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Analysis Details DeVos Family’s Campaign Donations to Republican Senators

By Andrew Ujifusa — January 12, 2017 3 min read
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An analysis of campaign finance spending done by the left-leaning Center for American Progress states that Education Secretary-nominee Betsy DeVos and her family have given nearly $1 million directly to 21 senators over past election cycles. In addition, the analysis found ten senators on the Senate education committee have received donations from a political action committee controlled by the DeVos family, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman.

The CAP analysis from Ulrich Boser, Marcella Bombardieri, and CJ Libassi also says that the DeVos family gave more than $3.1 million to two political action committees associated with GOP lawmakers, the Senate Leadership Fund and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Last month we highlighted direct donations to GOP senators from Betsy and Dick DeVos Jr., her husband, including five lawmakers on the Senate education committee and other, mostly Republican, politicians. Democratic senators have requested more information from DeVos about her history of political donations, as well as her lobbying and advocacy on behalf of school choice programs. CAP, which has close ties to President Barack Obama’s administration, is not the only group to call for senators who have received DeVos campaign donations to recuse themselves from considering her nomination.

DeVos’ supporters, however, have argued that the same Democrats crying foul over DeVos had no similar qualms about Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who was confirmed as Obama’s commerce secretary in 2013 and was a major Democratic campaign “bundler.” They also say Democrats who have taken donations from teachers’ unions are themselves tainted by conflicts of interest.

A spokesman for Betsy DeVos, Ed Patru, dismissed the idea that the donations highlighted by CAP represent a conflict of interest, citing Pritzker’s example. He also said the DeVos family donated heavily to Republican Party members out of shared principles, not self-interest.

“The DeVos family has been supporting Republicans for half a century, and it’s not because they carefully planned a moment in time when the most improbable political upset in history would present them with an opportunity to have a member of the family lead the Department of Education,” Patru said in an email.

The analysis cites information from Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations.

In addition to donations from Betsy DeVos’ husband, from Doug DeVos, Helen DeVos, and other DeVos family members, the report studies donations from the political action committee for Alticor, which is the parent company of Amway (the company founded by Betsy DeVos’ father-in-law, Dick DeVos Sr.) and is controlled by the DeVos family. In addition to Alexander, who got $4,500 from the Alticor PAC, Senate education committee members to get Alticor campaign money are:

  • Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. ($3,000)
  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine ($4,000)
  • Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. ($1,000)
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah ($4,000)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska ($1,000)
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. ($2,000)
  • Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. ($3,000)
  • Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. ($1,000)
  • Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind. ($2,000)

The Alticor donations to these senators that CAP studied are from each federal election cycle from 1998 through 2016. Although they won’t be voting on DeVos’ nomination, GOP lawmakers on the House education committee to get Alticor PAC campaign cash in the 2016 campaign cycle include Reps. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, Mike Bishop of Michigan, Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Tim Walberg of Michigan, and Joe Wilson of South Carolina. These Alticor donations to House lawmakers aren’t included in CAP’s report.

CAP also reported that five Senate education committee members got a total of $254,400 from the DeVos family in direct donations, including:

  • Burr ($43,200)
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. ($70,200)
  • Murkowski ($43,200)
  • Scott ($49,200)
  • Young ($48,600)

Click the following hyperlink to see an Excel file with CAP’s findings on DeVos family contributions.

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