The Pearson Foundation, the charitable arm of one of the nation’s largest educational publishers, will pay $7.7 million to settle accusations that it repeatedly broke New York State law by assisting in for-profit ventures.An inquiry by Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, found that the foundation had helped develop products for its corporate parent, including course materials and software. The investigation also showed that the foundation had helped woo clients to Pearson’s business side by paying their way to education conferences that were attended by its employees.
The attorney general’s office also examined a series of education conferences sponsored by the Pearson Foundation, which paid for school officials to meet their foreign counterparts in places like Helsinki and Singapore.The trips were made public after a series of columns in The New York Times, which detailed the expensive hotels and meetings with corporate executives that were staples of the experience.Several school officials who went on the trips represented education departments that had contracts with Pearson. The investigation did not determine whether those officials had awarded any new contracts based on any improper influence. But the report found that executives from other companies were not invited to attend, giving Pearson’s corporate side a clear advantage.The attorney general portrayed a culture at Pearson in which the lines between business and charity were often blurred. Pearson remains the largest donor to the Pearson Foundation, and the staff of the foundation included several Pearson employees. The board was made up entirely of Pearson executives until 2012.
Former NYSED Commissioner David Steiner was one of the state officials on the other end of the Pearson largesse.
Why is it illegal for Pearson to improperly influence officials through the use of its non-profit but not illegal for those state officials to be improperly influenced?