The Student Loan Blues


So you’ve got a student loan to pay back or you’ve just signed up for one because college tuition is soaring out of sight. Or maybe you’ve already defaulted and they’re hounding you for the money.

You may feel like one of them there 18-wheelers is about to run over you on the highway of life. Well, pardner, it is.

You see, Duane W. Acklie of Nebraska is head of the nation’s biggest trucking company, the Crete Carrier Corp. And thanks to Bush, he’s also in charge of your student loans.

One of Dubya’s Rangers (the ones who’ve pledged to each raise at least $200,000 for this campaign), he’s former chairman of the American Trucking Assocation. Last July 21, Dick Cheney came to Omaha for a $1,000 a person fundraiser, prompting Acklie, the event’s co-chair with his wife, Phyllis, to crow to the Associated Press, “From what I can tell, it will be far and way the most successful political fund-raiser that Nebraska has ever had.” Eight days later, Bush announced the appointment of the Nebraska trucker as chairman of the board of the Student Loan Marketing Association, the engine that drives the huge entity known as Sallie Mae. (More on Sallie Mae at a future date. All you young’uns burdened with student loans won’t believe the profit-taking that goes on at your expense.)

Anyway, back to Acklie. On September 24, he pumped in $25,000 to the Republican National Committee. It was far from his first contribution to the RNC, Bush-Cheney, and other candidates or PACs, but it was his biggest ever, according to FEC records.

That same month, Crete and three other companies argued in federal appellate court against the EPA’s proposed emission standards for new diesel trucks. Environmentalists blasted the last-minute tactic. “It’s reprehensible that these trucking companies continue to spend money on lawyers to allow them to pollute more,” said Frank O’Donnell, executive director of Clean Air Trust, told the news service Greenwire. “If they had their way, future trucks at least until 2007 would actually be dirtier than new trucks rolling off the assembly line today.”
Acklie and his fellow truckers likely will have their way. He’s tight with Cheney. After the 2000 election, Acklie was one of 52 members of a transport-advisory group for the Bush-Cheney transition team‰¥äthe group had no members from either shippers or labor. In January 2001, American Trucking Association general counsel David Addington was named Cheney’s chief legal counsel.

Y’all stay tuned to this space for some more Sallie Mae news, as soon as we crunch some numbers. Get ready for a real education.

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