| Profile of a Christian Right Candidate: Dick DeVos (Part Two).
Part two of this series focuses on Dick DeVos’ involvement in the Council for National Policy, a national rightist leadership and networking group; and the political and social funding patterns of the Dick and Betsy DeVos foundation. If you wish to read the introductory Part One, click here. You will be able to click to Part Two at the end of Part One. — ed.
Council for National Policy
Perhaps nothing shows DeVos’s extremism more than his membership in the secretive Council for National Policy ( CNP ). The Council was created in 1981 by leaders of the extremist John Birch Society to move the United States in a very rightward direction. The Birchers, as they were known, explicitly rejected democracy, as did many of the allies they recruited for the CNP. For years they organized White Citizens Council to fight the civil rights movement and later melded into the militia movement.
The membership list of the CNP is secret, its meetings are secret and their post meeting activities are secret. Beyond acknowledging that it exists, the CNP prefers the underground conspiratorial style. Membership lists obtained by this writer show why they prefer secrecy.
The CNP includes all the key funders and leaders of the far right: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson and D. James Kennedy; Richard Shoff, a former leader of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan; a core of the proapartheid lobby that fought to support to the end, in open concert with the last ruling national socialist regime in the world, the South African apartheid government. Also part of the CNP are members of the Coors brewery family and Texas oilman Nelson Bunker Hunt.
Ex-lobbyist and confessed felon Jack Abramoff ( who also lobbied on behalf of Blackwater ) and his cohort in crime, former Amway distributor Tom Delay, is also in the CNP.
Abramoff established the International Freedom Foundation in the 1980’s to conduct campaigns against Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. It was later discovered that the IFF was a covert instrument of ( apartheid ) South African Military Intelligence. Jesse Helms was its main Senate contact.
CNP member Ralph Reed, former director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition and Abramoff associate, wrote a training manual for that group that asserted that the Bible requires employees to submit to their employers because the Bible commanded slaves to submit to their masters.
Members of the Congress such as DeLay, Dan Burton, Jon Kyl, Don Nickles Jesse Helms and other elected officials are part of the CNP, giving members access to the legislative process. AntiUnion activists such as Reed Larson, Mark Mix and others of the National Right to Work Committee and Tom Ellis of the white supremacist Pioneer Fund are also members. The Pioneer Fund once received an award from Nazi Germany for its racialist work
The thrust of the so-called religious leaders of the CNP is toward a movement called Christian Reconstructionism, which claims that our contemporary society is “unBiblical” and should be ruled by theocratic church authority. Also known as Dominionists, these proponents assert that democracy is “heretical,” as are the issues of working people and organized labor; civil rights and social justice issues, as well as empowerment of the disenfranchised. They would replace the Constitution with a form of rule based on Old Testament law. As extreme and bizarre as that sounds, many powerful, politicized religious broadcasters are secretly part of this movement and coordinate political action with others through the CNP. Among those associated with this movement is D. James Kennedy, whose generous funding from the DeVos family allows him to deliver scathing lectures against the gays and lesbians, against civil liberties and for “reclaiming America” to a rightwing version of godliness.
This is the most influential coalition that Dick DeVos is part of. He came in through his father, who is a governor of the CNP. His late father-in-law, Edgar Prince, was the single largest donor to the Council. DeVos Jr.’s foundation also has given the CNP at least $28,000. Others in the DeVos circle that are also in the CNP include Billy Zeoli, head of Gospel Films in Muskegon. Gospel Films is heavily funded by the DeVos’s. In the mid-1990’s it had at least six top Amway distributors and two DeVos family members on its board. Zeoli speaks at Amway rallies and collection packets are passed out for donations for him from Amway distributors.
Why does DeVos and his network value being in a conspiratorial organization with so many persons with extreme political agendas? More disturbing is the question is how such a network could operate in secret with such radical goals and yet maintain ties to the White House and Congress, all without accountability. This is the closest thing we have to the leadership core of a fascist political movement and the world is silent.
The DeVos Foundation: Funding the Far Right
An important indicator of Dick DeVos’s extreme social outlook is also reflected in the financial contributions that he and his wife have made through their Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation. Besides the anti-public education support discussed earlier, DeVos has given substantial support to groups that work against public education, for privatization policies that often result in lower wage employment with fewer if any benefits and for so-called religious Dominion groups that work against democratic values.
The foremost example of the latter category is the Foundation for Traditional Values ( FTV ), a Lansing based group that asserts that the United States was created as a “Christian Nation” that was subsequently subverted. Their standard text claims that the subversion of Christianity began with the constitutional amendment to abolish slavery in the 1860’s. FTV is affiliated with D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministry ( supported by millions from Dick’s father ) and a small religious cult, Maranatha, that was politically active in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
FTV conducts seminars across the midwest teaching people that they must create a “Christian Republic” and thereby purge secularism from America. They conduct annual two week political action youth training programs in the state capitol building and hold large fundraising events where the DeVoses are prominent sponsors. The DeVos’s foundation has given FTV well over $100,000.
Groups that actively support campaigns to privatize public services have been generously supported by DeVos. The Mackinac Center in Midland, the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids and the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. have all been steady recipients of DeVos largesse.
Mackinac publishes a periodic newsletter urging municipal, county, school district and state officials to get rid of various public functions and turn them over to private companies that almost always pay less and provide fewer if any benefits. They even conducted a campaign in one school district to get employees to decertify from their Union. They regularly attack Unions as inimical to their goals.
Privatization is a concern that goes even beyond shifting work to low wage, non Union employers. It destroys institutions that citizens have control over and shifts resources to profit making companies that legally have to serve first their owners, not the public interest. As they shrink the public sector’s ability to serve the people, business comes to dominant even the core services of government. The advocates of privatization see the long term effect as reducing or eliminating services. Those who advocate these policies, including the DeVos recipients, want to weaken government to such a degree that it cannot regulate the public sector or use taxing power to aid the needy and disenfranchised. They are philosophically and fundamentally antidemocratic.
The head of Mackinac, Lawrence Reed, is involved in other extremist groups, including one that sponsored a trip to Mozambique so that he could return and write favorably about Renamo, a militia that terrorized unarmed villagers in that country. The U.S. Department of State estimated that Renamo massacred over 100,000 innocent civilians. He has also been active in U.S. and international groups that supported Latin American death squad leaders. The concept of freedom that Mackinac purports to advocate is very obscure indeed.
The Heritage Foundation has a similar record of supporting right wing terrorist groups, as well as brutal dictators that in some cases had murdered thousands of their own citizens. In its early days it also supplied legal aid to a Ku Klux Klan campaign in West Virginia to stop use of textbooks that addressed diversity. Today Heritage is part of the fight to privatize Social Security, reduce social programs and environmental safeguards, resist the minimum wage and encourage government policies against Unions.
The Acton Institute, whose board includes Dick DeVos’s wife Betsy, promote the ideas of business without government regulation and dismisses environmental concerns.
The DeVos foundation has given Acton, Heritage and Mackinac over a half million dollars, with smaller amounts going to similar groups.
In 2001, Dick DeVos’s foundation gave $35,000 to the Center for Individual Rights ( CIR ), the group that brought the lawsuits to stop affirmative action at the University of Michigan, at other campuses and in hiring and promotion policies nationwide. Since these suits were initiated in 1997, it is clear that DeVos was helping fund them. Later the CIR would support Ward Connerly’s ballot initiative and fought in court to keep the fraudulent Proposal 2 on the ballot. CIR’s client Jennifer Gratz joined with Connerly to get the signatures on the ballot to create Proposal 2.
In a 2003 study of groups organized to eliminate civil rights in the United States, the CIR was described as “perhaps the most politically extreme of the of the groups challenging affirmative action, civil rights and racial equality in the United States today.”
The report, The Assault on Diversity, published by the Institute for Democracy Studies, states that early funding for CIR came from the Pioneer Fund, a group founded in 1937 for the purpose of funding racialist research to advocate notions of Nordic supremacy. It has maintained its racialist mission ( see related John Birch story ).
The CIR’s funding comes from a network of foundations, including the Pioneer Fund, Bradley and Olin foundations that also funded Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve. Murray’s book, published in 1994, asserted that whites were an intellectually superior race and therefore justified the ending of affirmative action and education programs that countered the legacy of racism.
The CIR, girded by The Bell Curve sponsors, are doing that, with help from DeVos.
The DeVos and Prince families together have at least 11 foundations, all of which fund to some degree the far right wing. Dick DeVos, in his 1997 book, Rediscovering American Values, notes that “Judeo-Christian tradition encourages a ten percent tithe.” He then states that he and Betsy have “consistently put more than ten percent of our income” into their foundation. Their 1996 foundation tax return shows them only donating $16,750 to the fund, far short of 10% of his income as President of Amway. In 1994, he only gave $12,828. Most of the money for the foundation came from his parents, as did the Amway Corporation itself.
Not only is tithing the wrong term for capitalizing a foundation, it should be noted that a considerable number of his religious and policy group recipients are related to his efforts to elect him Governor. DeVos is nevertheless using this book as a campaign fundraising tool, complete with a preamble from D. James Kennedy.
No one has focused on undermining public education in Michigan more than Dick DeVos. When he was appointed to the State Board of Education by John Engler, he used it to attack public education. While on the Board, he wrote a fundraising letter for Teach Michigan, a group that supported charter schools, vouchers and home schooling as alternatives to public schools. In the letter he called for “radical changes in our public education system.” The change advocated in the letter stated that “our tax dollars should follow students to qualified institutions, regardless of who runs them.” This concept, designed to take money from public education and give it to private and religious schools, was the basis for DeVos’s voucher proposal on the 2000 ballot. It was overwhelmingly rejected by the voters.
It was Teach Michigan that funded the effort to write the charter school law for the Engler administration. They hoped that by taking resources from public school districts that it would begin a downward spiral that would eventually lead to the collapsing of some districts. Parents would then seek the private schools that DeVos and Teach Michigan wanted. DeVos not only wrote the fund raising letter, he served on the Teach Michigan advisory board and also gave them at least $41,500 through his foundation. His father, father in law and friends also wrote checks to support Teach Michigan.
So determined is DeVos to weaken public schools that also funds a political action committee, Great Lakes Education Project, to help elect candidates to the state legislature that support “school choice.” Almost all of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in 2004 came from DeVos himself.
Devos has named David Brandon, president of Domino’s Pizza, as his campaign chairman. As successor to Tom Monaghan, he now only inherited control of a fast food business, but allied himself with a billionaire who has committed his life and fortune to organizing conservative Catholics into a national political force. Monaghan’s Catholic Campaign for America, Legatus and his murky relationship with a secretive group of men who share his goals of Catholic power gave Monaghan soldiers to go with his money.
Brandon, currently on the U of M Board of Regents and a big donor to the Michigan GOP, has aspirations for higher office. The alliance of these forces adds more deep pockets and foot soldiers to DeVos’s campaign. DeVos has been giving money to Monaghan’s projects through his foundation.