Legal education has its detractors, but most law schools would fare well when compared to Full Sail University, the for-profit school offering various degrees in the entertainment field. As reported in the New York Times, Full Sail U offers, among other programs, a degree in “video game art” for $81,000. The program, which takes 21 months to complete, boasts an on-time graduation rate of 14 percent (and a total graduation of 38 percent.)
Not many people had ever heard of Full Sail U until Mitt Romney mentioned it in town hall meetings, interviews and stump speeches in New Hampshire, Iowa and elsewhere. The antidote to higher education’s ills, according to Romney, is competition from for-profit universities, exemplified by Full Sail U. Candidate Romney’s irrepressible enthusiasm for the school is no coincidence. The Times also reported that Full Sail’s Chief Executive, Bill Heavener, and the chairman of the private equity fund that owns Full Sail, C. Kevin Landry, are major donors to Restore our Future, the “Super PAC” run by former Romney aides. Heavener gave $45,oo0 to Restore our Future and Landry gave $40,000. In addition, Heavener and his wife have each given the maximum individual donation amount of $2,500 to Romney’s campaign.
Political patronage to wealthy and influential donors is nothing new, and Congress’s inaction, combined with the Supreme Court’s pro-corporate activism, have made unbridled corporate campaign spending a fact of life. Yet Romney’s “policy solution as product placement for corporate donors” takes the blurring of lines between politics and marketing to a new level. How much does Staples pay to be featured in The Office? How much did it cost for Snapple to be the recurring punchline on Seinfeld? That these questions can be asked in the same breath as discussions about a presidential candidate’s purported policy solutions is jarring. If Romney is willing to advertise covertly for his donors before he wins his party’s nomination, let alone the general election, one wonders what will drive decision making in a Romney White House.
“President Romney, will you sign the bill amending the Clean Water Act?”
“No, I think water would benefit from some competition. Clean or not, water just doesn’t taste as good as Snapple!”