Sam Petulla

Sam Petulla is a writer based in Washington, DC. His writing has appeared in Wired, Inside Higher Ed, and at the Nieman Journalism Lab's Web site.

Recent Articles

Pass Without Distinction

The Department of Education cracks down on the worst for-profit scams,
but lets those that are just "bad" off easy.

In Clinton, Iowa, a 500-capacity football stadium sits on the campus of Ashford University, which sells heavy football sweatshirts emblazoned with the school's logo in its campus store. But don't expect to see cheering fans filling up the bleachers anytime soon. Ninety-nine percent of the college's 78,000 students are online, and there is no Ashford football team. The stadium and gear are just marketing swag, used to make the online university look like a traditional school.

Haiti's Post-Election Unrest

TAP talks with a foreign-affairs expert about the protests in Haiti following disputed election results.

Rioting, violence, and mistrust caused by widespread suspicions of fraud have consumed Haiti in the nearly two weeks since last Sunday's presidential election. The election, meant to replace the current president, René Préval, was held even with a cholera epidemic and many residents still living in tents after January's massive earthquake. Haiti was let down by international organizations and the United States government, both of which insisted on pushing for the scheduled vote despite failing to provide promised technical support and oversight to ensure the election's legitimacy.

Some Citizens United Numbers.

As TAP has documented, this election season has seen more than its share of organizations buying expensive airtime to run ads in favor of candidates and issues. Here's a breakdown of spending by 501(c)s -- organizations with Orwellian names like “Americans for Prosperity” that can take unlimited contributions from anonymous, private donors -- in key races the last two weeks before the election:

The Lowdown on Election Spending

TAP talks to Sheila Krumholz about the real effects of the Citizens United decision on the midterms.

Sen. Charles Schumer during a news conference about the DISCLOSE Act vote. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

This election season, outside interest groups, freed from the restraints of campaign-finance law by the Citizens United ruling, are spending unprecedented amounts of money to influence races around the country. New groups are organizing under 501(c) nonprofit status, which allows them to spend up to half their money on political activities and doesn't require them to disclose who their donors are. According to a recent estimate by the Associated Press, $264 million has already been spent on communications alone -- more than during the entire 2008 presidential election season and more than four times the amount spent during the 2006 midterms.

Unequal Politics

TAP talks with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson about their new book on income disparity and how Washington has abandoned the middle class.

Jacob Hacker (New America Foundation)

With the distribution of income between the rich and the poor less equitable than at any time in recent memory, a slew of new books has come forth attempting to explain the phenomenon as not just an accident but the result of decades of policy-making. Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, the new book from Jacob S.