Betsy DeVos nomination and subsequent appointment as the Secretary of Education recently sparked off debate about her and her husband’s philanthropy. The couple, as well as its extended family, is known to give generous donations to political causes that are mostly right-leaning. However, their recent revelations about their philanthropy showed that it is about more than just politics.
Dick and Betsy DeVos reckon that they have donated a combined sum of about $139 million to charity over their lifetime. Their charity contributions have been to diverse causes including education, religion, health, and art.
Most of the couple’s donations are directed towards education causes and organizations. For instance, education causes received 26% of their 2015 charitable donations, adding up to about $3 million. They also contributed about $357,000 to organizations advocating for education reforms. The two are concerned that the education system is incapable of fulfilling the American dream. They direct their donations not only at children but also talented and diligent teachers who can help improve the current system.
The couple donated about $11.6 million to charity in 2015 alone. Compared to their campaign donations, 2015’s charity contribution are about twice of the couple’s political donations spanning five years back.
A Smoke Screen?
The report by Forbes on Dick and Betsy DeVos came at a convenient time for the couple and specifically Betsy DeVos who was then nominated to the education secretary position. The couple hails from a family with a long history of involvement in Republican politics. Dick DeVos’ dad, Richard DeVos, in particular, is an active participant in the party and U.S. politics in general. Betsy DeVos’ father and extended family is also reputable for its generous political and charitable donations.
Additionally, many critics argue that their generosity towards education organizations pushing for reforms is geared towards their business interests. Dick and Betsy DeVos are supporters of voucher and charter schools which rely on government funding to operate. Critics fear that the schools are channels of siphoning tax dollars and accuse the DeVos of having a financial interest in the increasingly popular education system.
The couple, however, has denied any claims to deflecting attention from its political donations by pointing out the numbers. To date, for instance, the DeVos extended family’s charitable donations add up to about $1.33 billion.
About Dick DeVos
Dick DeVos is the eldest son of Richard DeVos, Sr. He is also the husband to Elizabeth (Betsy) Prince and a father to four children. Over the years, Dick DeVos has worked for his family’s businesses in many capacities including as the president of Amway Corporation and the manager of the Orlando Magic Basketball franchise for the National Basket Association. He is also an active politician and identifies as a republican; in fact, he ran for governor of the State of Michigan in 2006.