Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, billionaire Republican activist and megadonor Betsy DeVos, told senators at a Tuesday confirmation hearing that years of tax forms listing her as vice president of her mother’s nonprofit foundation were a “clerical error.”
Having served as vp of a nonprofit isn’t inherently problematic, but this nonprofit was the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which has given money to anti-LGBTQ causes, legislation, and groups. That includes Focus on the Family, which has been a vocal advocate for conversion therapy — a “treatment” for gay people that has been universally panned by relevant expert communities. The organization has also argued that anti-bullying education is part of a radical gay conspiracy.
Under questioning from Sen. Maggie Hassan, DeVos said she’d never served on the board of the foundation and had never been a vice president. Hassan’s questioning at the time centered on whether DeVos agreed with the policies of Focus on the Family. As expected, DeVos’s family and financial connections to organizations like Focus on the Family were the focus of her hearing before the Senate’s Housing, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander.
DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, heir to the Amway fortune, whose family is estimated to be worth more than $5 billion.
Democratic senators including Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) grilled DeVos about links to businesses like the lending startup SoFi, which refinances student loans, and the “virtual education” company K12. The Office of Government Ethics has yet to stamp its final seal of approval on DeVos’ nomination, though she pledged before the committee that she “will not be conflicted, period.”
When Sanders asked DeVos if she thought she would have been nominated for secretary of education had she not donated $200 million to political causes, DeVos said, “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do.”
DeVos later added that she “will not be engaged in political contributions” going forward, and that her husband “won’t be either.”