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DeVos, Donor’s Trust and the channeling of money to influence public policy

February 20, 2013

Earlier today, Democracy Now featured a story on a somewhat hidden group known as Donor’s Trust, which has created another layer of influence peddling in US policy and elections.Picture 2

The featured guest on the Democracy Now segment was John Dunbar, politics editor at the Center for Public Integrity and co-author of the group’s months-long investigation into Donors Trust.

The article by the Center for Public Integrity report identifies usual suspects that channel money through Donor’s Trust, such as the Koch Brothers. However, if one looks at the graphic created by the Center, you can see that the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation is the second largest contributor to Donor’s Trust, giving well over a million dollars.

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The Center for Public Integrity documents that much of the funding from foundations like the DeVos Foundation are channeled to far right Think Tanks, such as the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Here is what their report says about Mackinac:

Ten state-level think tanks got a total of $200,000 from Donors Trust to attend ALEC meetings in 2011 including the Michigan-based Mackinac Center and the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which introduced a raft of anti-union model bills at ALEC’s spring 2012 conference.

The Mackinac Center has gotten $2.4 million from Donors Trust since 2008, according to the Bridge Project, a liberal think tank.

One Donors Trust grant to Mackinac Center was earmarked for “statehouse reporting” efforts. Mackinac put the money toward a media machine of blogs and research studies making the case for the state’s new “right-to-work” law.

The Mackinac Center works closely with other Donors Trust recipients, including the Franklin Center, which counts Mackinac’s “media” outlets in Michigan as affiliates.

The Franklin Center, Mackinac and another major recipient of Donors Trust cash, Americans for Prosperity, co-hosted a day-long training for “citizen watchdogs” featuring speakers on “school choice” and “union reform” from the Mackinac Center and Republican state Rep. Tom McMillin, who is also an ALEC member.

Besides the outright money that people like Richard DeVos give to candidates or the political parties to influence policy and election outcomes, they are finding other ways to channel even more funds from their foundations to an organization that is having a major impact on legislative policy across the country and right here in Michigan.

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