Saturday, January 7, 2017

Demand that Senators Who Have Received DeVos Money Recuse Themselves

On January 11, 2017 The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) will hold the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Recently, Politico released the paperwork DeVos filed with the Committee prior to her hearing. I perused it with some interest, wondering what it might reveal. Not a big surprise that she's involved in numerous education reform organizations, but even I got a chuckle to learn that she's a member of not one, but three yacht clubs.

But I digress.

What I really wanted to look at were her political contributions. The unsearchable pdf wasn't user friendly - lists of Committees, Campaigns and PACs are not terribly helpful or illuminating, so I decided to use the Federal Election Commission website to see what I could find.

I wanted to see if any of the members of the HELP Committee have any conflicts with DeVos and her billions. Sure enough, a fair number of the Republican Senators do.

But before we get to the actual contributions, I need to make something very clear. For Betsy DeVos to disclose only contributions that she gave as an individual is inherently dishonest. I've spent more than my fair share of time researching campaign contributions, and if there is one thing I've learned it's that billionaire families give as a unit. If there is a $2,600 contribution limit, the husband and wife both donate the limit, and they do it as often as possible.

The DeVos's are no exception to that rule, and as you will see, if anything, when one member of the DeVos clan contributes, the whole family contributes. Their businesses are family affairs. Just because her first name doesn't appear doesn't mean her interests are not in play. 

Check back to the DeVos family tree of businesses which illustrates this quite nicely.

When we consider if a Senator has a conflict of interest in participating in DeVos's nomination hearings, we have to consider not only her contributions, but those of the rest of her billionaire brood as well.

Here is a list of the twelve Republican Senators on the HELP Committee.
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions 
Lamar Alexander, Tennessee
Mike Enzi, Wyoming
Richard Burr, North Carolina
Johnny Isakson, Georgia
Rand Paul, Kentucky
Susan Collins, Maine
Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
Todd Young, Indiana
Orrin Hatch, Utah
Pat Roberts, Kansas
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
Tim Scott, South Carolina

Let's see how many of them we can connect to campaign contributions or independent expenditures from DeVos, her family and the PACs they have contributed to.

Alticor PAC 

Between 1997 and 2016 the DeVos family contributed at least $283,000 to the Alticor PAC. Alticor is the parent company of Amway, and as we all know (see graphic above), Amway is a DeVos family company. 

Betsy DeVos contributed $5,000 to Alticor in 2015 and another $5,000 in 2016. You can view all of the DeVos family's contributions here.

In 2015 Alticor contributed directly to Lamar Alexander's Senate campaign.

Alticor also contributed to:

Friends of Todd Young in 2016
Orrin Hatch in 2010 and 2014
Pat Roberts in 2008

So right off the bat we've uncovered that the chairman of the HELP Committee and two committee members have benefited from campaign contributions from a DeVos family company PAC.

Alticor PAC Totals:

Lamar Alexander - $2,500

Todd Young - $2,000
Orrin Hatch - $2,000
Pat Roberts - $1,000

Senate Leadership Fund 

The Senate Leadership Fund describes itself as an "independent Super PAC" and claims that its sole goal is "to protect and expand the Republican Senate Majority when Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren and their army of left-wing activists try to take it back in 2016."

This goal seems to have resonated with the DeVos family - they contributed $2,225,000 between 9/27/16 to 11/1/16. Yes - you saw that right - almost two and a quarter million in a little over a month. You can see those contributions here.

According to Open Secrets, Independent Expenditures to support Todd Young in his 2016 Indiana Senate race totaled almost $300,000. Expenditures to oppose his primary challenger Marlin Stutzman totaled $482,330, and to oppose his general election opponent the PAC spent a shocking $11,542,687. That's a total of $12,325,017 to put Young in the Senate.

Senate Leadership Fund Totals:

Todd Young - $12,325,017

Freedom Partners Action Fund

The DeVos Family contributed $2,000,000 to the Freedom Partners Action Fund Super PAC between 2014 and 2016. You can view those contributions here.

In turn, Freedom Partners Action Fund supported William Cassidy - and they successfully helped him defeat incumbent Mary Landrieu, spending over $1.6M to oppose her. Watch some of the commercials they produced to slam Landrieu - they're pretty heinous attack ads. 

The expenditures on Cassidy's behalf totaled $223,168 - you can see them here. In total, that's almost $2M to put Cassidy in office, and on the HELP Committee where DeVos will have her hearing. Money well spent, I suppose.

Freedom Partners spent less to support Pat Roberts, but they supported his Senate campaign to the tune of $17,507.45. See here.

Freedom Partners Action Fund Totals:

William Cassidy - $1,840,359
Pat Roberts - $17,507


ESAFund's website is under construction, but says that they support candidates who "favor enhancing free enterprise, reducing the size of government, and balancing our nation's budget." 

Between 2014 and 2016 the DeVos family has contributed over $500,000 to the ESAFund. You can see those contributions here

Todd Young's 2016 campaign received $134,086.68 from ESAFund.

As a fun aside, ESAFund also spent close to $1M to oppose Bernie Sanders' presidential bid, and Sanders is on the HELP Committee as well.

ESAFund Totals:

Todd Young - $134,086

DeVos Family's Direct Contributions

Here is a list of the direct contributions the DeVos family have made to HELP Committee Members and how much was in Betsy DeVos's name (Click on amounts to see all of the individual contributions): 

Richard Burr - $43,200 ($5,400 from Betsy DeVos)

(Contributions on FEC website)

Lisa Murkowski - $40,500 ($5,400 from Betsy DeVos)

(Contributions on FEC website)

Bill Cassidy - $67,600 ($7,800 from Betsy DeVos)

(Contributions on FEC website)

Todd Young - $48,600 ($5,400 from Betsy DeVos)

(Contributions on FEC website)

Tim Scott - $49,200 ($7,400 from Betsy DeVos)

(Contributions on FEC website)

That's a total of $296,800 from the DeVos family ($31,400 in Betsy's name) directly to sitting members of the HELP Committee.

Conservative Solutions PAC

This one is just kind of amusing. The Conservative Solutions PAC supported Marco Rubio for President. Betsy DeVos gave $50,000 to this Rubio friendly PAC in her own name, and the DeVos family gave $750,000. See those contributions here.

Open Secrets shows that while Conservative Solutions spent almost $40M to support Rubio, they also spent over $4,750,000 to oppose Trump. Can you imagine the kind of leverage this gives someone like Trump over DeVos? Do you think this came up in their meeting? Hard to imagine it didn't, isn't it?

So how much money did Senators on the Committee get in total?

At the top of this post I listed the 12 Republican members on the HELP Committee, and I have been able to connect 8 of them to DeVos money, either directly or through PACs the DeVos family has contributed to. I would be remiss if I didn't add that this is just what I was able to find combing though FEC filings. In no way are these totals exhaustive. There well could be more money and other PACs I simply wasn't able to uncover with my somewhat limited Nancy Drew style sleuthing abilities.

Senators who have received contributions and/or support from the DeVos family and the PACs they contribute to should recuse themselves

End Citizens United and Every Voice have started a petition asking senators who have received contributions from Betsy DeVosto recuse themselves. You bet I'll be adding my name to that petition, and I hope you'll join me.

I would expand that call to include senators who have received the support of DeVos family members and PACs that the DeVos family have contributed to as well. 

If you haven't yet called your senators and the senators on the HELP Committee to oppose DeVos's appointment, please call on Monday. NPE Action has a handy list of Committee Members and their contact information for you to use, as well as a call script.

It's crucial we make these calls. DeVos is on a list of nominees Democrats plan to scrutinize, and Politico has reported that they may demand a roll call vote on her appointment. Hold the senators in your state and the senators on the HELP Committee accountable. DeVos has been clear that the money she and her family contribute is meant to buy influence.
"My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections."
Don't let her buy her way into the Secretary of Education's office. Our public schools are too important, and she doesn't have a clue as to how to oversee them. 


  1. Thank you, Mother Crusader, for your work. I'm sharing this widely on Facebook.

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  2. Wow! Darcie, you are so good at getting to the critical details. Money surely seems to buy power. We must contact our senators and the HELP committee members. We cannot allow our excellent public education system to be destroyed. Thank you!

  3. Unbelievable! Thank you for uncovering this, and sharing it in a clear way. I just wish that voters would pay attention more!

  4. Recuse yourself. I don't want you to give the money back. Your vote is tainted

  5. Then take a look at how many in your state legislature have gotten money from DeVos organizations. In TN she is quite well known for being most generous to our legislators. In the last election our Chair for the TN Senate Education Committee, Sen. Dolores Gresham was the recipient of $14,000 in contributions. DeVos is another education progressive. She should take her money and get out of education. She has a personal agenda.

  6. Incredible, important work! Have shared widely.

  7. Thank you for all your hard work putting this together. This shows why public schools in Michigan are in such poor shape!

  8. Thank you for all your hard work putting this together. This shows why public schools in Michigan are in such poor shape!

  9. Thank you for all your hard work putting this together. This shows why public schools in Michigan are in such poor shape!

  10. Thank you!! Have you sent this to every local newspaper that covers these Senators? This should be BIG news everywhere.

  11. Just sent this email to Sen. Cassidy of LA. Got the name and email of an education contact in his office and sent the following to her and to a political reporter at a local newspaper. Feel free to use this as a template for email other Senators on HELP about this.

    Hi Pamela! My name is XXXX and I emailing to ask how the Senator intends to address his financial conflicts of interest with Betsy DeVos, the appointee for Sec. of Education he will be questioning in committee next week.

    As you may be aware, public records show that Senator Cassidy has received approximately $1.9 million from Betsy DeVos and/or the DeVos family, through direct and indirect means.

    Mrs. DeVos has made it very clear what her intentions are through this giving. As she has publicly stated:

    "My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment."

    My questions for you are: Will Senator Cassidy be recusing himself from the hearings due to his significant financial conflicts of interest with the appointee he is supposed to assess and evaluate objectively? If the answer is "no", my follow up question is: Why not?

    I look forward to your response. Thanks so much for your time! I've also CC'd Times-Picayune reporter Richard Rainey on this email.

  12. I love this. Thank you so much for putting it together. May I link it in a Huffington Post Piece? I'd also like to use the image you've made with the Senators' headshots and the green bars under them. May I?

    1. Hi there! Yes, please feel free to use in any way you would like.

    2. Before you do the image with green bars should be updated - they took FAR More money. See Maplight


  14. Thank you for taking the time to collect and convey this information in a straight forward, understandable way. Very well done!

  15. Did you actually make the AMWAY chart? If so, it's great. If not, what was your source? very insightful.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. You missed Windquest Group (A DeVos company)
    45 contributions totaling $113,400 for election cycle 2016. Contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Richard Burr (R-NC) $16,200
    Mark Kirk (R- IL) $16,200
    Rob Portman R-OH) $16,200
    Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) $10,800
    Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA) $10,800
    Tim Scott (R-SC) $10,800
    Marco Rubio (R-FL) $5,400
    Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) $10,800
    Ron Johnson (R-WI) $18,900

  18. Here's more, I haven't complied by senator yet, but you can see who received and how much

  19. Wow - thank you so much. I have called and called Senator Hatch's office to tell him how important quality public education is to Utah. No response - a disaster. Thanks for your help. Will double my efforts and reach out again.

  20. Really? Have all of the past Democratic Cabinet nominees who came from rich families and who ever contributed to Senator's political campaigns been held to the same standard? Have you ever posted asking Democratic Senators to recuse themselves when voting for a Democratic cabinet nominee who has contributed to their campaigns in the past? I highly doubt it, and do not think they don't exist.

  21. Thanks for the information provided and for the research that you have made. Unfortunately, Betsey de Vos is already the Education secretary and we can’t do anything to change that. It’s not a secret to anyone that she is from a very rich family and that they own billions of dollars. Not surprising, but she and Trump are good friends and as far I know, her family has helped Republican party a lot and invested a lot of money there. For sure, she doesn’t need something like this to make ends meet and I’m sure she can hardly understand the problems of public education and ordinary Americans.

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