Tag Archives: Betsy DeVos

Progressive coalition urges senators to oppose DeVos for education secretary

Nearly 250 civil rights and education groups signed a letter opposing the nomination of Michigan millionaire Betsy DeVos to be the U.S. secretary of education and urging the U.S. Senate to reject her nomination.

“Betsy DeVos’ deference to state flexibility, even with regard to compliance with federal civil rights laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, her claim that demonstrating support for Title IX enforcement guidance would be ‘premature’ and her lack of support for accountability for all schools receiving federal funds only serve to reinforce our conclusion that her inadequate previous experience and missing record of support for students’ civil rights make her unfit to serve as Secretary of Education,” the letter states.

The groups’ opposition is rooted in concern about DeVos’ failure to demonstrate a commitment to the enforcement of the nation’s federal civil rights and education laws.

The U.S. Department of Education’s critical role as the primary federal agency protecting students’ civil rights is particularly important as it continues to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act, a law intended to ensure equal educational opportunity for all students.

“The Secretary of Education should be committed to policies and practices that make schools safe and welcoming for all children who spend most of every day there. Betsy DeVos has failed to demonstrate that she is qualified to do that job or that she understands what the job requires,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which spearheaded the letter. “America’s students deserve better.”

A vote on the Senate education committee is expected Tuesday.

Gay members of Congress raise concerns about DeVos’ record on LGBT issues

Democratic U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Jared Polis of Colorado and Mark Takano of California are raising serious concerns about Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos’ views on issues affecting LGBT students and parents.

The reps — all openly gay and co-chairs of the  Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus — this week sent a letter to members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) urging them to closely examine DeVos’ record.

“It is unfathomable that the next Secretary of Education would oppose basic protections for LGBT students and roll back the progress we have made to ensure all students feel safe and supported in our schools,” Pocan said in a statement to the press. “Ms. DeVos’ history of opposing equality for LGBT individuals is deeply troubling, and the public deserves to know whether she will work with us to improve lives or continue to advocate an extremist agenda that bullies our students.”

The letter mentions the millions of dollars DeVos and her family have contributed to organizations and candidates that oppose equality for LGBT families and actively promote dangerous practices like “conversion therapy.”

The text of the letter

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray:

            As Co-Chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we write to express our deep concern with President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Betsy DeVos. While Ms. DeVos’ stances on a number of public education issues raise concerns, we cannot hold our silence regarding her opposition to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.  

Betsy DeVos’ career has been marked by repeated attempts to undermine the rights of the LGBT community. She and her family have donated extensively to groups which promote the idea that students who identify as LGBT must undergo “conversion” therapy and have also affiliated with groups that oppose anti-bullying legislation. The next Secretary of Education must represent all students in our country. Anyone who promotes such fervently anti-LGBT viewpoints is wholly unqualified to serve as the Secretary of Education.  

            Since 1998, Betsy DeVos and her family’s foundations have donated at least $6.1 million to Focus on the Family, a right-wing organization which has spent millions of dollars attempting to defeat marriage equality amendments at the state level. Even more troubling, this organization supported by the DeVos family promotes “conversion therapy,” opposes the right of LGBT parents to adopt children, and has referred to transgender individuals as “mentally ill.” This organization has even gone so far to oppose anti-bullying policies and opposes basic workplace protections for LGBT individuals. The DeVos family’s support for anti-LGBT groups and policies extends beyond just this organization to many other groups known for their anti-LGBT activities, such as:  

·         $1,000,000 to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, which has claimed that the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act amounted to a “fatwa;”

·         $15,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has opposed adoption with same-sex couples;

·         $433,750 to the Council for National Policy, a highly secretive group that is led by extremists like Focus on the Family’s James Dobson among other extremists; and 

·         $13,498,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which has stated that “Despite activist judges’ opinions, the majority of Americans continue to affirm the reasonable conclusion that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” 

The DeVos family does not stop with contributions to intolerant organizations as they also support anti-LGBT politicians. For example, the DeVos family – including Ms. DeVos – were top contributors to Michigan State Representative Andrea LaFontaine, who sponsored legislation allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT parents and deny them the ability to adopt a child. 

            The LGBT community has made significant and long overdue advancements when it comes to equality in education. During President Obama’s tenure in office, the Department of Education took important steps to combat bullying and ensure that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, appropriately reflects the rights of transgender students. It is imperative that the rights of LGBT students are adequately protected moving forward. 

            As you move to consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos, we strongly encourage you to seek out answers regarding Ms. DeVos’ stance on important education equity issues, including her views on protecting LGBT students from bullying and discrimination in K-12 and higher education spaces. We are particularly troubled by Betsy DeVos’ past support for inhumane “conversion therapy” treatments and believe it is imperative that any Secretary of Education nominee denounce such practices before being confirmed. 

            As Members of the LGBT community, we know our schools must be a safe place for all children. As you consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, we strongly encourage you to stand up for the civil rights of LGBT students and ensure the next Secretary opposes any action to roll back our progress toward equality.

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CorporateCabinet.org tracks Trump nominees

The corporate ties of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks and other top political appointees are exposed at CorporateCabinet.org.

Public Citizen said it unveiled the website to expose corporate ties, corrupting influences and conflicts of interest in Trump’s cabinet.

The site, which will be updated regularly, will eventually include other top officials such as deputy secretaries.

Many of the nominees have connections with corporations whose profit-driven interests are directly at odds with the federal agencies Trump has selected them to lead.

“Donald Trump, the candidate who ran against corruption, cronyism and insider dealmaking, is handing control of the government over to corporate chieftains,” stated Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Trump’s corporate Cabinet nominees have staggering conflicts of interest, and if confirmed will drive forward policies to advance the interests of Big Business, not the American people. We’re facing the prospect of a government literally of the Exxons, by the Goldman Sachses and for the Kochs.”

The site has key information about:

  • Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has strong ties to Koch Industries and raked in eye-popping sums from the finance sector, construction industry, pharmaceutical industry and chemical industry.
  • Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state pick, who made his career at Exxon Mobil.
  • Steven Mnuchin, treasury secretary nominee and longtime Goldman Sachs executive who was steeped in the investment banking industry long before it became a poster child for economy-wrecking, foreclosure-inducing Wall Street greed, and who later helped run a failed bank accused of duplicitous foreclosure practices.
  • Gen. James Mattis, being considered for secretary of defense, who has served on the board of General Dynamics, a multinational military contractor.
  • U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., under consideration for attorney general and a darling of the finance, insurance and real estate industries, among others.
  • Betsy DeVos, named to be education secretary, who is a billionaire scion and whose husband is heir to the Amway fortune.
  • Elaine Chao, up to run the U.S. Department of Transportation, who served on the board of directors of Wells Fargo during the cross-selling scandal.
  • Former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, slated to head the National Economic Council, who led Goldman Sachs as it profited off the housing market collapse in part by misleading its own clients.
  • Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to the run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who has a deep affinity for fossil fuel companies.
  • Steve Bannon, a special adviser to Trump who once ran Breitbart.com, a far-right website, and is a former Goldman Sachs executive.
  • Linda McMahon, picked to run the Small Business Administration, who as World Wrestling Entertainment CEO helped ensure the wrestling industry remained largely unregulated, putting the health and safety of wrestlers at risk.
  • Fast-food mogul Andy Puzder, who is to head the U.S. Department of Labor and whose companies are known for being anti-worker and anti-union.
  • Wilbur Ross, a billionaire whose firm has profited from buying distressed firms and cutting workers’ benefits, who is under consideration for secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Gators don’t drain swamps

America’s president-elect famously promised to “drain the swamp.” Surrounding himself with alligators is a curious way of going about making good on that promise. Alligators like swamps.
Donald Trump hasn’t made all of his appointments yet, but the cast of characters he’s pulled together so far has more wealth between them than the poorest one-third of American households. That’s 17 men and women who have more money than 43 million families combined.
There’s oil tycoon Rex Tillerson. Trump wants Exxon Mobil’s chief executive in charge of international diplomacy as Secretary of State.
The “king of bankruptcy” Wilbur Ross is being put in line to become Commerce secretary. If Trump gets his way, Ross’s deputy at Commerce will be Todd Ricketts, the billionaire son of the billionaire founder of the brokerage firm Ameritrade.
Linda McMahon, the billionaire co-founder of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is being tabbed to head the Small Business Administration. McMahon is Trump’s biggest single political donor, having given $7.5 million to a pro-Trump super PAC, which was more than a third of the money collected by the political action committee.
Betsy DeVos, the daughter-in-law of the founder of the home care and beauty product distributor Amway Corporation (since renamed “Quixtar”), is Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, started the shadowy soldier-for-hire company known as Blackwater. Her qualifications to oversee the nation’s schools pretty much begin and end with her family’s lavish spending to push taxpayer-funded subsidies for private and religious schools. Anyone paying careful attention to elections in Wisconsin should be familiar with DeVos’s political handiwork. Her front group known as the American Federation for Children has poured more than $5 million into Wisconsin just since 2010 to sway state legislative races and cement legislative majorities favoring privatization of education.
Then there’s Goldman Sachs.
Trump told South Carolina voters “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs” when he was trying to talk them out of supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “They have total, total control over him. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.”
That was then. This is now. Trump picked Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head up his White House National Economic Council. His choice for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, spent 17 years working at Goldman Sachs. Trump’s chief strategist and White House counselor, Steve Bannon, started his career at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker.
Quite a crew being put to work draining the swamp. Alligators all of them.

Blue Jean Nation founder and president Mike McCabe is the author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics. He served as executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign for 15 years. For more, go to bluejeannation.com

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