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President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos pose for a photo after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


Billionaire Trump cabinet pick Betsy DeVos will have a huge advantage at her Senate hearing

December 20, 2016

Throughout the late stages of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly pledged to supporters that he would “drain the swamp” if elected — a phrase referencing the vanquishing of institutional corruption from Washington, D.C., politics. However, President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t exactly been doing any swamp draining as he’s assembled his cabinet. If anything, he’s been adding more and fatter mosquitoes to the swamp. Take Betsy DeVos, his nominee for education secretary, for example. According to a new report by Politico, DeVos, a billionaire businesswoman from the family behind the Amway conglomerate, will have a distinct advantage when she goes before the Senate for her confirmation hearing: She and her husband have donated to the campaigns of some 17 of the senators who will be voting on whether to confirm her as education secretary. Four of those senators sit on the education committee that oversees the confirmation process. Just since 2010, Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Tim Scott of South Carolina — all of them Republicans — have all accepted money from DeVos, $50,000 collectively.

For DeVos, donating to politicians has become a simple matter of how she conducts business. She’s been donating to politicians for decades and hasn’t been shy about the strings that come attached to those big contributions. “We expect a return on our investment,” she once said about her family’s big political donations.

Not surprisingly, many are concerned with the outsize influence the billionaire wields — particularly now that she’s up for a cabinet post. “It’s just another reflection of the distortion of our politics due to massive campaign contributions,” Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, told Politico. Weissman said he finds her political contributions concerning. “People who receive campaign contributions from her are far less likely to scrutinize her than people who have not.”

And scrutiny is precisely what DeVos deserves from the Senate. She’s been criticized for “lacking training and experience” as an educator and over her history of backing charter schools — at the expense of public schools — that goes back decades. But the prospect of that happening is in serious doubt. As the Politico report noted, some senators have not accepted donations from DeVos, but she’s still managed to foster cozy relationships — some of them Democrats. All of that will go a long way at her confirmation hearing.

Read the full story at Politico.


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