By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — Members of West Michigan's DeVos family have been making so many political contributions in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's primary election that they’ve almost single-handedly funded two of the state’s top six most active political action committees (PACs).
In total, between June 2 and today, July 28 — a 56-day period — DeVos family members have made $1.45 million in disclosed contributions to Michigan candidates, state PACs, and Republican party organizations in Michigan. That’s an average of $25,892 given each day since June 2.
The largest beneficiary of the giving has been the Michigan Republican Party, which uses a state account and a federal account to raise money. According to campaign finance disclosures made in the last days, the Michigan GOP’s federal account received $182,000 from DeVos family members on June 13, and its state account received $470,000 that same day.
Among family members making contributions were Richard DeVos Sr., co-founder of Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic, Dick DeVos, former GOP candidate for governor, and Betsy DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
In addition to giving to the party, DeVos family members have given $178,200 to 20 Republican State House candidates over the last two months. Of those 20 candidates, 18 received maximum donations of $1,000 from nine members of the family each. Nineteen of the 20 candidates are running in contested GOP primary elections.
Many of the same candidates have also benefitted from independent expenditures paid for by PACs funded by DeVos family members.
According to disclosures due to the state on Monday, DeVos family members gave $250,000 to the Michigan Freedom Network PAC on July 15, and they gave another $250,000 to the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) PAC on that same day.
Between April 21 and July 20, the July quarterly reporting period, the GLEP PAC, which raised a total of $255,00 during the period and promotes school choice, reported the fourth largest fundraising total of all Michigan PACs.
Over the same quarter, the Michigan Freedom Network, which raised $250,000, reported the sixth largest total. All of the Michigan Freedom Network’s money came from DeVos family members in the reporting period while GLEP received the DeVos money along with a $5,000 donation from an account for former Michigan GOP Chair Bobby Schostak.
Between April 21 and July 20, the Michigan Freedom Network reported $84,423 in independent expenditures. They supported 13 GOP State House candidates, including paying for phone calls, digital ads and mailings. The GLEP PAC reported $238,960 in independent expenditures between April 21 and July 20, supporting 14 GOP State House candidates.
The DeVos family and groups the family supports were players in the debate over a series of Detroit education bills that were signed into law on June 21. You can read MCFN’s piece on the role of money in that legislation by clicking here.
Last election cycle, 2013-2014, MCFN tracked a total of $4.9 million in contributions by members of the DeVos family, making the family the largest individual or family group of donors in Michigan for that cycle. According to a report from The Hill last week, the DeVos family donated more “hard dollars” to political campaigns nationally in 2015 than any other family in conservative politics.