John McCain

Lemons: John McCain Took $50K from Betsy DeVos, Lefty Group says, and Voted to Confirm Her

Did Betsy DeVos "pay to play" by donating to Republicans, as one liberal group claims?
Did Betsy DeVos "pay to play" by donating to Republicans, as one liberal group claims? via YouTube
Both of Arizona's U.S. Senators voted Tuesday to confirm President Donald Trump's nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. But only one reportedly took $50,600 from the billionaire Michigan Republican and her family: John McCain.

The lefty political group Center for American Progress claimed in a January post to its website that from 1980 to 2016, 21 sitting U.S. Senators had taken close to $1 million in campaign contributions from the family of the charter school champion.

DeVos just squeaked by her Senate nomination vote, with Vice President Mike Pence voting to break a 50-50 tie.

Two GOP Senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted "no," along with 47 Democrats (and one Independent) in an unsuccessful effort to derail the DeVos nomination.

Democratic-leaning groups have painted DeVos as grossly unqualified and a threat to public education, and her clueless demeanor during her Senate confirmation hearing, with her suggestion that rural schools may need guns to fight off grizzlies, didn't help her case much.

But even if DeVos lacks the pedigree normally demanded of someone seeking a cabinet-level post, she has one qualification in spades: money to burn. Being hitched to the heir to the Amway fortune means that DeVos and her family can hand out political donations like they're Halloween candy.

At her Senate confirmation hearing, DeVos told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that she could not say how much money she and her kin have given to Republican candidates and soft money groups over the years.

When Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders asked her if it could be as much as $200 million, she replied, "That's possible."

She also told Sanders that she thought she would have been nominated for Education Secretary, even without those donations.

To be fair, money doesn't always buy you love in Republican circles. Murkowski, who broke ranks with her fellow GOPers, took $43,200 from DeVos, acording to CAP, but perhaps she is the exception that proves the rule.

McCain is hardly the worst offender in this regard.

The Miami New Times, one of our sister papers, has noted that the CAP report shows Florida's U.S. Senator Marco Rubio scoring $98,300 from the DeVos clan.

On the other hand, Denver's Westword, another of New Times's sibling publications, reports that Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado pulled in just slightly less than McCain: $49,800.

McCain spokeswoman Julie Tarallo issued the following statement in response to New Times' request for comment:

Senator McCain voted to confirm Secretary DeVos because she is committed to expanding school choice for millions of students who are currently trapped in failing schools - a cause the senator has long been committed to.

I’ll be curious to see if your article mentions how Secretary DeVos’ nomination was opposed by Senate Democrats whose campaigns have been bankrolled by tens of millions of dollars from teachers' unions over the last 20 years. 
The CAP article states that in addition to the direct contributions to the Republican Senators mentioned, the DeVos family donated $2.25 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, which has as its sole purpose increasing the Republican numbers in the upper chamber under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And according to CAP, the DeVos family has shelled out $900,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, another pro-GOP Senate fundraising effort.

"Altogether, that’s a $4 million bid to buy DeVos a cabinet position," CAP contends.

And if CAP is right, the gambit paid off, big time.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons