Elisabeth Dee “Betsy” DeVos
Following strong opposition from Democrats, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved her nomination on January 31, and she was then confirmed by Senate by a 51-50 margin on February 7, 2017. Her confirmation marked the first time in U.S. history that a Cabinet nominee’s confirmation was decided on a tie-breaking vote by the vice president. , , 
DeVos is known as a strong proponent for the privatization of public schools and advocates a “school choice” voucher program that would give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools. She has called the existing public education system a “government-run monopoly.” 
Betsy and her husband Dick DeVos are the billionaire heirs to the “multi-level” marketing company Amway. In 2016, Forbes listed the DeVos family as the 88th richest family in America at a net worth of $5.4 billion.
DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater.
Together, Betsy and her husband launched the Dick and Betsy Devos Foundation in 1989. Mother Jones reported that from 2000 to 2014, their foundation gave nearly $100 million with an “overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools, evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center.” , 
Betsy DeVos’s name also appeared on the 990 forms of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which she described as a “clerical error” during her confirmation hearing. The Prince foundation gave $2.7 million to the Family Research Council and over $4.4 million to Focus on the Family between 1999 and 2009, among other organizations on the “religious tight.”  
Praise & Criticism
The Washington Post reported that Jim DeMint, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, praised Trump’s choice of DeVos, saying that “the school choice movement will have a champion in the Education Department.” 
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said Trump’s pick “makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.” 
U.S. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said she would vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Watch Collins’s full statement below: 
“[…] like all of us, Mrs. DeVos is the product of her experience. She appears to view education through the lens of her experience in promoting alternatives to public education in Detroit and other cities where she has, no doubt, done valuable work. Her concentration on charter schools and vouchers, however, raises the question of whether or not she fully appreciates that the Secretary of Education’s primary focus must be on helping states and communities, parents, teachers, school board members, and administrators strengthen our public schools.
“While it is unrealistic and unfair to expect a nominee to know the details of all the programs under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, I am troubled and surprised by Mrs. DeVos’ apparent lack of familiarity with the landmark 1975 law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, that guarantees a free and appropriate education to children with special needs.”
Stance on Climate Change
While DeVos hasn’t taken a strong stance on climate change, critics have pointed to her past support of Republicans who have denied that climate change exists. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also worries that DeVos’s school voucher program could harm climate education by potentially funding “religious schools that promote creationism and deny climate change.” , , 
Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation
The following is a small sample of the Dick and Betsy Devos Family Foundation’s donations, based on information compiled by Conservative Transparency and combined with data from available 990 tax forms up to 2015. For a complete list, view the attached spreadsheet for details on all donations by the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation by year (.xlsx).
View available 990 forms below the table.
OpenSecrets reported that in the 2016 cycle alone, the DeVos family gave at least $10 million to a variety of GOP candidates and committees. (See tabbed spreadsheet here). Top 10 recipients of gifts by the DeVos family included: 
- Republican National Cmte
- Freedom Partners Action Fund
- RNC Soft Money
- Senate Leadership Fund
- American Crossroads
- Republican Party of Michigan
- Conservative Solutions PAC
- Ending Spending Action Fund
Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation
Betsy DeVos is daughter of Elsa Prince Broekhuizen and the late Edgar Prince. The Prince foundation gave $2.7 million to the Family Research Council and over $4.4 million to Focus on the Family between 1999 and 2009, as well as significant funding to other “Religious Right” organizations. 
In response to questions from Senator Maggie Hassan during a confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos said she had nothing to do with donations made by her mother’s foundation to such conservative advocacy groups. DeVos asserted that the existence of her name on the 990 tax forms of the foundation was a “clerical error.” See the available 990 forms below. 
In 1983, DeVos’s father, Edgar Prince, contributed to the creation of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as extremist because of its anti-L.G.B.T. language. , 
Politico noted that the Devos family have a history of supporting anti-gay causes. For example, they have donated hundreds of thousands to “Focus on the Family,” an organization devoted to changing a person’s sexual orientation. Focus on the Family has described a “second civil war” against LGBT rights, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 
Civil rights groups have said they are “deeply concerned” that DeVos will dismantle civil rights protections for gay and transgender students in place under Barack Obama’s Education Department. The groups noted that the DeVos family’s history of supporting anti-gay causes including groups promoting “conversion therapy.” 
“If Betsy DeVos is to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Education, she must clarify whether she shares her family’s support for this abusive practice, or if she’ll pledge to work to ban it,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. 
“The DeVos family has a long, well-documented history of funding organizations dedicated to undermining and restricting the rights of LGBTQ people,” he said. 
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation
The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation was founded by Betsy Devos’s father-in-law, Richard and his wife Helen. According to data from Conservative Transparency, this foundation has also given millions of dollars to conservative and “religious right” causes, including over $13 million to The Heritage Foundation, $6.5 million to DonorsTrust, and $500,000 to the Mercatus Center, with funding data up to 2013. See original 990s below. 
They said that school choice would lead to “great Kingdom gain” and that public schools have “displaced” the Church as community centers:
“The church — which ought to be in our view far more central to the life of the community — has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity, the center for what goes on in the community,” Dick DeVos said. 
“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” 
June 24, 2019
Nearly 100 internal documents were leaked to Axios in 2019. As Axios reported, the documents identified a host of “red flags” about many individuals who would go on to work in the Trump administration, as well as others who were considered but failed to secure a position. 
DeVos was listed among the documents. Some notable samples from the internal documents below:
“Betsy DeVos Said She Had Reservations About Trump ‘As A Person,’ And Also Doubted His Demeanor.”
“In 2008, The Ohio Elections Commission Unanimously Ruled That DeVos’ Group, All Children Matter, Illegally Funneled $870,000 In Contributions From Its Virginia PAC To The Ohio Affiliate.” 
January 17, 2017
Betsy DeVos attended her confirmation hearing for secretary of education. View the full hearing below.
The Washington Post noted some of Devos’s responses “created more questions than they answered.” For example, in response to a question on whether guns should be allowed in schools, DeVos responded by citing that they could help protect children “from potential grizzlies.” 
When asked about how much money her family had given to the Republican Party over the years, she acknowledged that they probably gave somewhere in the range of $200 million, but said she was unsure of the exact number. 
DeVos was asked whether she was a board member of her mother’s foundation, which public 990s had listed her as chairman until 2013. DeVos responded that this was a “clerical error.” 
DeVos hired Scott Jensen to work on behalf of her group, American Federation for Children (AFC), the 501(cc)(4) arm of Alliance for School Choice. This hiring was despite Jensen having been charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor for misconduct in office in 2002. 
In 2005, Jensen was tried and convicted on all counts. The presiding judge told Jensen “what you did was a great wrong to the citizens of this state” because “You used your power and your influence to run an illegal campaign funding operation.” Jensen was sentenced to five years which included 15 months of confinement along with supervised release. However, despite the conviction and losing his office in the legislature, DeVos retained him during the next five years. In 2010 he won an appeal of his conviction and pleaded misdemeanor crime to settle the case. 
- Philanthropy Roundtable — Board Member (December 2014 – 2016). 
- Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation — Chairman. 
- Michigan Republican Party — Former Chair (’96 – ’00). 
- Children First America — Former Board Member (1990s). 
- American Education Reform Council — Former Board Member (1990s). 
- All Children Matter — Former Chair. 
- Great Lakes Education Project (PAC) — Founder. 
- Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) — Board Member (2012 – 2016). , 
- American Federation for Children (AFC) — Member (2008 – 2009), Chairman (2009 – 2016) , 
- John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts — Board Member Ex Officio. 
- Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty — Board Member (as of 2005). 
- American Enterprise Institute — Board member (from June, 2015 to January 2017). , 
- Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation — Public 990s have listed her as former “Vice President.” She described this as a “clerical error.” , 
- The Windquest Group — Former Chairman (1993 – 2016). ,
- Kids Hope USA — Board Member. 
- ArtPrize — Board Member. 
- Mars Hill Bible Church — Board Member. 
- Kendall College of Art and Design — Board Member. 
- DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the University of Maryland — Board Member (2010 – 2016). 
- ArtPrize — Board Member (2009 – 2016).
- The Potter’s School House — Member, Advisory Board (1994 – 2016). 
DeVos and her husband produced the Broadway stage play titled Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson. , 
Emma Brown. “Trump picks billionaire Betsy DeVos, school voucher advocate, as education secretary,” The Washington Post, November 23, 2016. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/mEu51
Emmarie Huetteman and Yamiche Alcindor. “Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary; Pence Breaks Tie,” The New York Times, February 7, 2017. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/rfEU4
“Richard DeVos & family REAL TIME NET WORTH — as of 5/15/17,” Forbes. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
(Press Release). “Senator Collins Announces She Will Vote Against the Confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education,” Susan Collins United States Senator for Maine, February 1, 2017. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/MyryM
Anne Reid and Glenn Branch. “Will education secretary pick Betsy DeVos dilute science instruction in schools?,” STAT, January 18, 2017. Archived May 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/a5S9i
Erin Einhorn and Sarah Darville. “What We Learned (And Didn’t) About Betsy DeVos At Her Confirmation Hearing,” FiveThirtyEight, January 18, 2017. Archived May 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/PDcMI
Jack Noalnd and Anna Massoglia. “Betsy DeVos and her big-giving relatives: Family qualifies as GOP royalty,” OpenSecrets.org, December 1, 2016. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/LwQVt
Rachel Tabachnick. “Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right,” Talk to Action, January 9, 2017. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/DnzzK
Jeremy Scahill. “TRUMP EDUCATION NOMINEE BETSY DEVOS LIED TO THE SENATE,” The Intercept, January 18, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/uKEw3
Benjamin Wermund. “Trump’s education pick says reform can ‘advance God’s Kingdom’,” Politico, December 2, 2016. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/tQ8FS
Benjamin Wermund and Kimberly Hefling. “Trump’s education secretary pick supported anti-gay causes,” Politico, November 25, 2016. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/oO9gw
Valerie Strauss. “She’s a billionaire who said schools need guns to fight bears. Here’s what you may not know about Betsy DeVos,” The Washington Post, February 7, 2017. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/306qZ
Valerie Strauss. “Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing,” The Washington Post, January 18, 2017. Archived May 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/Osdlu
Lisa Graves. “5 Things to Know About Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump Choice for Education,” ExposedByCMD, November 23, 2016. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/fGoir
“Kennedy Center Administration Our People: The Board of Trustees,” The Kennedy Center. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/dwcC5
“Statement from AEI President Arthur Brooks on announcement of Elisabeth (Betsy) DeVos for secretary of education,” American Enterprise Institute, November 23, 2016.
David Halperin. “DeVos Showdown Looming, Think Tank AEI Offers Misleading Defense of Nominee,” HuffPost, February 6, 2017. Archived May 15, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/bxAWe
“Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,” PlayBill. Archived May 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/DKDDi
“Following in the footsteps of our parents, we aim to be faithful servants…” D&B Foundation. Archived June 30, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/HfUCy
“Betsy Devos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom’,” Mother Jones, March/April 2017 Issue. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/aIi6X
“Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed June 30, 2017.
“Full list: The leaked Trump transition vetting documents,” Axios, June 24, 2019. Archived June 24, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/gm9i7
Valerie Strauss. “Betsy DeVos-founded group lobbies Congress for D.C. voucher program extension,” The Washington Post, May 2, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/Fyb0q
“Betsy DeVos” LittleSis.
“Betsy Devos,” WikiPedia.
“Betsy Devos,” SourceWatch.