (of course, if it had, our economic picture might be a little brighter right now, depending on your politics). Mechanisms had to be developed by federal agencies to distribute the funds, and prospective recipients, including the District of Columbia government, had to decide how to allocate the money. This is where our office played a critical role. We successfully argued before local officials, including Victor Reinoso, that specific provisions of the ARRA law directed $1.39 million to the University. The Fenty administration, however, refused to listen to our request to grant the University funds. It was not until Council Chairman Gray’s office heard us out and forced the Fenty administration to divert a portion of the funding the University through the District’s annual budget process. Were it not for the specific, identifiable and documented efforts of this office, and in particular, Aimee, the University would have ended up empty handed.

Having personally spent dozens of hours working on this project, I am offended that you do not find it worthy of at least an acknowledgment in your story. What is even more disturbing, however, is that we clearly alerted you to the stimulus money we had secured when you met with us earlier this summer. There were three people in the room and your tape recorder was rolling. You even jotted down the dollar amount. If you did not understand the details, you had ample time and opportunities to discuss it with us. It is very hard to paint a fair picture if you omit meaningful facts.

Your second comment about the state of University facilities is, sadly, true. There are buildings that are practically held together with duct tape, and we all can attest that the heating and cooling systems leave much to be desired. However, your statement explicitly implies that the University is falling into disrepair because we fund our federal relations program. This is a wholly false dichotomy that relies on shock value and skewed facts. The University will spend over $29 million in the current fiscal year on operations, repairs, and upgrades of its campuses and satellite facilities. Unfortunately, decades-old buildings that struggled for years under tight budgets and nearly zero capital funding do continue to force our students to endure less than desirable learning environments. This does not mean we are not doing everything in our power to make improvements.

A final note to tie all of this together: we now have campus-wide wireless Internet access. How was this paid for? With ARRA funding secured by this office. For those that pass judgment strictly based on dollars and cents with a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” attitude, this will hopefully provide some comfort.

Seriously? You didn't even ask what our plans are to upgrade the facilities. The university is investing an infusion of capital money to upgrade the facility to help correct a generation of deferred maintenance that takes its toll on nearly 40-year-old buildings. To infer that the expenditure of operational dollars somehow lessens the execution of capital projects demonstrates your utter lack of understanding of this process. This is an absolute journalistic failure, Will. This isn't even a news article - it's your opinion - a misleading, perspective-less hit, and it should be labeled as such.

You told us when you walked into Aimee's office what you were going to write about the university's young government relations program. We gave you information that added context and perspective, and you ignored all of it. You interviewed John Childers, President of the Consortium of Washington Area Universities, and he told you UDC was finally on the right track - that it was finally conducting itself as a legitimate university. Yeah, he told you it's going to take some time to get some traction - but things are going in the right direction. You ignored all of it. You ignored it because John told you things that did not support the story you had already decided you were going to write.

The stimulus bill was signed into law Feb. 17, 2009, yes. Aimee started work here Feb. 2, 2009 and immediately began cultivating money appropriated to the District to get UDC's $1.3 million share. That's a big deal. Why would you leave that out? That the university received this money is the direct result and success of UDC's government relations efforts.

This university has been silently taking the measly scraps that fall off the table where universities with billion dollar endowments have had reserved seats forever. We have a seat at that table now. And we're not leaving. UDC is beginning to conduct functions that are second-nature for every other university in the world. That you would seem to insist this functionality does not belong in the only public university in the nation's capital is disingenuous at best - and should make everyone reading this question your personal agenda. Shame on you.
We wonder how Congress would feel if they knew that UDC is charging $500 more for the exact same class depending if a student is enrolled in the regular part of the university or the "community college" aspect of the university.

We're quite sure that Congress wouldn't like the fact that during such hard economic times where the federal government is even considering substantially reducing the federally funded Pell Grant program, that UDC is abusing federal funds in such a way. It's time for the Dept. of Education to launch a full scale investigation of how the UDC Administration is misrepresenting UDC in order to optimize the amount of Federal Funds (via Pell Grant and Federal Loans) it can receive at the expense of taxpayers.

This continued corruption and mismanagement at UDC has to cease if the University ever wants to gain the respect that it rightfully deserves.

Alan Etter deserves an award for spinning Dr. Sessoms's and the rest of UDC Adminstration's garbage with a great poker face. Good Job Alan Etter!!!
Outside of the administration, UDC has tons of great professors and a student body that strives to learn. UDC serves a diverse student population with tons of non traditional students who balance raising families, working full time and attending classes part time. It's hard to compare it's graduation rates when having such high percentages of non traditional college students. However, UDC is still able to produce hundreds of graduates annually and that's the true testament to the resiliency of a UDC student.

The continued administrative bull crap is what keeps the university down, not it's student body. Clean up the administration and the world will see what UDC really is; a solid institution of higher learning.
As always, Fair Tuition 4 UDC, thank you for your wonderfully creative and anonymous comments. The only idea you ever have is to simply fire everyone in the administration. Is that all you have? Find some outlet for your disgruntled attitude - better yet - realize UDC remains the most cost-effective option for students serious about getting a quality education. You should get a life.
Mr. Bateman,
Your explanation of how UDC received $1.39 million in stimulus funds makes it sound like it was an act of local lobbying, not federal lobbying, which this article is mostly about. Or am I misunderstanding?
Exactly, Vicente. This story was about federal lobbying, not local lobbying or UDC's entire government relations operation.

Since the stimulus money was obtained through local lobbying, it wasn't included in the article. That the stimulus work was local was even backed up by Aimee Occhetti in our interview, where she brought it up as a success of UDC's local lobbying.

"I did this locally myself," she said at the time, clearly drawing a line between her role as a federal lobbyist and a local one.

This article isn't about UDC losing its "seat at the table," as Alan Etter claims. It's about UDC--and the rest of the District--wondering why that seat is so expensive.
Will, I will address your final comment first. To ask why a “seat at the table” is so expensive, especially in this city, presents an incredibly naive picture of the world. In your world, the School House Rock bill dances up the steps of the Capitol. In the real world, sad as it is, political influence is a much more complicated, opaque process that does include money. I won’t drone on about the supposed unfortunate existence of money in politics, but I will point out one fact that answers your question: $7.57 million. That is the amount of money the for-profit education sector spent lobbying Congress in 2010. Their main legislative goal? The repeal of a certain regulation. Their success in doing that, to this day? None. It is a fact of life that employing professionals who understand the complex world of politics and policy cost money and outcomes cannot be guaranteed.

I believe what you are really asking is, “where does the University of the District of Columbia get off thinking they are allowed to partake in this world?” To make that judgment as a complete outsider with nothing invested in your inquiry other than your own journalistic game is completely unfair.

Your other contention is off-base, as well, and much for the same reason. The stimulus funding was federal funds, mostly distributed through the states to grantees; therefore, in your world, any grantee who received funding through their respective state must not have done any lobbying either, or it was unnecessary. The simple fact is, had this office not been monitoring federal legislation, staying up to date with federal funding announcements from the Department of Education, researching newly issued federal guidance on, interpreting and arguing federal law, and working with Department of Education during the award process to ensure compliance, this institution would not have received a dime. The world is not neatly compartmentalized into isolated realms, especially when it comes to government and politics. I know you know this, but I figured it was worth repeating.

Why you insist on criticizing the hard work of a three person office in a University struggling to improve itself, in a city with Depression-era levels of unemployment, in a country that has, by most accounts, seriously lost its way, is frankly, beyond me. It is empty, contemptuous pieces of “journalism” like your article that make a mockery of the service this city’s public servants provide. As long as you continue to post school-yard comments that attempt to rescue your article from the journalistic abyss, I will continue to proudly tell our side of the story, because, honestly, the facts are on our side.

As a DC resident who formerly advocated on behalf of a multi-million dollar K-12 national education program, I find it extremely heartening that UDC, our only public higher education institution, is proactive in seeking federal funding on behalf of our students. UDC's lobbyist is dead on in her assessments of the Hill funding climate - those of us who intricately followed the budget breakdown for FY11, for example, know that despite a roller coaster budget ride, in the end education programs took a huge hit and the light continues to dim:


But if we use the justification that "congress is cutting so just don't bother" to stop us even advocating for higher education in our community we are not only selling our public education system short, we are giving up on our young people. If there was ever a time to encourage lobbying on behalf of public education for the young people in our city it's now. As a DC taxpayer I support UDCs continued efforts to secure federal funds and I encourage other residents like me, who have no affiliation except as taxpayers who care about our community, to do the same.
Patrick, you ignored the most important part of my last comment: that your own boss, Aimee Occhetti, said that the stimulus money counted as local, not federal, lobbying during an interview. Without answering that, all your "Schoolhouse Rock" jibes are just distractions.

And as for the millions spent by for-profit colleges, they can spend as much as they want since they're private institutions. Public universities, especially cash-strapped ones, should be held to a higher standard, and asked to account for the money they spend on lobbying.
Mr. Sommer,

Could you please provide an example of a public university in the United States that has cut their lobbying budgets when their overall budgets have been decreased?

Additionally, Mr. Sommer, just to add a little snark to match yours: for-profit colleges make their money off of tuition paid for by students; just as in the public sector, the majority of these students are able to pay this tuition because of federal student loans. If you had kept abreast of the current reporting regarding higher education in the United States you would have known that this is one of the reasons why Congress (as evidenced by the recent hearings held by Senator Tom Harkin, D-IA) is so interested in how for-profit colleges operate. So, by your logic, for-profit institutions should receive just as much scrutiny as public institutions.

If you plan to continue reporting on higher education I suggest you obtain a firmer, and less simplistic, grasp of the issues.

(But it has been nice to see your grammar improve throughout your subsequent comments.)

Rachel O. Jorgensen
Learning Resources Division
University of the District of Columbia

This article is what happens when you let freelancers write about something they know nothing about. If your understanding of the government comes from a couple political science classes and a couple hours of research - please refrain from writing about it for what is usually a respectable news outlet.

Honestly, I find it embarrassing that the City Paper would allow this piece to be published when it is basically a one-sided hit piece that lacks sufficient research and displays a profound lack of understanding for UDC, higher education and the legislative process. I get it, Georgetown is a phenomenal school, but it could not be a more different institution in terms of both how they account for lobbying and their lobbying needs. When you have half of the movers and shakers in DC listed as adjunct professors and/or alumni, combined with a massive donor base, you don't need to spend as much on securing a presence. Be proud of your school, but do not use it as the base to which you compare.

Next time you try to do a hit piece -- focus on something you understand. Pathetic attack.

Congratulations Aimee Occhetti, Esq.

You are now the highest paid graduate of the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia ever.

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