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Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation: funding conservative think tanks, the religious right, neoliberal capitalist groups and the pro-Charter School movement

May 13, 2019

Nearly three weeks ago, we posted an article about the Jerry & Marcia Tubergen Foundation. Jerry Tubergen is the CEO of RDV Corp, sits on the board of directors of every DeVos family foundation and essentially manages all of the family investments through Ottawa Private Capital LLC. 

Today we want to look at the last three years of the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, with the three most recent 990 documents the foundation has submitted being 2015, 2016 & 2017. We also want to see if there has been any major changes, since Betsy DeVos became the Secretary of Education in early 2017.

While there are dozens of entities that received funding from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation between 2015 – 2017, there are a few causes that received larger sums of money. The major groupings to receive substantial funds from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation were conservative think tanks, pro-Charter School/private education groups, christian entities and pro-capitalist/entrepreneurial groups. These four sectors demonstrate Dick & Betsy DeVos’ commitment to radically altering the education landscape in the US, plus their deep ideological commitment to the religious right and neoliberal capitalism.

Think Tanks push a far right neoliberal agenda

The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation has always supported conservative think tanks, since these organizations develop neoliberal platforms and then push neoliberal policy at the state and federal level.

At the federal level, the think tank that has consistently received the most money from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). In 2015, AEI received $1,750,000 from Dick & Betsy, $750,000 in 2016 and $1,000,000 in 2017. 

At the State level, there are two main think tanks that have received support from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation. First, is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. This neoliberal think tank received $75,000 in 2015 and $900,000 in 2017. Then there is the Acton Institute, based in Grand Rapids. The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation contributed $305,000 in 2016 to the Acton Institute and $150,000 in 2017.

Pro-Charter School/Education Privatization groups

A second major area the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation has contributed to is an area that they have been deeply committed to since the Reagan years. One group is the Alliance for School Choice, which received $100,000 in 2015, $290,000 in 2016 and $1,000,000 in 2017.

Another group fighting for Charter Schools and the privatization of education is the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), which Betsy DeVos founded. Dick & Betsy gave  GLEP $56,000 in 2015, $200,000 in 2016 and $100,000 in 2017.

A third group in this sector is a group called Partnership for Education Justice. The Partnership is essentially an organization dedicated to providing legal defense and legal support to families and groups within the public school system that wants to bring religion into school or push Charter School-like agendas within public schools. The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation contributed $400,000 to this group in 2015.

Conservative Christian organizations

The DeVos family has a long history of financially backing the religious right, specifically the Christian Right. In Grand Rapids, some of the main groups they have contributed to are Potters House School, where the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation gave $200,000 in 2015, $1,200,000 in 2016 and $200,250 in 2017.

The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation also contributed money to the Grand Rapids Christian Schools, giving $300,000 in 2015, $350,000 in 2016 and $300,000 in 2017. Another conservative Christian entity the DeVos family loves is the Willow Creek Association. In 2015, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation contributed $600,000, in 2016 another $600,000 and in 2017, just $500. The reason for the major drop in funding was the news about Willow Creek founder being caught in a sex scandal.

Giving Money to Make Money

The last major sector that the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation has contributed to is the neoliberal capitalist entrepreneurial groups. These are organizations that invest money into start up companies or projects that not only get them great PR, but allows for them to profit off of these new start ups.

In 2015, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation contributed $1,875,000 into the Xprize Foundation, along with an additional $3,750,000 in 2016. Then there is the Grand Action Foundation, which received $50,000 in 2016 and $2,550,500 in 2017. Lastly, there is the group E-merge (which is now part of Start Garden – founded by Dick & Betsy’s son Rick), which received $200,000 in 2016 and another $150,000 in 2017.

Like the other DeVos family foundation, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation gives a great deal of money to organization that promote right wing and neoliberal capitalist policies that hurt working class families and communities of color. Many of the same people who are negatively impacted by these negative policies often seek out the charity services of organizations that the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation contributes to (although in smaller contributions), without being aware of the fact that the DeVos Foundation funding was part of the root cause of their suffering.

Herein lies the beauty of foundations. The rich members of the capitalist class get to place millions of dollars into tax-free entities called foundations and then they are allowed to contribute to organizations which promotes class warfare to benefit themselves.

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