Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is trying to distance himself from a conservative, for-profit university known for bizarre teachings about gender as he prepares for a tough re-election campaign.
Toomey served on the board of the online school Yorktown University from 2007 to 2009, invested thousands of dollars in it and appeared in its promotional materials. Yorktown, founded in 2001 as a conservative counterweight to mainstream schools, offered courses that railed against political correctness, feminism, egalitarianism and multiculturalism.
After Democratic challenger Katie McGinty attacked Toomey's involvement with Yorktown, the senator's office downplayed his links to the school. His communications director, Ted Kwong, told Time that Toomey had "minimal involvement" with Yorktown.
“Many years ago, Senator Toomey was approached by an acquaintance about a new effort he was starting,” Kwong said. “The senator made a small contribution and lent his name to the organization, but that was the extent of his minimal involvement.”
Toomey's campaign didn't immediately respond to HuffPost's request for comment.
McGinty is making a campaign issue out of Toomey's involvement with Yorktown because the senator is co-sponsoring a bill that would roll back regulations on for-profit colleges.
For-profit colleges have come under scrutiny by federal and state authorities as their graduates find themselves buried in student debt and unable to land the kinds of jobs the schools promised.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump for fraud over for the for-profit Trump University. Schneiderman is accusing the business of recruiting vulnerable populations with promises of business success, profiting $5 million off their tuition, then leaving them with crippling debt and no business prospects.
Likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has skewered Trump over his namesake university, and McGinty's campaign hopes the Yorktown controversy will similarly plague Toomey.
“Senator Toomey needs immediately to divest the money he has invested in Yorktown University, and rescind his support for legislation that would help shady for-profit colleges," McGinty said last week.
Yorktown's curriculum included unconventional classes. One online lecture Yorktown promoted in 2012 warned parents of the "dangers" of gender studies programs at other universities.
"Your daughter will reject the religious and moral codes you raised her with," a press release for the lecture warned. "Your daughter will distance herself from family and friends. Your daughter will change her appearance, and may even change her sexual orientation. Your daughter will end up hating you (her father) and pitying you(her mother). After your daughter has completed her reeducation, you will certainly be out tens of thousands of dollars and very possibly lose your daughter.”
While Yorktown's faculty included some credible scholars, the school also offered a free lecture criticizing art history and a class that described popular music, modern art and psychology as “signs of serious cultural disturbance.” Another lecture defined political correctness as an attempt to limit free thought “by intimidation, force and other forms of coercion."