Dave Agema recently wrote these hateful words on his Facebook page:
Have you seen Muslims shaking hands with a Muslim Girl Scouts? Have you seen a Muslim Candy Striper? Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?
After remaining quiet for months as Agema spewed bigoted hate speech on Facebook, Republicans are now finally waking up a bit and starting to pushback. While it’s nice that they are finally speaking out, one wonders where there outrage was when Agema was smearing gays and lesbians with some of the most vile accusations and statements to be found on the internet.
One person who is getting a great deal of attention for her pushback is billionaire Betsy DeVos. It’s no wonder she has people’s attention: her family contributes insane amounts of money to the Republican party and she herself was once the state party chair. She recently suggested to Nolan Finley at the Detroit News that if the Republican National Committee didn’t find some way to jettison Agema from his position, that giant pool of sweet, sweet Republican funding might just dry up.
What’s driving the former Republican National Committeewoman and state party chair to speak up are the serial outbursts of Dave Agema, who has drawn fire for his hateful rants against gays and Muslim Americans.
“I couldn’t stand by and hold my tongue,” says DeVos, whose husband, Dick, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.
Agema is one of two current GOP national committee members from Michigan and, like DeVos, is from the Grand Rapids area. DeVos says she left messages with Agema this week “to encourage him to do the right thing. He should resign his position as national committeeman.”
When he didn’t respond, she called Reince Priebus, chairman of the national party, asking him to either figure out a way to dump Agema or marginalize him to make it clear the party does not support his positions.
“He has a right to express his ideas and opinions, but he also has a responsibility to the party” DeVos says. “He has damaged his position and his party. He reflects badly on Republicans and on Michigan.” […]
That DeVos is voicing her distress is significant. The DeVos family not only has been among the most generous and reliable GOP funders, both at the state and national levels, but its members have also sat at the party’s leadership table for decades. The party’s national headquarters includes an Amway Communications Center, named for the company her father-in-law co-founded.
Although no overt threat was made to withdraw financial support, the risk to the GOP is certainly implicit.
“The expectation of leaders in a party is to stand up in situations like this,” she says. “Failing to do so will have consequences.”
It’s interesting to see DeVos suddenly giving a damn about attacks on groups like gays and lesbians. Her family, which includes the DeVos and Prince sides of the family, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to denying marriage equality to members of the LGBT community. Treating gays and lesbians as second-class citizens is a part and parcel of her family’s legacy, in fact.
When the current ban on same-sex marriage in Michigan was on the ballot, the DeVos/Prince family was front and center funding the drive to pass it:
The top individual contributor was Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, who gave $75,000 to Citizens for the Protection of Marriage. Broekuizen is the mother of Betsy Devos, who was serving as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party in 2004. Betsy DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, currently a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan. Dick DeVos’ father is Amway co-founder Richard DeVos Sr., who gave $20,000 to the committee. Two other DeVos family members gave a combined $30,000.
In addition, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen was a member of the board of directors of the Family Research Council. In fact, her late husband, Edgar Prince, was a co-founder of the group.
PrideSource.com reports that Betsy and her husband Dick contributed over $200,000 to the effort, as well.
Betsy’s mother wasn’t content to keep her homophobic contributions in Michigan. When marriage equality was on the California ballot, Elsa got her checkbook in a big way:
In much of America, the issue of gay marriage has faded as a presidential race fixed on the economy dominates headlines.
But two prominent West Michigan philanthropists are writing big checks to help keep it front and center.
Holland resident Elsa Prince Broekhuizen has pumped $450,000 into a Nov. 4 California ballot issue to ban gay marriage. It is one of the largest private donations to that cause. […]
Broekhuizen, 75, is mother to Betsy DeVos, the former state GOP chair who is married to 2006 GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, and Erik Prince, founder of private security firm Blackwater Worldwide. She is the widow of the late Holland industrialist Edgar Prince and has remarried.
An assistant to Broekhuizen, who asked not to be named, said the issue is “very important to her. It’s near and dear to her heart.
“She likes to give from her heart and not for public recognition.”
The donations are consistent with numerous contributions to traditional-value causes by the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. It gave $510,000 from July 2006 to June 2007 to the Family Research Council and $300,000 to Focus on the Family.
Both organizations oppose gay marriage, a stance underlined when Focus on the Family founder James Dobson cautioned in 2005 that gay marriage “will bring the destruction of this nation.”
In its 2006 federal tax filing, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation reported a donation of $540,000 to Focus on the Family. The Colorado organization chipped in with more than $400,000 itself to support the California gay marriage ban.
It’s clearly a family affair and it’s helping spread the word that members of the LGBT community are not full members of society.
But, now that the bigotry is beginning to have an impact on their chances at the ballot box, suddenly Betsy DeVos gives a hypocritical damn. After over a decade of intolerance from her and her family, it’s pretty hard to take her seriously now.
[Betsy DeVos image from Creative Commons photo by Keithalmli]