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DeVos Philanthropy is once again unchallenged by MLive

October 22, 2018

On Friday, MLive published a brief article about how the DeVos family was 25th on the Forbes list of top 50 givers in the US

The article doesn’t provide much information other than to say:

The West Michigan family, who made their billions through Amway, made notable gifts last year to Spectrum Health Foundation, Frederik Meijer Gardens, Heart of West Michigan United Way, West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology and the National Constitution Center.

While it is true that the DeVos family contributed to the above organizations, they gave a whole lot more to several other entities, specifically to religious institutions and right wing policy groups.

The MLive article fails to mention the millions the family has contributed to Hope College, Calvin College, the Haggai Institute, the Luis Palau Association and numerous other conservative religious entities. When it comes to far right policy groups, the DeVos family has contributed millions to groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Acton Institute, the Alliance for School Choice and the Great Lakes Education Foundation.

Omitting information on some of these entities is significant, because it makes us all think that what the DeVos family contributes to are just nice charities. The reality is that this family has contributed millions of dollars to conservative religious groups that have very strong positions on reproductive rights, LGBT issues and the normalization of patriarchy. In addition, the policy groups and think tanks collectively take strong positions in favor of privatizing education, dismantling public sector unions, deregulating the economy, pushing Right to Work policies and getting local and state governments to adopt economic austerity measures that gravely effects working class people and communities of color.

The MLive article also doesn’t talk about how the foundations that wealthy families set up are a way of 1) hiding some of their money so it cannot be taxed; 2) to act as a kind of PR front to distract people from thinking about how they have made their money, and 3) how foundations have been used as a way to manage the non-profit sector, which disproportionately relies on foundation grants.

It is also important to note that the DeVos Family contributes more to influence government policy in Michigan more than any other family in the state, based on documentation from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The kinds of policies they have been promoting, both through their family campaign finances and groups like the West Michigan Policy Forum have resulted in making Michigan a Right to Work state, attacking teacher and other public sector pensions, denying same sex parents from adopting from the largest adoption agencies in the state, changing the tax system to benefit the wealthiest and changing state law to allow larger campaign contributions. 

All of these policies have caused a tremendous amount of harm and negatively impacts the most marginalized communities in the area. The DeVos Family then provides substantial grant funding through their numerous family foundations, funding that is often used by non-profits to respond to the harm the DeVos Family has caused. The difference is that the funds used within the non-profit sector are based on conditions, which allows the DeVos Family to engage in a form of social engineering and population management.

In addition, the non-profits that are receiving funds from the DeVos Family Foundations are then put in a position so as to never criticize the family’s political funding. This means that in addition to engaging in population management, non-profit/social service organizations are also managed for fear of losing their funding. Therefore, the DeVos Family philanthropy plays a significant role in the two pronged strategy of ideological warfare they engage in through their wealth. (See Part I and Part II of an article that further explores this dynamic.)

MLive once again demonstrates their unwillingness to question or challenge the dominant narrative about the DeVos family, a narrative that is essentially created by them, which is then repeated by the commercial media. This was the case with the recent death of Rich DeVos and has been for decades in West Michigan.

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