Jane Mayer is the New Yorker writer whose latest book is Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

 

She wrote a short bio of Betsy DeVos, whose family she has studied, in that they are billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. We all need to know more about her because Trump has chosen her to be the next Secretary of Education, although she is not an educator. She is a major donor to the Michigan Republican party and perhaps the biggest donor to voucher programs in the nation.

 

It would be hard to find a better representative of the “donor class” than DeVos, whose family has been allied with Charles and David Koch for years. Betsy, her husband Richard, Jr. (Dick), and her father-in-law, Richard, Sr., whose fortune was estimated by Forbes to be worth $5.1 billion, have turned up repeatedly on lists of attendees at the Kochs’ donor summits, and as contributors to the brothers’ political ventures. In 2010, Charles Koch described Richard DeVos, Sr., as one of thirty-two “great partners” who had contributed a million dollars or more to the tens of millions of dollars that the Kochs planned to spend in that year’s campaign cycle.

 

While the DeVoses are less well known than the Kochs, they have played a similar role in bankrolling the rightward march of the Republican Party. Starting in 1970, the DeVos family, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, began directing at least two hundred million dollars into funding what was then called “The New Right.” The family supported conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation; academic organizations such as the Collegiate Studies Institute, which funded conservative publications on college campuses; and the secretive Council on National Policy, which the Times called “a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.” The Council’s membership list, which was kept secret, included leaders of the Christian right, such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Phyllis Schlafly, and anti-tax and pro-gun groups….

 

In 1980, the DeVos family contributed heavily to the election of Ronald Reagan, and DeVos, Sr., was named the finance chair of the Republican National Committee. Two years later, he was removed, after calling the brutal 1982 recession a “cleansing process,” and insisting that anyone who was unemployed simply didn’t want to work. That same year, DeVos and his Amway co-founder, Jay Van Andel, were charged with criminal tax fraud in Canada. Eventually, Amway pleaded guilty and paid fines of twenty-five million dollars, and the criminal charges against DeVos and his partner were dropped. …

 

The marriage of Dick DeVos to Betsy Prince only increased the family’s wealth and power. Her father, Edgar Prince, had made a fortune in auto-parts manufacturing, selling his company for $1.35 billion in cash, in 1996. Her brother Erik founded Blackwater, the private military company that the government infamously contracted to work in Afghanistan and Iraq, where its mercenaries killed more than a dozen civilians in 2007.

 

DeVos is a religious conservative who has pushed for years to breach the wall between church and state on education, among other issues.* (The Washington Post reports that Betsy DeVos has been an elder at Mars Hill, in Grand Rapids.) Betsy, who served as the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party in the late nineties and again in the early aughts, spent more than two million dollars of the family’s money on a failed school-vouchers referendum in 2000, which would have allowed Michigan residents to use public funds to pay for tuition at religious schools. The family then spent thirty-five million dollars, in 2006, on Dick DeVos’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat Jennifer Granholm, then the Democratic governor of the state. After that campaign, the DeVos family doubled down on political contributions and support for conservative Christian causes. Members of the family, including Betsy and Dick DeVos, have spent heavily in opposition to same-sex-marriage laws in several states. According to the Michigan L.G.B.T. publication PrideSource.com, Devos and her husband led the successful campaign to pass an anti-gay-marriage ballot referendum in the state in 2004, contributing more than two hundred thousand dollars to the effort. Dick Devos reportedly gave a hundred thousand dollars, in 2008, to an amendment that banned same-sex marriage in Florida. That year, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Betsy Devos’s mother, was a major contributor to the effort to pass Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal in California.

 

Think of the role of the U.S. Department of Education led by Betsy DeVos.

 

Will it issue a bullying curriculum? How to do it? How to avoid getting caught? What excuse to use if you are caught?

 

Will it issue advice on how to avoid becoming homosexual? Will it compile a list of providers of “conversion therapists” for students who are gay? Will it advise teachers on how to spot gay students and how to punish them?

 

Will DeVos lobby to bring back prayer in the schools? But only Christian prayer, of course.

 

Lots of challenges ahead if she is confirmed.

 

Join the campaign to stop her from being confirmed. Write your senators and urge them to vote NO on DeVos. She is not qualified or fit to be Secretary of Education.

 

This is not a job for someone who despises public schools and does not respect the traditional separation between church and state.