Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, Education — December 15, 2016 at 8:43 am

UPDATED: Dem. Senators to Betsy DeVos: Pay Ohio the $5.3 million in fines you owe or your confirmation is toast


Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, the anti-public schools billionaire Betsy DeVos, has gotten the attention of an important coalition of Democratic U.S. Senators. They are asking that DeVos pay the $5.3 million in fines and fees that she owes to the state of Ohio going back to 2008 when her All Children Matter Political Action Committee (PAC) was cited for campaign finance violations. U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to DeVos demanding that she pay up before her confirmation hearings begin.

Here’s the text of the very blunt letter that spells out how DeVos violated campaign finance rules and, rather than pay the millions in fines and late fees she owed, she simply dissolved the PAC (emphasis mine):

Betsy DeVos
U.S. Department of Education

Dear Secretary-Designate DeVos:

We are writing to express significant concerns about the failure of the All Children Matter Political Action Committee (PAC) to pay Ohio $5.3 million in fines and late fees for violating the state’s campaign finance laws. At the time of the violations, you were the head of the organization, and you and your husband were one of the PAC’s biggest contributors.

In 2006, the federal All Children Matter PAC sought an advisory opinion from the Ohio Elections Commission to determine whether it was allowed to contribute more than the $10,000 statutory limit to its Ohio based affiliate. The Commission provided an advisory opinion stating that aggregate contributions of greater than $10,000 in a year to the Ohio affiliate would violate the law. Inexplicably, your PAC ignored this advisory opinion and proceeded to contribute $870,000 to the Ohio affiliate.

The bipartisan Ohio Elections Commission unanimously found both the federal and Ohio All Children Matter PACs to have violated the state’s campaign finance laws and imposed fines of $5.2 million. An Ohio court subsequently upheld the fine and imposed additional late fees for failing to pay. Rather than pay the fines for violating the law, the All Children Matter PACs simply ceased operation and never paid the significant sum it owed to the state of Ohio.

The blatant disregard for the law that your PAC demonstrated is deeply troubling. However, when the organization’s violations of law were punished by the Ohio Elections Commission, the PAC’s refusal to take responsibility and pay the fines is unconscionable.

If confirmed as Secretary of Education, you would be responsible for administering our nation’s student loan programs and ensuring that borrowers repay their loans in a timely manner. However, the PAC that you chaired failed to pay fines that were imposed on it over eight years ago. This demonstrates a serious lack of judgment by the PAC’s board and a willingness to avoid paying legally obligated public debts.

Prior to your confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, we request that you take the necessary steps to ensure payment of all fines and penalties imposed on the All Children Matter PACs by the Ohio Elections Commission and the state courts.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

With this we now know that, not only does Betsy DeVos have no background in education – she never attended public schools, did not send her own children to public schools, was never a teacher or a school administrator, and has no training or educational background in education, she actually broke the law in her effort to get tax payers to fund private and religious school education for the wealthy elites like her that she represents. Her interest in blurring the lines between education and religion are well-known and it appears she’s willing to do almost anything to promote her agenda, including violating the law.

In other words, she’s the perfect choice for the administration of Donald J. Trump.

UPDATE: Here’s a bit more about the fine assessed against DeVos’s All Children Matter PAC. It turns out that, when it was assessed, it was a record-breaking fine:

All Children Matter was embroiled in campaign-finance controversy in 2008 when then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Elections Commission determined the pro-school-choice group illegally funneled $870,000 in contributions from its Virginia political-action committee to its Ohio PAC.

The PAC assisted a variety of statewide and legislative Republican candidates in Ohio in 2006. David Brennan of Akron, Ohio’s top charter-school operator and a top state GOP donor, gave $200,000 to the PAC.

By running the contributions through Virginia, which has no campaign-contribution limits, the Elections Commission ruled that the PAC illegally skirted Ohio campaign-finance limits. A Franklin County judge in December upheld the $5.2 million fine, a record penalty from the commission.

DeVos contends that the Citizens United Supreme Court decision absolves her of her criminal behavior. However, the Citizens United decision came two years AFTER DeVos’s illegal activities. In other words, she’s trying retroactively apply Citizens United to her case despite the fact that what she did was illegal at the time she did it.

The website SourceWatch describes the criminal behavior this way:

All Children Matter (ACM) was founded by Amway founder and far-right philantrhopist Richard DeVos and his wife, Betsy DeVos. The organization became the pet project of Walmart heir John Walton, who put more than $4.1M into the organization in 2006 before he was killed in a plane crash.

In 2008, All Children Matter was fined $5.2 million by the Ohio Elections Commission for pumping millions of dollars into helping get pro-school voucher candidates elected in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states. Three years after the Commission imposed the record-breaking fine, the group had not yet paid it, according to the state attorney general. In 2008, the Elections Commission ruled unanimously that All Children Matter, then headed by former Michigan Republican Chairwoman Betsy DeVos, had illegally funneled $870,000 in contributions from its Virginia political action committee to its affiliate in Ohio. The payment violated a $10,000 cap on what Ohio-based, political-action committees could accept from any single entity. All Children Matter was also fined $500 in Wisconsin for providing media support for candidates without registering as a PAC.

ACM Inc is a federal “527” organization, which can donate money directly to other PACS and can set up guerrilla Super PACs that campaign on behalf of political candidates without any direct coordination by the candidate’s organization, in theory.

Its base of wealthy funders includes most of the Dead Billionaires Club (DBC), including the DeVos family, the Koch brothers… [With its] ability to stealthily intervene in local, state and federal political races, the ACM network is an effective tool for the movement to privatize public education.

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearings begin in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and most of the Democrats on the Committee are progressive rock stars so her hearing should be VERY interesting. It’s my hope that it will pull the veil back on the DeVos agenda to destroy public schools and siphon off tax dollars to the bank accounts of private and religious schools.

Contact information for the members of the Committee can be found HERE. Make sure they hear from you.

[CC image credit: Keith A. Almli | Wikimedia Commons]