Dick & Betsy DeVos admit they influence elections and legislation with consequences and rewards.

President-elect Trump campaigned on the promise that he will “drain the swamp.”   His pledge resonated with voters who are tired of special interests controlling the outcome of elections and influencing legislation.   Unfortunately, he nominated Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.  DeVos is part of the Lansing “swamp.” Through her group, Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP)  she works to silence opposition and defeat legislation that would stop Common Core in Michigan.

Surprisingly, Betsy DeVos admitted in 2015 that she is part of what Trump often refers to as “the swamp” in politics.   She didn’t use Trump’s term exactly but she was very clear about how she uses her influence in politics and policy.  Here is how she said it, starting at around the 2:00 minute mark,

“We change policy through political effort. to elect or defeat candidates in states based on this issue [school choice]. Their support or lack of support for the issue. Then we work on the policies, the legislation, the actual programs that they would consider. and we advocate to get those passed in the legislatures and with the Governors.”

Michigan lawmakers and grassroots activists have felt the DeVos’s influence very strongly,  especially in the battle to stop Common Core.  GLEP fought Stop Common Core in Michigan and anyone else who attempted to stop the implementation or repeal of the standards.  That is exactly what Dick and Betsy DeVos designed GLEP to do,  all while claiming they represent the grassroots to foundations like Heritage and others.   In 2002, Dick DeVos (Betsy’s husband) spoke at the Heritage Foundation and said they created GLEP to work quietly through the grassroots and “offer a political consequence for opposition and political reward for support of education reform. ” 

GLEP is far from a “grassroots” organization.   They exist largely on the DeVos donations.  Since 2001, DeVos family members donated 81% of their total revenue.  The number of small donors contributing less than $200 was statistically insignificant.  (Summary GLEP funding-PDF)                                                         20160801_124809

When it comes to education reform in Lansing, it’s the DeVos-Way or no way.   The DeVos’s vision becomes GLEP’s mission.  With a carrot and a stick,  they pushed the implementation of Common Core and fought to retain it when the standards were challenged.  Lawmakers in Michigan know the truth.  However, too many have benefited from GLEP endorsements and DeVos money to speak out.  Especially, when they know they could face “consequences” and a defeat in their next election.

Melanie Kurdys recalled the bitter fight in 2013 to pass HB 4276 to stop implementation of Common Core and how both experts and grassroots activists were ignored,

“The fact that Besty DeVos has been so influential in education in Michigan is really baffling.  When Professor Sandra Stotsky and other accomplished educators came to Michigan in 2013 to testify against Common Core standards, their testimony was largely ignored by our elected Republicans.    When grassroots parents and teachers submitted testimony they were ignored.  But the GLEP/DeVos pro-Common Core message carried the day and the bill died.  How does this make sense?  Sadly, looks like “Follow the money” not the evidence.  Kids lose again.”

Lansing lawmakers quickly gavelled through the Senate a resolution with a voice vote that continued implementation and the bill died. 
“Let me be as clear as possible. If you continue to make false statements about [our] organization, you will be hearing from our legal counsel.” – Gary Naeyaert, Executive Director of GLEP.
In 2014, Stop Common Core in Michigan felt the “consequences” directly when GLEP Director, Gary Naeyaert threatened legal action against us for posting about their possible influence with lawmakers. (See photo at right.)  Lawmakers however, have reaped the rewards.  The National Institute of Money in State Politics calculates Betsy DeVos has given $2,719,058 to 370 different filers over 20 years.  (See related post: DeVos and GLEP a “primary” influence.)  Shrewd investors always expect a return on their investments.

If confirmed as the Secretary of Education, the DeVos-Way will continue in DC.  EdWeek reports on the members of the Senate Education committee who have received donations from Dick and Betsy DeVos, Jr.

Several GOP members of the Senate education committee who will be among the first eligible to officially consider and vote on DeVos’ nomination also have received donations from Betsy and Dick DeVos Jr. over the years. These lawmakers include:

  • Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina: Betsy DeVos gave Burr $5,400 for the 2016 election, according to Federal Election Commission records. (That represents the maximum allowable contribution from an individual directly to a candidate for federal office, given both a primary and a general election.) Dick DeVos Jr. also gave Burr $5,400 for 2016.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana: Betsy DeVos gave Cassidy $7,800 for the 2014 election. Dick DeVos Jr. also gave $7,800 for 2014. (In addition to primary and general elections, Cassidy participated in a run-off election against former Sen. Mary Landrieu that year.)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: Betsy DeVos gave Murkowski $5,400 for the 2016 election. Dick DeVos Jr. also gave Murkowski $5,400 for 2016.
  • Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina: Betsy DeVos gave Scott $2,000 for the 2014 election, and $5,400 for the 2016 election. Dick DeVos Jr. also gave Scott $5,400 for 2016.

The 2016 results for the four senators above are from Jan. 1, 2015 through Oct. 19 of this year, according to the FEC.

In addition, Betsy DeVos gave Senate education committee member Mark Kirk of Illinois, another Republican, $5,400 for the 2016 election.

If DeVos used consequences and rewards to influence elections and legislation in Lansing where else will she use them?

Will Senators face consequences or rewards if they vote her in or out?

Will states face consequences or rewards if they do not enact her reforms?

That’s the same carrot and stick mentality that voters are tired of in DC, especially in education.   The DeVos nomination for Secretary of Education is the exact opposite of what President-elect Trump committed to do during the campaign.  He needs to speak out on  this nomination and address the genuine grassroots voters from Michigan and around the country who helped him get elected on the premise that he was against Common Core and “drain the swamp” in DC.

It was the genuine grassroots supporters in Michigan who were cheering during Trump’s acceptance speech,while Betsy DeVos sat in a chair, pouted, and refused to cheer.  It’s time for President-elect Trump to level with the voters and tell us if Betsy DeVos used the carrot or the stick to secure her nomination as Secretary of the Department of Education?

Photo credit: Tami Carlone Michigan delegate to the 2016 Republican National Committee and board member of Stop Common Core in Michigan.