| Profile of a Christian Right Candidate: Dick DeVos (Part One).
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.