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It’s not Philanthropy, It’s Ideological and Class Warfare: How the DeVos Family Foundation contributions complement their political donations – Part I

August 9, 2020

We were recently able to access the 2018 990 documents from the various DeVos family foundations, through GuideStar.org. These foundations include, the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, the Dan & Pamela DeVos Foundation and the CDV5 Foundation.

We have been tracking the DeVos family foundations for years, since it provides useful information on how the family strategically uses their money to influence the world around us. It is important to recognize that when people generally think of philanthropy, they think of money going from those with tremendous wealth to non-profits who provide needed services in the community. While there is some truth to this, what we will demonstrate in this series of articles, is that the DeVos family uses their foundation money to primarily wage ideological and class warfare.

However, before we get to the data from the 2018 990 documents from the various DeVos family foundations, it is important to note that this family spends more money to directly influence public policy, based on the funding they provide to candidates and various Republican Party entities, as documented by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN). Between 1999 and 2018, the DeVos family provided at least $93 million in contributions to political candidates and Republican PACs. However, this amount of money does not include Dark Money, such as the group known as Donor’s Trust. According to one source, the DeVos family has contributed $6.5 million to Donor’s Trust, which funds a variety of right wing entities throughout the country.

We argue, that the money the DeVos family foundations contribute ultimately compliments the direct political contributions they make. In Part I of this series, we look at the contributions the DeVos family foundations made for 2018 to educational entities and what that means.

The DeVos family is not shy about their Christian values, which is reflected in the amount of funding they provide to Christian Schools from their 2018 contributions:

  • King’s College $33.500,000
  • Rehoboth Christian School $2,836,000
  • Potter’s House Christian School $2,175,000
  • Western Theological Seminary $1,950,000
  • Lee University $1,250,000
  • Grand Rapids Christian Schools $1,220,000
  • Cornerstone University $1,160,000
  • Aquinas College $1,097,500
  • Trinity Christian College Association $1,000,000
  • Calvin Theological Seminary $443,000
  • Zuni Christian Mission School $300,000
  • Calvin College $125,000

It’s instructive to note that King’s College is a Catholic College, which also has a major business school component. Potter’s House has been a pet project of Dick & Betsy DeVos for many years and Rehoboth and Zuni are both mission schools specifically for indigenous people to educate them in the “one true God” – which is one form of White Saviorism and Cultural Genocide.

The DeVos family foundations also contribute significantly to public schools, such as:

  • GVSU $4,983,000
  • Northwood University $3,320,000
  • MSU $2,700,000
  • Grand Rapids Community College Foundation $2,623,000
  • Ferris State $537,500
  • Grand Rapids Students Advance Foundation $477,500
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools $211,200

In the case of GVSU, Northwood and GRCC, there are buildings named after DeVos family members. The GR Student Advancement Foundation is the foundation for the GRPS, so the combined total is close to $700,000 for 2018 alone. The DeVos family foundations have been the largest contributor to the GRPS for several years, as we reported on in 2019. The DeVos family has been instrumental is getting more business-oriented curriculum into the GRPS system and they have been the main force behind Christian-centered programs like Believe to Become and the DeVos Urban Leadership Institute

It is no surprise that GVSU is first on the list of contributions to secular schools from the DeVos family. The DeVos family has been very influential in the school’s history, with several members of the family serving on the Board of Trustees. It is also well known that the DeVos family influenced the school’s shift from being a more liberal-arts oriented school, with William James and Thomas Jefferson Colleges, to a more business-centered school. It is also well documented that the DeVos family blocked GVSU’s push to have domestic partner benefits for faculty and staff. In 1994, when faculty and staff at GVSU were meeting with then President Lubbers over the university’s willingness to offer domestic partner benefits, word got out that this was going to happen. At the time GVSU was raising money for a proposed health education building on Michigan St and Peter Cook and Rich DeVos had pledged millions. Once DeVos and Cook found out about the proposal by GVSU to offer domestic partner benefits, they threatened to withdraw their financial support if the university would support a domestic partner benefits policy. GVSU acquiesced to the wish of DeVos and Cook. For further reading on Rich DeVos and GVSU check out What’s in a Name: A Popular Guide to Wealth & Influence at GVSU.

These DeVos foundation contributions to schools and colleges are strategic, both to promote conservative Christian values within faith-based schools and to influence public schools to take a more pro-capitalist position, as well as to infiltrate these institutions with conservative Christian beliefs. These two principles – conservative Christian and Capitalist Class values – are also what drives the DeVos family contributions to political candidates for local and federal offices. This is essentially the two-pronged strategy of the DeVos family, both in the political and philanthropic arenas.

 

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