THE RISE AND FALL OF AVE MARIA…. Until a few years ago, the Ave Maria School of Law, a Catholic institution founded by billionaire pizza mogul Tom Monaghan, seemed poised to become a top-drawer institution. It was created with the help of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and other prominent conservatives, which gave it credibility in major political circles. Its graduates had an astonishing 100 percent bar passage rate, and many went on to high-powered jobs and prestigious clerkships.

Today it’s among the worst law schools in the country, if not the very worst, and appears to be on the verge of financial collapse.

The reasons for the decline have mostly to do with Monaghan’s hunger for power. He attempted to run the law school and his other education ventures like pizza franchises, opening and closing campuses with little regard for students and faculty, and systematically cracking down on those who questioned his decisions. One devout Catholic professor who voiced oppositions to Monaghan’s plans had his tenure revoked (and his career ruined) based largely on trumped up charges that he sexually abused a coworker.

In the new issue of the Washington Monthly, editor Mariah Blake has the fascinating story of what happened to the Ave Maria School of Law, a colorful yarn involving a 250-foot crucifix, the Detroit Tigers, and a newly built town where Monaghan and his business partners control the government in perpetuity.

The rise and spectacular fall of a law school — be sure to take a look.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.