Report: Lawmaker Lied About Business Degree from Steakhouse Franchise

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The Republican lawmaker who recently filed a bill to require that Iowa’s state universities hire more registered Republicans to balance out the number of Democrats on faculty has been falsely claiming that he got a business degree from the Forbco Management school, according to a report today by NBC News.

The lawmaker, Ottumwa state Sen. Mark Chelgren, claimed on his biography on the state GOP’s official website that he “has a degree in business management from Forbco Management school.” When contacted by NBC News last week, Chelgren was reportedly vague about the degree, saying the school was located outside of Los Angeles and that he earned the degree “around ’88 or ’89. It’s going back a ways so I don’t remember.”

Chelgren further claimed he “got a degree in hotel restaurant management” but did not respond to multiple requests from NBC News to provide a diploma or other paperwork verifying that he received the degree.

GOP spokesman Ed Failor Jr. later told NBC News it was “not accurate” that Chelgren had a degree from Forbco. “This was a management course he took when he worked for Sizzler, kind of like Hamburger University at McDonald’s,” Failor said. “He got a certificate.” (Forbco owns a Sizzler steakhouse franchise in Southern California.)

In a follow-up interview today, Chelgren said his fake bio “was not an attempt to inflate anything” and claimed he wasn’t even aware of it, despite his previous comments about getting a degree from Forbco. “I didn’t concern myself about this, honestly,” he told reporter Corky Siemaszko.

After Siemaskzo began asking questions, Chelgren’s bio was updated to scrub the false business degree claim.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.