Skip to content

DeVos Family expands their wealth, thus allowing them to increase their influence politically, socially and culturally in Michigan

March 21, 2023

When Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel started the Amway Corporation, they had no idea what it would mean decades later in terms of the influence they would have in West Michigan and beyond.

Rich DeVos became a major player in the Religious Right beginning in the 1970s, then in the 1980s his role in the Republican Party was elevated, not just because of his campaign contributions, but in how he was able to normalize Religious Right values into the party, resulting in having a say in policy, like his appointment to President Reagan’s AIDS Commission in 1987.

The next generation of the DeVos family saw a significant evolution, not that the family’s values changed, nor their commitment to Capitalism, but how the children of Rich DeVos began to diversify the wealth of the family. 

The Amway Corporation gave birth to RDV Corporation, which was run by Doug DeVos. Dick and Betsy DeVos built the Windquest Group, Dan DeVos took control of the family’s sports teams and built Fox Motors, and Cheri DeVos Ehmann developed what became CDV5. All of this diversification began in the late 1980s and continues to expand right up to the present.

For instance, within the past few weeks, the DeVos family has expanded their wealth in several of the areas listed above. According to an article in MiBiz, Fox Motors Group LLC has widened it’s reach in the southeast part of Michigan, acquiring three new dealerships and a collision center in metro Detroit. “With the latest deal, the Fox Motors portfolio includes 43 locations in Michigan and Illinois, representing 48 automotive and powersports brands.”

Just last week it was announced that Doug and Maria DeVos bought a majority stake in boat dealership of which they have been longtime patrons. Here MiBiz reported, “The Doug and Maria DeVos family office Continuum Ventures LLC, based in the Grand Rapids suburb of Ada Township, on Friday closed on a majority investment in Hudsonville-based Action Water Sports.” 

Then on March 3rd, it was announced that the DeVos family has sold the Peninsular Club building in downtown Grand Rapids for $6.4 Million. The sale of this building made complete sense, especially since the DeVos family has moved most of the business operations into the old Fifth Third Bank building on the corner of Monroe and Lyon in downtown Grand Rapids. This includes Ottawa Private Capital LCC, which is the families major investment firm, plus they moved all of the family foundations into the same location. 

All of this is on top of the DeVos family’s role in other major development projects in Grand Rapids over the past year. For instance, the new outdoor amphitheater project is dominated by the DeVos family, which will be built along the Grand River in the near future. Also within the last year, it was announced that there is a new proposed soccer stadium in downtown Grand Rapids, which has involved a land deal with the DeVos family.  One last DeVos-led development project example, has to do with a proposed housing project in the northeast part of Grand Rapids, off of Diamond Street, which is being managed by CDV5 Property Management

Now, all of this diversification of the DeVos family wealth, apart from expanding their billions, plays a critical role in their ability to influence government policy, social outcomes, especially through the non-profit world, along with their cultural influence. Let’s look at their political influence first. 

DeVos Family Political Influence

The DeVos family has been the single largest donor to the Republican Party in Michigan since the late 1980s, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Just within the last two election cycles, which included the 2020 and 2022 elections, the DeVos family contributed just short of $25 million – $12.7 million in the 2020 elections and $12 million in the 2022 elections.  These campaign contributions include federal candidates, state candidates, county candidates, City Commission candidates and ballot initiatives. 

In addition to using their money to buy politicians, the DeVos family members often sit at the table of organizations that also work to influence public policy. These organizations include the West Michigan Policy Forum, the Right Place Inc. or the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the DeVos family, but it also involved DeVos family representatives who sit on the Convention Center Board, DGRI, the Downtown Development Authority, the Action Institute Board, Talent 2025 and a whole array of organizations and committees that influence public policy. 

DeVos Family Social Policy Influence

When it comes to social policy or social outcomes, here is where the DeVos family uses its considerable wealth that has been channeled into the various family foundations. There is the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation, the Dan and Pamela DeVos Foundation and the CDV5 Foundation. All of these foundations have millions of dollars in assets, which is a great way to avoid paying taxes, plus it gives them considerably control over social policy and social outcomes, particularly their contributions to non-profits.

The various DeVos Family Foundations influence social policy and social outcomes in two major ways. First, they use foundation money to finance groups like the Acton Institute, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, Focus on the Family, and dozens of education institutions, where they influence an emphasis on promoting entrepreneurial Capitalism. The other way the DeVos Family Foundations influence social outcomes is through their funding of non-profits like Start Garden, AmplifyGR, the Education Network of Greater Grand Rapids, ICCF, Family Promise, and a whole array of non-profits, some that also promote entrepreneurial Capitalism and others provide individualized social services. What this does is that it creates a culture of collusion and silence. When non-profits take money from DeVos foundations they are colluding in pushing entrepreneurial Capitalism, plus they buy the silence of groups that provide social services. When I say they buy the silence of social service non-profits I mean their grant money to social service groups keeps these groups from speaking out on how the DeVos political contributions influencing public policy, which widens the wealth gap, while their foundation money them provides temporary relief to social service non-profits to serve people who are impacted by the public policy imposed on society by the DeVos family and other members of the Capitalist Class.

DeVos Family Religious/Cultural/Entertainment Influence

The third and last area of influence that the DeVos family has in West Michigan are the areas of Religious, Cultural and Entertainment arenas, which sometimes are intertwined. The Religious influence can be seen in how much money they contribute to religious groups and institutions. Then there is the overall religious influence, which permeates everything they do, thus inserting their brand of Christianity into all arenas of life. The Cultural influence is felt with projects like ArtPrize, Start Garden and AmplifyGR, which weaves religious and entrepreneurial Capitalism to make justify wealth accumulation and to allow them to say that people who are not successful in life, it’s because they don’t Be-lie-ve!

The Entertainment influence can certainly be seen in some of the areas of religious and cultural arenas mentioned previously, but it is most prominent in their ownership of sports teams and their control over venues like the Convention Center, the Arena, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, previously held influence over UICA, Artprize, and what is likely to become the new outdoor amphitheater. Of course the beauty of all of these projects is that they get the public to subsidize or underwrite a great deal of the cost, while the DeVos family gets to pocket a great deal of the profits from all of the spectator based, consumer culture endeavors they have their fingers in. 

Thus you can see how the DeVos family expansion of their wealth, allows them to influence elections, which influence public policy, which allows them to expand their wealth. Then you can see how the DeVos family wealth expansion allows them to influence social policy and social outcomes, which also provides a buffer for them to minimize and manage potential public outrage against their wealth expansion. Lastly, you can see how the DeVos family wealth expansion influences Cultural/Entertainment aspect of our community, sort of a Bread & Circuses approach to social control, plus it provide yet the last full circle of wealth expansion, since all of their cultural/entertainment projects are often subsidized by public money and have built-in money making components, which make for more profits and expanded wealth. 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: