A group of senators is calling on Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, to repay more than $5 million in election fines owed by her school-choice advocacy group.
The All Children Matter group, until recently headed by billionaire DeVos, owes the state of Ohio more than $5.3 million for election law violations — a record fine that is now nearly a decade past due,
Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), sent a letter to DeVos that expresses “significant concerns” about the fine, and urges her to pay it.
“The blatant disregard for the law that your PAC demonstrated is deeply troubling,” the letter says. “If confirmed as secretary of Education, you would be responsible for administering our nation’s student-loan programs and ensuring that borrowers repay their loans in a timely manner.”
“However, the PAC that you chaired failed to pay fines that were imposed on it over eight years ago,” the letter said. “This demonstrates a serious lack of judgment by the PAC’s board and a willingness to avoid paying legally obligated public debts.”
A DeVos spokesman said the matter had been settled in court and called the letter a political maneuver.
“This $5.3 million that Betsy DeVos owes Ohio could pay for more teachers, technology upgrades and critical priorities to help us educate Ohio kids,” said Brown. “She owes this money to Ohio’s taxpayers and it’s outrageous that a billionaire has failed to make good on these fines for eight years while our schools are strapped for money.”
In 2006, the federal All Children Matter PAC sought an advisory opinion from the Ohio Elections Commission to determine whether it was allowed to contribute more than the $10,000 statutory limit to its Ohio based affiliate, the letter said. The commission provided an advisory opinion stating that aggregate contributions of greater than $10,000 in a year to the Ohio affiliate would violate the law, the letter said.
“Inexplicably, your PAC ignored this advisory opinion and proceeded to contribute $870,000 to the Ohio affiliate,” the letter said.
The Ohio Elections Commission unanimously found both the federal and Ohio All Children Matter PACs to have violated the state’s campaign finance laws and imposed fines of $5.2 million, the letter said. An Ohio court subsequently upheld the fine and imposed additional late fees for failing to pay. Rather than pay the fines for violating the law, the All Children Matter PACs simply ceased operation and never paid the significant sum it owed to the state of Ohio, the letter said.
DeVos is best known as the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, a conservative-oriented advocacy and research organization that champions school vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. Her selection is subject to Senate confirmation.
Info: https://goo.gl/D0bGaH (Brown website).