Betsy DeVos is the religious fanatic whose access to two unearned fortunes — one from the Amway Ponzi scheme, founded by her husband's father; the other from her own father's machining business — has allowed her to project her ideas about eliminating secular public education in favor of Christian indoctrination schools over millions of peoples' lives, especially the lives of poor people.
When Donald Trump made her his Education Secretary, he supercharged DeVos's project to create a theocratic education system that would help her turn her brand of hateful, bigoted Christianity into something like an official state religion in America.
But DeVos is monumentally unpopular, and not just because her brother, Erik "Blackwater" Prince is a notorious war-criminal and beltway bandit. After all, this is the billionaire who brought unprecedented secrecy to her office, while slashing school funding, proposed buying teachers guns with federal funds, tried to defund the Special Olympics, and promoted charter schools that put profits before pupils.
DeVos's personal and political work have always crossed over: her personal foundation spent lavishly to distribute anti-teacher talking points during the 2018 teachers' strikes; and her commitment to "education reform" has been an unmitigated disaster. And, of course, she was caught using her personal email for government business (which would allow her to avoid public records requests) and faced no consequences, though she may yet go to jail for her role in forcing students to pay loans taken out for tuition at a fraudulent, predatory "university" whose playbook is basically Trump University 2.0.
But the rich are different. When a normal politician wants to do something unpopular, they have to win the argument with the American people and their representatives. When Betsy DeVos wants to ram through her incredibly unpopular agenda, she gets to funnel millions from her family foundation to the likes of the American Enterprise Institute (previously) the National Review Institute, and dark money groups — $11.6m in all. These groups then laundered her policy prescriptions, turning them into a Greek chorous of articles, papers, and lobbying efforts bent on changing public opinion enough to make her proposals politically viable.
The 2018 filing shows that the couple put $5 million into the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation while doling out more than $11.6 million in contributions and pledges. As in previous years, much of the funding went to Christian charities and local initiatives in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the couple's home. But more than $1 million went to supposedly independent right-wing think tanks and groups like the American Enterprise Institute and the National Review Institute, which have heaped praise on Secretary DeVos and helped promote her agenda.
"Secretary DeVos is effectively funding an outside propaganda operation to help her bash teachers' unions and promote private voucher schemes that undermine public education," said Jeremy Funk, communications director for Allied Progress, a nonpartisan watchdog organization.