AL. com reporter John Sharp did a fine job of reviewing the March 1 race for a State Board of Education seat in District One. (This is the district where Matt Brown is running for his first full term. It covers most of Mobile County and all of Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Covington, Butler and Crenshaw counties.)
Brown has recently come under scrutiny for taking a $25,000 contribution from Dick and Betsy DeVos of Michigan. (The money was routed through the Alabama Federation for Children.) Dick DeVos is one of the country’s richest men with a net worth exceeding $5 billion. He and his wife are well known in education circles for being anti-public schools. Betsy chairs the American Federation for Children, a leading proponent of charter schools, school vouchers, etc.
Yet, read what he told AL.Com:
“Brown said he’s proud of the donation….I am an advocate for school choice, especially for children in failing schools and children facing special education hurdles. But giving authentic school choice to families also requires us to have top-notch and adequately-funded public school systems.”
Holy Cow Batman.
Someone who wants a seat on the governing body that is supposed to advocate for public schools is proud to take money from folks who do not support public education. Just how does that work?
(And the irony of his statement about having adequately-funded public schools is that just 12 months ago he was working hard to make sure a tax vote to fund Baldwin County schools was defeated.)
Brown went on to say that he is not familiar with the DeVos family.
OK, since he’s not done his homework, let’s help. Betsy DeVos has been called the “four-star general” of the effort to privatize public schools across the country. In the just-released best seller, Dark Money. The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right, author Jane Mayer links the DeVos family with the on-going efforts of Charles and David Koch to radicalize the United States.
In 2006 Dick DeVos ran for governor of Michigan, and even though he spent $34 million of his own money, was unsuccessful. In 2000 the couple spent $2 million on a Michigan vote to approve vouchers. The vote was handily defeated. A PAC run by Betsy DeVos was fined $2.6 million by the Ohio Elections Commission for violating that state’s election laws.
Of course, it is common for politicians to claim that where they get campaign contributions will have no bearing on how they vote. How honest is a statement like this? Betsy DeVos tells us on page 235 of Dark Money when she says, “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.”
Truer words were never spoken.
And that’s why Matt Brown being proud of money from the DeVos family is a scary thought.