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Stenographers to Power: MLive and the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation

January 9, 2017

Yesterday, MLive ran an interesting piece about the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation.  I say interesting, because the MLive reporter frames the issue this way:9082_npiccover_display

There’s no question Dick and Betsy DeVos garner lots of attention — and criticism — for their outsized political donations. But those are pocket change compared to their charitable contributions, which add up to nearly $139 million over their lifetimes.

What the MLive reporter has done is to somehow separate the direct political campaign contributions from Dick and Betsy DeVos from the foundation giving, suggesting that their foundation giving is merely charitable and not political. In addition, the MLive reporter then makes the claim that couple gives way more money that is charity-based, unlike the political contributions, which the writer refers to as “pocket change.”

Ultimately, the reporter from MLive, has either failed to understand the nature and function of foundations or they are compromised into protecting power, or maybe both.

As we have noted in previous postings, foundations run by the capitalist class have clear agendas that are often ideologically and politically motivated. We have also written about the nature and function of foundations and their relationship to the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, which is so well articled in the book by the radical women of color organization, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond The Non-Profit Industrial Complex.

Limited Transparency

Part of the impetus for the MLive article was the recent posting of a report on the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation website. This reported is carefully crafted to convey a message that the Dick & Betsy want to convey, which has little to do with transparency. The “report” does not provide a detailed account of the recipients of their $11.6 million in contributions, just an overview that provides extremely limited information.screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-4-00-28-pm

The report from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation is only 6 pages long and 2 of those pages are the front and back cover. The report provides some numbers and general categories, like what can be learned from the graphic they use shown above.

The MLive article follows the information provided in the report and then choses to focus on the amount of money the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation have directed at education.

In addition, the article sites the power couple, a DeVos spokesperson John Truscott and one of their critics. In fact, the only critic, is Mark Brewer, the former chair of the Democratic Party in Michigan. Brewer falls into the same trap as the MLive reporter and refers to the foundation giving as a “smokescreen” to divert attention away from their electoral contributions, instead of seeing the foundation contributions as equally political.


Looking at Their Track Record

In order to make a more honest assessment of the so-called charitable contributions that the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation has made over the years, one can at least look at database provide by Guidestar.

The most recent year available on Guidestar for the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation in 2013. In that year here are some of the “charitable” organizations they contributed to:

Acton Institute $250,000screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-38-17-pm

Alliance for School Choice $250,000

Bethany Christian Services $25,000

Endeavor Global Inc $162,500

Foundation for Excellence in Education $100,000

Great Lakes education Foundation $200,000

Mackinac Center for Public Policy $50,000

Northwood University $200,000

Pregnancy Resource Center $20,000

Right to Life Michigan $25,000

Willow Creek Association $1,000,000

Each of these organizations have highly ideological and political agendas, since they attack unions, attack reproductive rights, seek to inject religion into public policy and attempt to undermine public education. Willow Creek Association, which has been the largest recipient in recent years, hosts an annual Global Leadership Summit that weds christianity with global capitalism. Check out the main speakers from the 2016 Summitwcagls3

Buying Silence and Obedience

Lastly, it is important to note that there are plenty of entities that are also recipients of the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation money. Whether this money ends up in the hands of entities like GVSU, ArtPrize, Bethany Christian Services or the Inner City Christian Federation, it is money that is given strategically and always with strings attached.

In the case of Bethany Christian Services, the function they play in relation to DeVos funding was demonstrated in 2015, when legislation was passed at the state level to make it so that only heterosexual couples could adopt. Bethany is one of the largest adoption agencies in Michigan and they comply with the anti-LGBT funding coming from the DeVos family foundations.

Other entities, even if they “do good” in the community, play the role of being silent on the political and ideological agenda of the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation. Many of these organization may even be opposed in principal to the anti-worker, anti-LGBT, anti-reproductive rights and anti-public education agenda, but they chose to say nothing because they do NOT want to jeopardize future funding.

Therefore, the MLive story not only perpetuates a myth about DeVos foundation giving as charity, they fail to understand the more complex function of foundations that are both highly political, often acting as a way to engage in population management. Once again, MLive demonstrates that they are indeed stenographers to power.

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