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The Business Press coddles Betsy and the rest of the DeVos Family

March 7, 2017

On Sunday, one of the two major business publications in West Michigan, ran a front page article headline, As Betsy DeVos takes Cabinet post, family to continue community engagement

The MiBiz article presents Betsy DeVos and the rest of the DeVos Family as, inextricably woven into the community.” This is not an inaccurate statement, rather a statement from a certain perspective. Those of us who write about local politics might call it a process of population management or social control.

We use those kinds of terms, especially since the DeVos Family through the organizations they are apart of (West Michigan Policy Forum, GR Chamber of Commerce, Great Lakes Education Project, Grand Action, etc) and their foundations as a way to influence local, regional and state politics that reflects the values they embrace – anti-working class, homophobic, neo-liberal capitalist, hyper-conservative christian and white supremacist values. These are evidenced by the organizations they are part of. The foundations also perpetuate these values, but also provide major funding sources for the non-profit sector in West Michigan as a means of censoring these groups from even thinking about challenging those values.

The MiBiz article spends a fair amount of time talking about the ways in which Betsy DeVos has had to divest from certain areas, particularly areas related to education. There is a link in the article to the 108-page document from the US Office of Government Ethics

Related to Betsy DeVos having to remove herself from being part of some of the family holdings, MiBis cited Remos Lenio, partner at investment banking firm Tillerman & Co. in Grand Rapids. Lenio, has a person connection to the DeVos family and is said to share the DeVos Family’s desire to make Grand Rapids into a “Christian Wall Street.”

None of the DeVos Family members are cited in the MiBiz article, instead we hear from two of the DeVos Family operatives, Greg McNeilly and John Truscott. McNeilly, who ran Dick DeVos’ failed campaign for the Governor of Michigan in 2006, continues to work as a DeVos operative, when he became the Windquest Group’s Chief Operating Officer in 2012. McNeilly also runs one of the DeVos state policy front groups, the Michigan Freedom Fund, which lobbies for policies that represent the DeVos Family’s conservative christian values and neo-liberal capitalist interests.

John Truscott used to work for former Governor John Engler as his Press Secretary. In addition to being a spokesperson for the DeVos Family, Truscott is a founding partner of Truscott Rossman, a public relations agency based in Michigan, which has clients such as the Van Andel Institute, CWD (Cummings, Weirda & DeVos), Experience Grand Rapids and the City of Grand Rapids. 

Towards the end of the article is states which boards that Betsy DeVos has had to step down from, but the MiBiz piece suggests that there are no major changes to what the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation does in the community.

However, the MiBiz article does not provide any analysis of what the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation has provided money to since it’s inception. They simply quote John Truscott who says, “No major changes are expected from Dick and Betsy’s foundation. While she does not have a role in the foundation while serving as Secretary, the family will continue to help people and make a significant philanthropic impact.” 

I guess what Truscott means by helping people is to fund all kinds of groups that attack public sector workers, working class families, the LGBT community, women’s reproductive rights and to support Religious Right groups in Michigan and across the nation.

According to the most recent year available on Guidestar for the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation (2013), here are some of the “charitable” organizations they contributed to

  • Acton Institute $250,000
  • 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

In the end, the MiBiz piece not only fails to scrutinize the DeVos Family, it only cites DeVos Family operatives as it relates to what their businesses and foundation are involved in. Considering this article appeared in the business press, it is no surprise then that MiBiz ends up coddling the most powerful family in West Michigan.

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