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

January 11, 2017

On Monday, we posted a critique of an MLive story focusing on the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation. The story on Monday from MLive created the narrative that the couple’s election/candidate contributions is “purse change” compared to their Charitable contributions.betsy_devos_card_2016

We argued that the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation’s contributions were also primarily motivated by a political agenda, considering who the recipients on those dollars are. The MLive reporter also claimed that the couple had “lifted the veil” on the foundation’s spending, even though the information they release was minimal and did not reveal much.

Earlier today, MLive ran another article focusing on Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation contributions, specifically on one recipient of the foundation’s funding, Potter’s House. The headline reads for the MLive article reads, Betsy DeVos’ support of urban school goes beyond writing checks. 

First, the headline is a bit misleading. Potter’s House presents itself as not only an urban school, but a Christ-centered school. More specifically, the mission statement reads:

The Potter’s House provides a Christ-centered education to children of all ethnic heritages and income levels, equipping them to serve God and society to their fullest potential.

There is a big difference in calling yourself an urban school, as opposed to a Christ-centered school. Plus, one of the main objections from educators across the country to Betsy DeVos being chosen as Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, is that she and the DeVos family are primarily interested in promoting religious education, along with blurring the lines between church an state with DeVos funded programs like Believe to Become in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. A source who worked closely on that campaign told me recently that the DeVos family was the primary funder of the Believe to Become project, which was connected to the Grand Rapids Public Schools.screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-5-52-32-pm

Secondly, the only sources in the article are the Dick & Betsy DeVos and the superintendent of Potter’s House School, John Booy. There are no critical voices in the article and nowhere does the reporter contest or really verify the claims made by those interviewed.

At one point superintendent Booy makes the statement, “They do their research on an organization and when they fund, it’s with no strings attached.”

Third, of course there are strings attached, even if they are not overt and in writing. As we stated in Monday’s critique in Part I those who are recipients of the foundation’s money would never dream of saying anything critical of their politics, even if it had nothing to do with the work of the organization receiving funds from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation. Money, particularly in the amount the the Dicl & Betsy DeVos Foundation gives to Potter’s, always buys silence and complicity.

One other interesting point from the MLive article was this revelation:

For years, Dick DeVos took seniors on an annual insider’s tour of Grand Rapids, explaining the role planning and philanthropy played in revitalizing the city’s downtown.

Who wouldn’t love to sit in on that tour. I can imagine that there would be a great deal to talk about from Dick’s perspective. especially as it relates to the Grand Action projects he has been involved in with the rest of the GR elite, like the arena, the convention center, the civic theater and the downtown market. He also would no doubt talk about the number of hotels he and the rest of his family own downtown, along with all the other kinds of developments that they have a stake in.

However, it is not likely that these students would learn how much public money was funneled into such projects, either outright funding or tax breaks provided, equaling millions of dollars in the downtown alone.

So, once again, MLive has demonstrated that they don’t ask hard questions of those in power, don’t verify claims that are made and don’t offer critical perspectives. They truly are stenographers to power.

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