Betsy DeVos’ support for anti-gay groups goes far beyond what she admitted in her confirmation hearing.
Is there anything left to say about the awfulness of Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education? Alas, there is… Not nearly enough has been made of DeVos’ extreme closeness to the extreme fringes of the Christian right. She and her family have spent decades and millions upon millions to help further the reach of organizations like the Family Research Council, known for its *research* into homosexuality, which, by the way, is not a civil right. While media reports have referred in passing to DeVos’s support for Christian causes, they’ve largely glossed over what these causes are and how deeply enmeshed she is in a world that views homosexuality as immoral and abhorrent. Since her position comes with some responsibilities of the civil rights variety, should we maybe be concerned about this?
Remember the big *It Gets Better* campaign from a few years back? The viral video series in which gay grown ups recorded messages of hope and encouragement for students who are being bullied or just enduring life as an American teen won major plaudits and showed how the Interwebs could really be a force for progress. But it didn’t go down well at all with groups like the Family Research Council, which condemned President Obama for recording his own video and asked: *can you imagine George Washington, Ronald Reagan or any other president telling school children that it’s OK to be immoral and that eventually they’ll feel better about it?*
Can you imagine George Washington, Ronald Reagan or any other president telling school children that it’s OK to be immoral and that eventually they’ll feel better about it?
So what does this have to do with Betsy DeVos? To say that she has long been a supporter of the Family Research Council doesn’t come anywhere close to conveying the depths of that support. Her family, the Princes, gave the seed money that was used to start the organization. The FRC credits the Prince family and the DeVos family for the financial support that enabled them to establish their permanent headquarters from which to *advance faith, family and freedom.* One is the group’s DC headquarters at Gallery Place, the other a satellite office in, wait for it, Holland, Michigan, Betsy’s hometown and the seat of the powerful Prince family from whence she sprang.
Politico reported recently that both wings of Betsy DeVos’ family had been big donors to the FRC, but made it sound like funding anti-gay groups was sooooo last generation. The real action continues via Betsy’s family’s charity: the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. Last year alone the foundation gave the FRC more than $700,000 in operating support. Another $500,000 went to support Focus on the Family, which recently rolled out a new campaign on *transgenderism: the new threat to your child’s school.* The previous year, the Prince’s sent $815,000 to the FRC and $500,000 to Focus on the Family. Betsy DeVos is a Director of the foundation, so signs off on all of these gifts. So too is her brother Erik, the founder of the private mercenary group Blackwater, who, in addition to being a vocal Trump supporter (Breitbart Radio!), turns out to have been a major backer of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, with whom the family turns out to have, um, a few things in common.
In fact, of the $4 million dollars the Prince Foundation gave away last year, more than ¼ went to support two anti-gay groups. That’s not just a cause, it’s a priority. And it’s deeply reflective of who Betsy DeVos is and the world that she comes from.
Note: with your help, I’ll be heading to Michigan next month to talk to the real experts on DeVos’ legacy: parents and public education advocates. But I can’t do it without your help. I’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for my reporting adventure. Thanks for your support, and I can’t wait to tell you all about what I learn in my travels! Click here to make a donation.