How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan PoliticsWith her nomination as education secretary, a powerful political clan will bring its overtly Christian agenda to Washington.By Zack StantonJanuary 15, 2017 Facebook Twitter Google + Email Comment PrintOn election night 2006, Dick DeVos, the bronzed, starched 51-year-old scion of Michigan's wealthiest family, paced to a lectern in the dim ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in Lansing to deliver the speech that every candidate dreads.The Michigan gubernatorial race that year had been a dogfight of personal attacks between DeVos, the Republican nominee, and Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. Gloomy, bleached-out b-roll of shuttered factories in anti-Granholm ads made the governor's sunny economic promise that "You're gonna be blown away" sound less like an aspiration than a threat. Anti-DeVos ads cut closer to the bone, with one depicting a cartoon DeVos cheering a freighter hauling Michigan jobs to China. It was an unsubtle reference to DeVos' time as president of Amway, the direct-sales behemoth his family co-founded and co-owns, when he eliminated jobs in Michigan while expanding dramatically in Asia. DeVos ended up personally spending $35 million on the race--the most expensive campaign in Michigan history--and when the votes came in, lost by a crushing 14 points.At the Lansing Sheraton, the mood was grim. "If we aren't going to be able to serve in this way, I look forward to the ways we can," DeVos told his glum supporters. Behind him on the ballroom risers stood his family; closest to him was his wife, Betsy, choking back tears.Though dressed in a blue skirt-suit, the uniform of a first ladyship that was not to be, Betsy DeVos was never a political accessory. Anyone who understood Michigan politics knew she had long been the more political animal of the pair. It was Betsy, not Dick, who had chaired the Michigan Republican Party; Betsy, who had served as a member of the Republican National Committee; Betsy, whose name was once floated to succeed Haley Barbour as head of the RNC; Betsy, who had directed a statewide ballot campaign to legalize public funding of religious schools; Betsy, who, as a college freshman, traveled to Ohio and Indiana to volunteer for Gerald Ford's presidential campaign. She was a skilled and seasoned operator, but as her husband conceded in an overwhelming defeat, she was utterly helpless.At the time, it seemed like a dead end for a neophyte political candidate. In reality, it was the opening of a new avenue the DeVoses followed to far greater political influence, reshaping Michigan politics and the national Republican scene. "I think that loss really solidified the idea in the DeVoses' minds that the real way to get what you want is to be behind the scenes," says Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.In the decade since that loss, the DeVos family, with Dick and Betsy at the helm, has emerged as a political force without comparison in Michigan. Their politics are profoundly Christian and conservative--"God, America, Free Enterprise," to borrow the subtitle of family patriarch Richard DeVos' 1975 book, Believe!--and their vast resources (the family's cumulative net worth is estimated at well over $5 billion) assure that they can steamroll their way to victory on issues ranging from education reform to workers' rights. "At the federal level, when GOP candidates are looking for big donors to back them, they have options," says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. "If you don't get Sheldon Adelson, you can go to the Koch brothers, and so on. In Michigan, the DeVos family is a class of donor all by themselves."
"We also have the Family Assembly .... When grandchildren turn 16, they are inducted ... in a formal ceremony that everyone attends. An aunt or uncle makes a presentation of their achievements, reminds them of their responsibility as they go forward, and affirms them as a member of the Family Assembly. ... They are able to vote in the meetings at age 25, after they have met additional qualifications for taking on this added responsibility."
Her ignorance of educational policy issues is terrifying.
In Michigan, Detroit has been at the heart of the charter push, which began in the early '90s. In 1996, former Metro Times reporter Curt Guyette showed how the Prince Foundation, as well as the foundation run by Dick DeVos' parents, funded a carefully orchestrated campaign to label Detroit's public schools as failing--and pushed for charters and "universal educational choice" as a better alternative. While Betsy DeVos has not called for an end to traditional public schools, she has written about the need to "retire" and "replace" Detroit's public school system and pressed for aggressively expanding charter schools and vouchers. (In 2000, Dick and Betsy DeVos helped underwrite a ballot initiative to expand the use of vouchers in Michigan and lost badly.)Detroit's schools--where 84 percent of students are black and 80 percent are poor--have been in steady decline since charter schools started proliferating: Public school test scores in math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have remained the worst among large cities since 2009. In June, the New York Times published a scathing investigation of the city's school district, which has the second-biggest share of students in charters in America. (New Orleans is No. 1.) Reporter Kate Zernike concluded that lax oversight by the state and insufficiently regulated growth--including too many agencies that are allowed to open new charter schools--contributed to a system with "lots of choice, with no good choice."
Until recently, Holland restaurants couldn't sell alcohol on Sundays. Residents are not allowed to yell or whistle between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. If city officials decide that a fence or a shed signals decay, they might tear it down, and mail the owner a bill. Grass clippings longer than eight inches have to be removed and composted, and snow must be shoveled as soon as it lands on the streets. Most people say rules like these help keep Holland prosperous, with low unemployment, low crime rates, good city services, excellent schools, and Republicans at almost every government post.
Like many people I met in Holland, Lanting wasn't a Trump supporter initially--he voted for Ben Carson in the primaries--but he couldn't bring himself to vote for Hillary Clinton, whom he calls "a professional spin doctor." "Trump is much more likely," Lanting says, "to bring Christ into the world."
Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars--rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers--Betsy DeVos replied, "There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education...[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country...Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God's Kingdom."
John Dingell is 90 and is amazing at twitter.John Dingell ✔ @JohnDingellTrump's cabinet picks appear to be interested in their respective departments in the same way that kamikaze pilots are interested in planes.10:47 AM - 18 Jan 2017131 131 Retweets 208 208 likes
radical christians believe that Christ will come only when the world is in the throes of the apocalypse
Then they did the smack you on the forehead thing. I was terrified. I fell backwards onto floor with the others, but honestly I think it was more out of fear of what would happen if I didn't.
After postponing the secretary of education nominee's hearing for a week, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (known as HELP) rescheduled it for last night at the very unusual time of 5 p.m. (It then started 15 minutes late.)The obvious goal was to minimize how many people would watch. The late start meant that cable news could not cover the proceedings live unless TV executives preempted lucrative primetime programming (which they didn't do), and it made it harder for print reporters to make early newspaper deadlines - which forced some outlets to run shorter stories than they might have otherwise....Alexander allowed each member to ask five minutes of questions. He permitted just one round of questioning, compared to the three rounds that Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions faced last week. Most committees also give members 10 minutes per round, not five.
Lamar Alexander is dragging Betsy DeVos across the finish lineQuoteAfter postponing the secretary of education nominee's hearing for a week, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (known as HELP) rescheduled it for last night at the very unusual time of 5 p.m. (It then started 15 minutes late.)The obvious goal was to minimize how many people would watch. The late start meant that cable news could not cover the proceedings live unless TV executives preempted lucrative primetime programming (which they didn't do), and it made it harder for print reporters to make early newspaper deadlines - which forced some outlets to run shorter stories than they might have otherwise....Alexander allowed each member to ask five minutes of questions. He permitted just one round of questioning, compared to the three rounds that Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions faced last week. Most committees also give members 10 minutes per round, not five.