Profile of a Christian Right Candidate: Dick DeVos (Part One)
Russ Bellant printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 05:19:16 PM EST
Dick DeVos is the richest and most right wing major party candidate for Governor in Michigan history. He is the product of the Amway company and its decades of interlinks with the most influential religious extremists. He conducts himself like an Amway recruiter, deception and all.
Consider:

    * He tells everyone that he opposes the antiaffirmative action ballot initiative Prop 2. Supporters of Prop 2 complain that DeVos has asked his supporters to not donate to the MCRI, which is running the Yes campaign. All that is fine. But DeVos has only said that he opposes it "at this time." Prop 2 godfather Ward Connerly told the Detroit Free Press that Dick DeVos does philosophically support his efforts to ban affirmative action. In fact, in 2001 DeVos's foundation gave $35,000 to the anti-affirmative action cause.

    * DeVos says he is for Michigan jobs, jobs, jobs. But not only has his company laid off over 1,000 employees and set up factories elsewhere, he has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that advocate privatizing, outsourcing and eliminating jobs and undermining the Unions that support those jobs.

    * DeVos says he is for educational opportunity for all, providing substantial funding for scholarship programs that are intended to transfer talented youth from public schools to more conservative private schools.

      These type of state and national scholarship programs are directly funded and/or controlled by DeVos, WalMart leaders and several right wing financiers to intentionally create a broader constituency for vouchers. Once vouchers are in place, the DeVoses of the world believe that public education will be significantly reduced. Vouchers, however, have been defeated during public referenda by approximately a 2 to 1 margin all over the U.S. because the public does not want to transfer tax dollars to schools without elected boards or public accountability. These scholarship programs are designed, over the years, to change those results.

      The DeVos - supported Heritage Foundation did not claim that the goal of these programs was to help poor folk. Instead Heritage wrote that the goals were political: "The privately funded voucher movement is building a powerful constituency for school choice." They also noted that the "children's parents have names, addresses and phone numbers. They are waiting to be mobilized as a pressure group." The pressure would be applied to "break up" public education and changes that "could take the form of publicly funded vouchers, of tax credits, of a vast expansion of charter schools."

      DeVos has invested millions of dollars in this effort. His Education Freedom Foundation gives grants to about 300 students per year, at a maximum of $1,000 each. They estimate that the average private school charges $3,700, so the targeted low income families still must pay the bulk of the cost. The Heritage Foundation did note, however, that these business leaders could eventually set up for profit schools and "maybe make some money in the process." DeVos has already invested in a private company, K12 Inc., according to Media Transparency.

      Perhaps the clearest indication of the political dimension of the scholarship issue is illustrated by the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation's grants of over a million dollars to various scholarship funds, but only $500 a year to the United Negro College Fund, grants that have been skipped in several recent years.

    * DeVos postures himself as a jobs-focused common sense business man that has a can-do attitude. He fosters the view that he stands for wholesome traditional values, national pride and civic virtue.

      The very nature of the Amway corporation and the donation patterns of his foundation shows that DeVos rejects the democratic values and institutions that are part of modern civic life and mainstream values. He is a member of a secretive group of about 400 of the most influential right wingers in the country who are dedicated to radically restructuring social power into the hands of a narrow elite. The desirability of democracy is called into question by this self-appointed but well-connected elite, as we shall see later.

DeVos Family Network

Dick DeVos was born into the Amway fortune in Grand Rapids.  His role as international vice president and later president of Amway is due to his anointment by his father. He married Elizabeth ( Betsy ) Prince, daughter of Edgar and Elsa Prince, who generated a family fortune in Holland, just south of Grand Rapids. Both family influences are reflected in the candidate for Governor that we see today.

The Prince family is also deeply connected to extreme right and Republican Party politics. No one in the United States gave more money to James Dobson's Focus on the Family, its Michigan Family Forum affiliate, or its Washington, D.C. arm, the Family Research Council, than the late Edgar Prince. This network formed little known political action committees across the state and country that were more influential but less well known than Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition.

The brother of the would-be First Lady of Michigan, Erik Prince, also adopted the extreme right views of his parents but has used his wealth to start a military mercenary army. The company that it operates under, Blackwater USA, started in 1997 and quickly started getting contracts when George Bush became president. The are a major contractor in Iraq, hiring former Special Forces, Rangers and Navy SEALS to run security for U.S. ambassadors and unconventional warfare in the streets of Iraq's cities.

The Bush administration also hired them to go into New Orleans days after Katrina, armed with machine guns and authority to kill, using veterans of Iraq. "Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world," according to Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who has traveled with them, and Daniela Crespo, who also covered them in New Orleans. Blackwater patrolled and ransacked homes in the Black residential areas of New Orleans. The mercenary outfit is being sued by families of four of their deceased employees in Iraq and by Columbian commandos who were allegedly underpaid.

Blackwater also owns two airlines that were used by the CIA to illegally transport kidnapped citizens of other countries and take them to secret prisons in eastern Europe, where they could be tortured and held incommunicado indefinitely. This "extraordinary rendition" program was condemned in Europe and the Congress for its gross violations of international law.

Since George Bush became President, Blackwater has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts, but is now a featured topic in the new documentary film Iraq for Sale: the War Profiteers.

Inheriting Rightist Politics

The Amway of Dick's father has funded extreme right groups for over thirty years, In 1975 the elder Richard DeVos, for instance, funded the publication of a book that called for the U.S. to be transformed into a "Christian Republic." This did not mean to merely increase church attendance, but to create movement to where authoritarian church structures would govern the United States, something like the Islamic states in other regions of the world. Richard Sr. and Jr. have been the most generous benefactors of this movement, along with Dick Jr.'s late father-in-law.

Dick Jr. was nurtured in a milieu of a far right wing that believes that the most privileged elite deserve to govern with minimal obligations to the middle or working classes or the poor. They take a hostile or skeptical view of public services, public education and taxpayer funded activities in general. They believe that this is the natural order of things and are comfortable with a form of politically motivated religious authoritarianism that supports their empowerment.

Dick DeVos and his family network have a variety of instruments for spreading their political influence, including membership in formal coalitions, family foundations, political action committees and the Amway corporate system.

Read Part Two of Profile of a Christian Right Candidate: Dick DeVos



Display:
a vote for DeVos is like a vote for Dobson hizself.  Are there any possible differences between stands on issues between Dobson and DeVos, or are they a sort of dominionist twinset?

by SharonB on Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 06:22:35 PM EST

Russ,

As always you dig up some of the most amazing facts and connections of the RRR

by JerrySloan on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 01:48:13 PM EST


Great stuff, as expected. One question, though: "In 1975 the elder Richard DeVos, for instance, funded the publication of a book that called for the U.S. to be transformed into a "Christian Republic."" Can you tell us which book that was? It's just that popular conservative Christian literature is something I have a particular interest in, and I think can sometimes highlight some otherwise obscure connections.

One DeVos associate who I like to keep an eye out for is Charles Paul Conn, who's ghosted books for the likes of Nicky Cruz and Brother Andrew, and so has managed to infiltrate conservative Christian culture quite significantly.


by Richard Bartholomew on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 06:00:19 PM EST


That alone should be enough to discredit him entirely.

by LynneK on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 08:04:42 PM EST


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