By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — Members of West Michigan’s powerful DeVos family have combined to make about $14 million in political contributions in the last two years alone.
As Betsy DeVos prepares to become President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary and as groups the family funds back significant proposals advancing in the Michigan Legislature in lame duck, MCFN analyzed the family’s political giving in Michigan, in other states and at the federal level.
What MCFN found is a wide-ranging web of giving to GOP efforts in the two years before Betsy DeVos was chosen as Trump's pick for education secretary:
— Since Jan. 1, 2015, members of the DeVos family have made $3.4 million in contributions at the state level in Michigan, their home state;
— The family’s giving in Michigan outpaced the combined fundraising over that time period of the main state PACs for the United Auto Workers ($1.6 million), the Michigan Education Association ($0.64 million) and the Michigan Association for Justice ($0.56 million);
— Family members have contributed directly to 50 state or judicial candidates in Michigan in the last two years;
— They’ve given at least $7,000 directly to the campaigns of 30 of the 63 Republicans who will serve in the Michigan House next session;
— They’ve given heavily to groups that help elect Republicans, like the House Republican Campaign Committee in Michigan ($720,00), the Republican National Committee ($1.8 million) and the national Senate Leadership Fund ($1.0 million), a Super PAC;
— DeVos contributions have boosted GOP candidates in key races across the U.S., including gubernatorial races in Missouri and Indiana and at least 12 U.S. Senate candidates in competitive races.
The family’s patriarch, Richard DeVos Sr., 90, is the co-founder of Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic.
His son, Dick DeVos, is the former president of Alticor and was a candidate for Michigan governor in 2006. Dick DeVos’ wife, Betsy DeVos, is the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and a leading advocate for school choice. Trump named her as his pick for education secretary last week.
Betsy DeVos started the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), an organization that says it supports “quality choices in public education for all Michigan students.” In the last two years, DeVos family members gave GLEP’s PAC $500,000.
Numerous other DeVos family members make political contributions, but family members often hand out the contributions in an orchestrated fashion, making contributions on the same day in the same amounts.
In Michigan state House races, usually nine different family members gave the maximum $1,000 each to candidates, combining for $9,000 for each candidate. Thirty-two state House candidates received that amount from DeVos family members this cycle. Two other candidates received different amounts.
They included GOP candidates in swing districts, GOP candidates in contested primary races and candidates for House GOP leadership jobs. The DeVos family helped propel a high-degree of electoral success with 30 of the 34 Michigan House candidates they supported winning their House seats.
Family members combined to give $43,200 each to nine different U.S. Senate candidates.
However, the bulk of the family’s giving in the last two years was to committees that support Republican candidates.
Family members gave large amounts to the following: $1.8 million to the Republican National Committee; $1.5 million to the Freedom Partners Action Fund; $1.3 million to the Michigan Republican Party; $1.0 million to American Crossroads; and $1.0 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that backs GOP U.S. Senate candidates.
In Michigan, family members gave $720,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee, the committee of the House GOP caucus. Individuals can give no more than $40,000 to a caucus committee each year under Michigan law. So that $720,000 figure is the result of nine family members giving $40,000 each to the committee in 2015 and then giving another $40,000 each in 2016.
The DeVos family directly provided about 18 percent of the money the House Republican Campaign Committee had raised as of Oct. 20.
As for DeVos giving in other states the last two years, family members gave $95,000 to Eric Holcomb, Indiana’s GOP candidate for governor, and $100,000 to Eric Greitens, Missouri’s GOP candidate for governor.
Family members also gave $525,000 to the American Federation for Children Action Fund in Indiana, $55,000 to the Nevada Federation for Children and $25,000 to the Wisconsin Federation for Children.
In Michigan, the DeVos family gives at a level that easily beats any other family in the state.
For comparison, in the 2013-2014 election cycle, MCFN tracked $4.9 million in DeVos contributions to Michigan political committees. That total was the most of any family in Michigan. The family that had given the second most, according to MCFN’s tracking, was the Bernstein family at $1.9 million — $1.8 million of which was campaign self-funding by now Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.
Scroll your mouse over the below graphic or go to this link to follow more than $14 million in DeVos contributions since the start of 2015.