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The DeVos Family, MLive and the Buying of Elections

August 1, 2016

Last Friday, MLive posted some information on which candidates in West Michigan are receiving money from the DeVos family. I say posted some information, because what information was given, was the absolute minimum and required virtually no work on the part of MLive staff. 

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The MLive posting essentially consisted of slides with a picture of the DeVos family and the candidates they have contributed to just before the August 2nd primary. Each slide has a little bit of text, but the posting provides no analysis, not how many other candidates of political action committees the DeVos family has contributed to in the most recent campaign finance disclosure cycle.Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 12.32.46 AM

MLive once again demonstrates that they will not challenge or investigate the political and economic influence of the most powerful family in West Michigan.

At a closer and more honest look at the recent campaign donations from the DeVos family reveals that their influence is much greater than what MLive suggests.

First, here is a complete listing of the DeVos family contributions between June 2nd and July 28 of 2016. One can see that there are many more candidates that the family has contributed to beyond West Michigan. It is also evident that the organizations and political action committees they have contributed to have been the real beneficiaries of the DeVos money.

Second, the total amount the DeVos family contributed to influence electoral outcomes in just 56 days is roughly $1.5 million. This means that the family contributed $26,785 per day during this 56-day period. In other words, the DeVos family contributed the same amount of money in one day ($26,785) that thousands of people in Grand Rapids make in one year.

Third, the MLive posting provides no analysis or information on what the DeVos money buys in terms of policy. This is the most relevant question for journalists to ask, since rich people don’t give money just for the hell of it, but to determine policy outcomes. For example, State Representative Daniela Garcia received $9,000 from the DeVos family on July 14th. One can easily check what the representative from the 90th District is voting for and which bill she is introducing by going to this link. Not surprising, Rep. Garcia has voted to support policies that benefit businesses, policies that negatively impact unions and policies that benefit the push to privatize public education. Any of the candidates, that are incumbents, in which the DeVos family has given money to recently, could easily have been looked at the determine how they vote. This is what real journalism would do.Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 12.31.15 AM

Fourth, MLive completely ignored the fact that the political action committees and organizations which received the bulk of the DeVos family money in the past two months is a larger issue than what individual candidates receive. It would come as no surprise that the bulk of the DeVos funds during the past two months went to the Republican Party, both at the state and federal level, to spent how they please.

Then there are the funds the DeVos family has contributed to the Great Lakes Education Project and the Michigan Freedom Network, both political action committees that are run by either a member of the DeVos family or a DeVos family operative. Both entities received $250,000 from the DeVos family on July 15.

Betsy DeVos is one of the four board members of the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP). The GLEP is part of a larger national network of organizations that are working to undermine public education. The GLEP is the primary entity work on undermining public education in Michigan and has most recently played a critical role in state policy decisions on the future of Detroit schools

The Michigan Freedom Network is the political action committee of the organization of the Michigan Freedom Fund. It’s director is Greg McNeilly, a long time DeVos political operative. McNeilly was the campaign manager for the failed gubernatorial campaign of Dick DeVos in 2006. McNeilly is also a board member of GLEP and is the Chief Operating Officer of the DeVos run Windquest Group. McNeilly was quoted in an MLive article from last year, boasting how political donations are the most protected form of speech:

“Political speech is the most protected form of speech, and we need more people participating at higher levels. We should applaud anyone who is leading on that dimension and try to encourage greater participation in our great American experiment.”

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MLive completely fails to truly inform the public about the power and influence of the DeVos family. Therefore, we should never rely on it as a source to inform us about how power functions. Instead, we need to create our own mechanisms to inform and mobilize the public to challenge power, whether it is private or government power.

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