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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)


Donations made by Trump’s nominee for education secretary draw scrutiny

By WITW Staff on January 10, 2017

The political donating habits of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head up the Department of Education are drawing scrutiny among watchdogs and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Betsy DeVos, a billionaire, has established a reputation as a megadonor, and it’s a pair of donations totaling $10,000 she and her husband made to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, that is raising eyebrows. One of FIRE’s chief agenda initiatives is overturning an Obama administration policy that has made it easier for colleges and universities to discipline students accused of sexual harassment or assault. In the absence of a national record on education, critics are using the donation as a proxy for what DeVos’ policy ideas might look like if she’s confirmed as education secretary. Some, like Lisa Maatz, a top policy adviser at the American Association of University Women, view the donations as “a red flag.” Maatz’s organization is a Title IX watchdog that pushes for strict enforcement of the federal law that bans sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses.

The donations have also caught the attention of Democrats on Capitol Hill. “Ms. DeVos must fully explain whether she supports the radical view that it should be more difficult for campus sexual assault victims to receive justice,” said Bob Casey, a Democratic U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a member of the HELP Committee.

But DeVos’ supporters are accusing her critics of using this one issue to paint a broad portrait of her. “It’s a mistake to cherry pick a single issue, from one multi-issue organization, and extrapolate from that a conclusion as to how she may come down on a hypothetical public policy question,” Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group supporting DeVos’ nomination, told Politico. “No one will take the issue of sexual assault as seriously as Betsy DeVos, and anyone who suggests otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Still her stance on the specific issue of rolling back the Obama administration policy remains unknown. And concerns beyond this single issue persist. Late Monday, it was announced that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions had postponed DeVos’ confirmation hearing, which was slated for Wednesday. The delay, the committee said, was due to the fact that the Office of Government Ethics has not been able to complete its review of DeVos’ finances and potential conflicts of interest. And last month, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said DeVos owes the state of Ohio more than $5 million in unpaid fines related to a political action committee she launched back in 2008.

Read the full story at Politico.


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