The family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Senate campaign of Martha McSally, according to a new report from a liberal think-tank in Washington, D.C.
DeVos was one of President Trump’s most controversial Cabinet picks. A school-choice advocate, she hails from an enormously wealthy family in Michigan.
Researchers at the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that DeVos’ family members have donated $54,000 to McSally’s campaign. That’s more than any other Senate candidate the DeVos family has supported during this election cycle.
Other beneficiaries of the DeVos family’s dollars during the 2018 cycle include Republican Senate candidates Josh Hawley in Missouri and Leah Vukmir in Wisconsin.
In total, McSally has raised nearly $12.7 million in individual campaign contributions, according to Federal Election Commission filings, making the DeVos donations a small, but important, percentage of her overall haul.
McSally is pitted against Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema in the too-close-to-call race that could determine control of the Senate.
The DeVos clan has also backed Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in his re-election bid, with $50,500 in contributions, according to the CAP researchers.
DeVos family members have taken a strong interest in Arizona politics: As with the Senate contest, they’ve donated more to Ducey than to other gubernatorial candidates, the report says.
When asked about the donations, Ducey campaign spokesperson Patrick Ptak downplayed the DeVos family assistance, writing that, “We are grateful for the significant support our campaign has received, which has included over 83% of contributions coming from Arizona supporters.”
DeVos’ father-in-law, the late Richard DeVos, amassed a fortune as the co-founder of controversial direct-sales company Amway. The company agreed to pay a $56 million lawsuit settlement in 2010 following accusations that it ran a pyramid scheme. Before DeVos died in September, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $5.4 billion.
In their home state of Michigan, where they are especially influential in politics and education, the DeVos family has prioritized school choice and the expansion of charter schools.
The authors of the report added up individual campaign contributions and contributions to political action committees from 14 members of the extended DeVos family.
“The bulk of the money comes from Dick DeVos, his siblings, their spouses, and his parents,” authors Ulrich Boser and Perpetual Baffour write. “Many of these relatives bundle their giving, making contributions on the same date and often in the same amount.”
During her confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos pledged that she and her husband would avoid making political contributions while DeVos served as education secretary. However, last fall, the Detroit News revealed that DeVos’ husband contributed a combined $5,000 to two Michigan political action committees.
A McSally campaign spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.