Franz Vila

Shadow Education Secretary Policy Statement
The Department of Education makes sure that religion shall not be

part of, included in, or associated with the education of Americans

to comply strictly with the natural and practical separation of

State and Church, as demanded by the United States Constitution.


Any study regarding God is personal, and is exercised by individuals

in their private lives.


Education is a social obligation for the advancement, leadership

and strength of the United States.


1 + 1 = 2 is indisputable and universal: an error could have

serious consequences.


“In God We Trust” is not Christian property.


Every religion that believes in God trusts Him.

It’s not an error, nor does it have serious consequences, if you trust

the God you believe in.


Religions are about beliefs. Education is about science, art,

technology, production, living, creativity and invention.


No United States’ Department deals with religion, because religion

is not a State matter. For the sake and benefit of the strength of the

union of all Americans, the Department of Education must rid itself

of religion in all  its structures.


Not one penny of public money can go to anything even remotely

related to religion. It must go to public education, where it



Keeping State education strictly public and secular is a Federal and

Constitutional obligation of the Department of Education.


Vouchers are an extra and unnecessary burden on the educational

system. Vouchers merchandise education, converting a system of

knowledge into a system of commodification and the fight for



Vouchers are money and magnetize all education to money.

Money is a matter of the Department of Commerce.


Education’s concentration must be only and exclusively on

providing the best knowledge, the best research, the best science,

the best technology, the best learning, the best critical thinking, the

best productivity, the best creativity, the best imagination, the best

social responsibility and contribution to others.


Public money is exclusively to support public, secular education.

Education must be practical and teach on how to survive

economically in society; this must be a subject of study, instead of



Charter schools are unnecessary to the public educational system,

where public schools meet all educational needs of the State.

Charter schools are of private interest, like religion, and are actually

for profit with 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. This is how they

merchandise education, using vouchers and look to profit, like any

other private school.

Public schools by nature reject monetary profit under any

circumstance, in order to devote themselves solely to education.


The State must be far away from any and all charter schools, and

their mimics.

An Open Letter to the Republican Party

From the Shadow Cabinet - Secretary of Education
February 4th, 2017 

Click here to download letter

"Is the Republican Party, their party line, against the best interests of children and parents’ and only care about money?" 

The Republican party is telling their constituents that they have the “right to choose” between a free complete service offered by the State to the public, paid by their taxes, or a pay service with tax money for vouchers, for which parents have to supplement the vouchers out of their own pocket (in the hundreds) for less services ( no services for special education, no ramp access, no adequate elevators, no appropriate bathroom facilities, no complete educational equipment required, no suitable specialized teachers and less benefits plus the relinquishing of students’ and parents’ rights–like IDEA--without any accountability). 

This leaves children in the lowest end of private schools, as is charter schools, which are rooted in profit (that’s why they give less and charge more) and whose main purpose is to indoctrinate children in religion. When parents and families cannot afford the extra hundreds of dollars that charter schools require, above the public tax money, adding their costs for uniforms and high fees for school activities, then, millions of children are left ignorant and behind their peers worldwide in the most powerful country in the world. 

The DeVos family owns 112 private educational businesses with profits in the millions and net worth in the billions and make that money on the exploitation of the less privileged, the neediest, and the population with the least access to information. They are able to keep their unfair, immoral and greedy businesses by spending millions in lobbying and supporting Christian radical Right Conservative candidates, and others, to legally and logistically back their profitable business to the detriment of the poor.

The DeVos family because of their wealth, and within the riches of their power, control which Republican gets elected and which one does not. On the same note, the Republican Party does not support any improvements in its constituent’s free public education, but rather works to protect the millions of dollars the party and its congressmen, governors, mayors, and government executives receive from the DeVos family. 

The Republican Party is supposed to make sure that the State education service to the public is complete, inclusive and of most benefit to the children and their parents, because the public school system represents the care and excellence of the government for their constituents. The Republican Party, in full party line, instead is putting tax money for private and religious enterprises that indoctrinate children and offer less benefit at a higher cost for the parents and children’s families. 

The Republican Party did not support a Secretary of Education committed to the best service of public education, demonstrated by the capacity of the government to make Americans the best educated and competitive in the world. But instead, it’s promoting a Secretary of Education with more than three decades of experience solely in creating charter schools, which are known for indoctrinating children in religion and making charter schools, the mediocre low end of private for profit education, in comparison to the alternative of superior public education. 

The Republican Party is not interested in health for all, nor is it interested in a high quality of free education for all children. 

To prove that the Republican Party, in party line, is against the best interest of children and parents in their view of free public education, the Republican Party strongly and fully supports billionaire, advocate and practitioner of profiting from education, Betsy DeVos, with zero education training and academic credentials, with zero knowledge and involvement in public education development, with no experience in managing special education, and with no experience whatsoever in public education and the administration of large public education budget. 

Money is the incentive of competition in private enterprises, and must not be the incentive in an environment of knowledge within the obligatory, neutral, complete and inclusive free service of education for all children. Money is the source of Ms. DeVos’ power and expertise. She has no knowledge or experience in managing education without charge as an unprofitable service offered to the poor, and without any indoctrination. 

Ms. DeVos is the antithesis of what the United States, the children and parents need to make free education in the US the best in the world. 

Ms. DeVos' policies and goals destroy the constitutional obligation of the State to educate every child, without any profit or indoctrination. 

Only because of Devos' money is the Republican Party, in party line, adding the worst conflict and chaos to the eager for solutions free public education. 

The chaos created by the irresponsible ignorance towards the different kinds of immigrants and their importance in United States businesses will be insignificant to the chaos generated by putting the Department of Education under the leadership of a person completely ignorant of the complexities of national education and the strategic importance of free public education for all children. 

Forget how embarrassing and absurd that is and consider the irreparable long time consequences to American education, the constituent’s revolt and the chaos for children that such a Republican Party, in party line, choice will bring to the United States. 

Shadow Cabinet - Secretary of Education
120 Essex Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan. 
South-east corner inside the Essex Street Market
New York, New York, 10002 

Click here to download letter

Everything you want to
know about Betsy DeVos

On election night 2006, Dick DeVos, the bronzed, starched 51-year-old scion of Michigan’s wealthiest family, paced to a lectern in the dim ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in Lansing to deliver the speech that every candidate dreads.

The Michigan gubernatorial race that year had been a dogfight of personal attacks between DeVos, the Republican nominee, and Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. Gloomy, bleached-out b-roll of shuttered factories in anti-Granholm ads made the governor’s sunny economic promise that “You’re gonna be blown away” sound less like an aspiration than a threat. Anti-DeVos ads cut closer to the bone, with one depicting a cartoon DeVos cheering a freighter hauling Michigan jobs to China. It was an unsubtle reference to DeVos’ time as president of Amway, the direct-sales behemoth his family co-founded and co-owns, when he eliminated jobs in Michigan while expanding dramatically in Asia. DeVos ended up personally spending $35 million on the race—the most expensive campaign in Michigan history—and when the votes came in, lost by a crushing 14 points.

At the Lansing Sheraton, the mood was grim. “If we aren’t going to be able to serve in this way, I look forward to the ways we can,” DeVos told his glum supporters. Behind him on the ballroom risers stood his family; closest to him was his wife, Betsy, choking back tears.

Though dressed in a blue skirt-suit, the uniform of a first ladyship that was not to be, Betsy DeVos was never a political accessory. Anyone who understood Michigan politics knew she had long been the more political animal of the pair. It was Betsy, not Dick, who had chaired the Michigan Republican Party; Betsy, who had served as a member of the Republican National Committee; Betsy, whose name was once floated to succeed Haley Barbour as head of the RNC; Betsy, who had directed a statewide ballot campaign to legalize public funding of religious schools; Betsy, who, as a college freshman, traveled to Ohio and Indiana to volunteer for Gerald Ford’s presidential campaign. She was a skilled and seasoned operator, but as her husband conceded in an overwhelming defeat, she was utterly helpless.

At the time, it seemed like a dead end for a neophyte political candidate. In reality, it was the opening of a new avenue the DeVoses followed to far greater political influence, reshaping Michigan politics and the national Republican scene. “I think that loss really solidified the idea in the DeVoses’ minds that the real way to get what you want is to be behind the scenes,” says Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

In the decade since that loss, the DeVos family, with Dick and Betsy at the helm, has emerged as a political force without comparison in Michigan. Their politics are profoundly Christian and conservative—“God, America, Free Enterprise,” to borrow the subtitle of family patriarch Richard DeVos’ 1975 book, Believe!—and their vast resources (the family’s cumulative net worth is estimated at well over $5 billion) assure that they can steamroll their way to victory on issues ranging from education reform to workers’ rights. “At the federal level, when GOP candidates are looking for big donors to back them, they have options,” says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “If you don’t get Sheldon Adelson, you can go to the Koch brothers, and so on. In Michigan, the DeVos family is a class of donor all by themselves.”

Top: Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos shakes hands while campaigning with wife Betsy and Arizona Senator John McCain. Bottom left: Betsy DeVos and President George H.W. Bush at a 2000 campaign fundraiser for George W. Bush. Bottom right: In 2004, Betsy DeVos campaigns with Representatives Mike Rogers and Candice Miller. | Regina H. Boone/TNS/; AP Photos

Top: Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos shakes hands while campaigning with wife Betsy and Arizona Senator John McCain. Bottom left: Betsy DeVos and President George H.W. Bush at a 2000 campaign fundraiser for George W. Bush. Bottom right: In 2004, Betsy DeVos campaigns with Representatives Mike Rogers and Candice Miller. | Regina H. Boone/TNS/; AP Photos

Thanks to the DeVoses, Michigan’s charter schools enjoy a virtually unregulated existence. Thanks to them, too, the center of the American automotive industry and birthplace of the modern labor movement is now a right-to-work state. They’ve funded campaigns to elect state legislators, established advocacy organizations to lobby them, buttressed their allies and primaried those they disagree with, spending at least $100 million on political campaigns and causes over the past 20 years. “The DeVos family has been far more successful not having the governor’s seat than if they had won it,” says Richard Czuba, the owner of the Glengariff Group, a bipartisan polling firm in Michigan. “They have, to some degree, created a shadow state party. And it’s been pretty darn effective.”

Buoyed by the success in Michigan, the DeVoses have exported a scaled-down version of that template into other states, funding an archipelago of local political action committees and advocacy organizations to ease the proliferation of charter schools in Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia and Louisiana, among others. At the same time, DeVos-backed PACs have transformed the nature of American political campaigns. By showing the success of independent PACs that answered to a few deep-pocketed donors rather than a broad number of stakeholders associated with a union or chamber of commerce, for instance, the DeVoses precipitated the monsoon of independent expenditures that has rained down upon politicians for the past decade. In the process, they’ve reshaped political campaigns as well as the policies that result from them.

Ten years after she watched her husband give a concession speech, Betsy DeVos was unveiled as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education. Across the country, public-school advocates and teachers’ unions expressed almost unanimous horror: One of the most effective advocates for breaking down the rules and protections for public schools and teachers would soon be the nation’s most powerful education policymaker.

But people who’ve been watching the DeVoses closely knew they were seeing something else as well: One of the nation’s most ambitious, disruptive and downright unusual political families finally had a seat in Washington.


To understand the DeVos family, it helps to understand West Michigan. A sweeping landscape of flat, rolling farmland freckled with small towns, it sits on the opposite side of the state—in more than one way—from the big, diverse, reliably Democratic Detroit metropolitan area. Broadly speaking, it’s a region where people are deeply religious, politically conservative, entrepreneurial and unfailingly polite—think Utah, if it were settled not by Mormons but by Dutch Calvinists. “There’s an old expression here,” chuckles Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids. “‘If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.’”

The DeVos family is Dutch, thoroughly so. All four of Richard DeVos’ grandparents emigrated from the Netherlands, and today, the family continues to observe the tenets of the Christian Reformed Church, a Calvinist denomination. Calvinism believes in predestination—that God has decided whether our souls are saved before we are born—and emphasizes an “inner worldly asceticism” in its practitioners. Historically, in avoiding ostentatious displays of wealth, Calvinist Protestants have instead turned their economic gains into savings and investments. One of the bedrock texts of sociology, Max Weber’s 1905 Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, is expressly about the links between Calvinism and economic success. (“In the place of the humble sinners to whom Luther promises grace if they trust themselves to God in penitent faith,” Weber wrote, “are bred those self-confident saints whom we can rediscover in the hard Puritan merchants of the heroic age of capitalism.”)

In this, Dick and Betsy DeVos’ familial roots serve as an object example. Dick is the eldest son of Richard DeVos, who co-founded Amway in 1959, and grew it from a meager soap factory into a multinational colossus with $9.5 billion in annual sales, enlisting his children to manage and expand the company. Betsy hails from a dynasty of her own. In 1965, her father, Edgar Prince, founded a small manufacturing company that came to be worth more than $1 billion on the strength of Prince’s automotive innovations, which include the pull-down sun visor with a built-in light-up vanity mirror.

When Betsy Prince and Dick DeVos married in 1979, it brought together two powerful Dutch families with perfectly compatible values. “There’s a close-knit atmosphere of the aristocracy of West Michigan,” Demas says. “It almost brings to mind the old monarchies of Europe where they would intermarry.”

“There’s a close-knit atmosphere of the aristocracy of West Michigan,” Demas says. “It almost brings to mind the old monarchies of Europe where they would intermarry.”

Amway, the machine that built the DeVos fortune, is among the best-known multilevel-marketing companies in the world, relying on independent salespeople to start their own businesses selling Amway-produced goods and to recruit other independent salespeople to work underneath them. Over the past half-century, the company has attracted a healthy dose of criticism. In 1969, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that Amway was a pyramid scheme, launching a six-year investigation that failed to prove the charges. In 1982, the government of Canada filed criminal charges against the company, alleging that Amway had defrauded the country out of $28 million in customs duties and forged fake receipts to cover its tracks; in November 1983, Amway pled guilty to fraud and Canadian prosecutors dropped the criminal charges against Richard DeVos and other company executives. Amway’s direct-sales model—which it has exported to more than 100 countries—has become a ubiquitous part of the modern economy. (Among those who've experimented with the approach is the president-elect, whose Trump Network in 2009 used an Amway-esque sales pitch to recruit sellers of nutritional supplements, snack foods and skin-care products.)

In Western Michigan, what matters isn’t how Amway is run, but what the DeVoses have done for the community. Drive through downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest metropolis, and the family’s contributions are omnipresent. There’s the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. A few blocks west, hugging the Grand River that bisects the city, you’ll find the sleek DeVos Place Convention Center, the DeVos Performance Hall and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Across the water, the campus of Grand Valley State University is anchored by the spacious Richard M. DeVos Center. A few blocks north is the DeVos Learning Center, housed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. (You would be forgiven if you assumed that DeVos, not Ford, had been president.)

Today, the DeVoses’ charitable giving and local boosterism mean that people in West Michigan have a different view of them than Michiganders elsewhere in the state. “The political narrative that has grown around [the family] is unfair,” says Whitney, whose Hauenstein Center has received grant funding from the DeVos Family Foundation. “They have made life better for a lot of people, and I can’t say that loudly enough.”

The first and second generations of the DeVos family. Left–right: Dick & Betsy, Cheri, Helen & Richard, Daniel & Pamella and Doug & Maria. | Credit: Orlando Magic Media Guide

The first and second generations of the DeVos family. Left–right: Dick & Betsy, Cheri, Helen & Richard, Daniel & Pamella and Doug & Maria. | Credit: Orlando Magic Media Guide

The DeVos family’s charitable giving and political activism sprawls across three generations. It’s not just Dick and Betsy, but Richard and Helen’s other children, too. There’s Daniel DeVos, who chairs the Orlando Magic, an NBA franchise the family owns, and his wife, Pamella. There’s Doug DeVos, Amway’s current president and the chair of the executive committee of the National Constitution Center, and his wife, Maria. There’s Cheri DeVos, who sits on the board at Alticor, Amway’s parent company. And there’s their children, a generation of young adults ready to carry the baton.

Over time, the DeVos clan has evolved an unusual and highly structured internal governance system. Family patriarch Richard DeVos, now 90 and retired from an active role in Amway, explained the formal structure of this family government in his 2014 book, Simply Rich:

“We formed the DeVos Family Council, which is made up of our children and their spouses and meets four times a year. The Family Council just approved a family constitution that essentially captures our family mission and values. … The Family Council also articulates how the family will work together in managing our shared financial interests and our philanthropy.

“We also have the Family Assembly …. When grandchildren turn 16, they are inducted … in a formal ceremony that everyone attends. An aunt or uncle makes a presentation of their achievements, reminds them of their responsibility as they go forward, and affirms them as a member of the Family Assembly. … They are able to vote in the meetings at age 25, after they have met additional qualifications for taking on this added responsibility.”

This collective approach is how the family runs their home lives, too. The DeVoses’ myriad properties are managed through a single private company, RDV Corporation, which both manages the family’s investments and operates as a home office, paying the family’s employees, maintaining the DeVoses’ residences and assuring them as frictionless a life as possible. (The duties outlined by one recent property-manager job with RDV Corporation include “ensur[ing] doors are well-oiled to avoid squeaking” and that “broken toys [are] repaired or disposed of.”)

This family-government approach has so far enabled the DeVos family to avoid the public schisms and disagreements that have plagued other multigenerational dynasties. Any dissent is hashed out in private, and that enables the family to focus its collective efforts with the precision of a scalpel and the power of a chainsaw. If you’re a politician who wins the family’s support, you’ll receive several maxed-out checks from multiple family members, all in a bundle.

Across those efforts, one constant is the DeVos family’s devout Christian beliefs, and the indivisibility they see between Christian and Calvinistic notions and their conservative politics. “The real strength of America is its religious tradition,” Richard DeVos wrote in Believe!. “Too many people today are willing to act as if God had nothing whatsoever to do with it. … This country was built on a religious heritage, and we’d better get back to it. We had better start telling people that faith in God is the real strength of America!” In the mid-1970s, DeVos made major donations to the Christian Freedom Foundation and Third Century Publishers, an outlet that printed books and pamphlets designed to strengthen the ties between Christianity and free-market conservatism; among those products was a guidebook instructing conservative Christians how to win elections and help America become “as it was when first founded—a ‘Christian Republic.’”

Clockwise, from upper left: Amway cofounders Jay Van Andel (left) and Richard DeVos (center) meet in the Oval Office with President Gerald Ford, who is holding a copy of Richard’s book, “Believe!”; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Richard DeVos during a 2009 event at the Scripps Research Institute; an aerial shot of Dick & Betsy DeVos’s primary residence in Ada, Michigan; Dick & Betsy enjoy their courtside seats at an Orlando Magic game—an NBA team owned by the DeVos family. | National Archives; AP; Getty Images

Clockwise, from upper left: Amway cofounders Jay Van Andel (left) and Richard DeVos (center) meet in the Oval Office with President Gerald Ford, who is holding a copy of Richard’s book, “Believe!”; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Richard DeVos during a 2009 event at the Scripps Research Institute; an aerial shot of Dick & Betsy DeVos’s primary residence in Ada, Michigan; Dick & Betsy enjoy their courtside seats at an Orlando Magic game—an NBA team owned by the DeVos family. | National Archives; AP; Getty Images

Though they aren’t quite as large or wealthy as the DeVoses, the Prince family—even further west, in Holland, Michigan—shares one big trait in common with their in-laws: the idea that patriotism and politics are inseparable from Christianity. Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Betsy’s mother, donated $75,000 to the successful 2004 ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage in Michigan; four years later, she gave $450,000 to an identical initiative in California. Betsy’s brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the military contractor that gained notoriety in 2007, when its employees fired into a crowd of Iraqi civilians, killing 17. (In 2009, two former Blackwater employees alleged in federal court that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader.”)

Throughout his adult life, Betsy’s father, Ed, donated handsomely to two religious colleges in Michigan, Hope and Calvin, the latter being his wife’s beloved alma mater in Grand Rapids. But his most important contribution—one that has shaped much of the past three decades of conservative politics—came in 1988, when Prince donated millions in seed funding to launch the Family Research Council, the conservative Christian group that became one of the most potent political forces on the religious right. “Ed Prince was not an empire builder,” Family Research Council President Gary Bauer wrote to supporters after Prince’s sudden death in 1995. “He was a Kingdom builder.”

In the 1960s and ’70s, Ed and Elsa Prince advanced God’s Kingdom from the end of a cul-de-sac just a few miles from Lake Michigan. There, they taught their four children—Elisabeth (Betsy), Eileen, Emilie and Erik—a deeply religious, conservative, free-market view of the world, emphasizing the importance of self-reliance and sending them to private schools that would reinforce the values they celebrated at home, small-government conservatism chief among them. 

“Ed Prince was not an empire builder,” Family Research Council President Gary Bauer wrote after Prince’s death in 1995. “He was a Kingdom builder.”

In a breakfast speech to volunteers at Holland Christian Schools on May 12, 1975, Ed Prince warned that lazy and neglectful U.S. citizens were not doing their fair share, forcing the government to, as a Holland Sentinel article described it, “play an increasingly larger role in our daily and personal lives.” (You don’t have to listen too hard to hear an echo of Ed Prince in his daughter, Betsy. “[For welfare recipients] to sit and be handed money from the government because they think a job like that is beneath them,” the heiress sighed to the Detroit Free Press in 1992. “If I had to work on a line in a factory, I would do that before I would stand in line for a welfare check.”)

From an early age, Betsy was pushed to compete. In 1965, she was one of two second-graders to make entries in Holland’s annual tulip festival (a citywide valentine to the area’s Dutch heritage). In middle school, she entered a poster and essay contest about crime prevention. In her teenage years, she was a member of the Holland City Recreation Swim Team. Betsy excelled at the breaststroke. In August 1972, she won the Mid-Michigan Conference Championship, a contest in which younger siblings Emilie and Eileen Prince placed third and fifth, respectively).

After graduating from high school in 1975, Betsy enrolled at Calvin College, her mother’s alma mater. Calvin’s mission, as stated in the 1975–1976 course catalog, was “to prepare students to live productive lives of faith to the glory of God in contemporary society—not merely lives that have a place for religion … but lives which in every part, in every manifestation, in their very essence, are Christian.”

On campus, Betsy became politically active, volunteering for the presidential campaign of hometown hero President Gerald Ford, who was facing off against movie star-cum-California Governor Ronald Reagan. She joined a pro-Ford group called “Friends of the First Family,” and along with her compatriots, took trips to Indiana and Ohio to participate in the Ford campaign’s “scatter blitzes.”

Betsy’s campaigning earned the attention of the Ford team, which tapped her to attend that year's Republican National Convention in Kansas City as a participant in the “Presidentials” program for young Republicans. The budding politicos attended training on campaign strategy and political techniques, and were divided into groups based on geography so that they could get acquainted with potential allies from their home states. There were also more practical desires for a squadron of young volunteers at a contested convention: “Anywhere there needed to be noise, there were always kids,” Betsy Prince told a reporter for the Holland Sentinel in 1976 (“Betsy Helps Cheer Ford Through in Kansas City,” read the headline, beside a photo of a T-shirt-clad Betsy sporting a feathered, Farrah Fawcett-like hairdo).

Around this time, Betsy Prince met the two men with whom she would form the most important political relationships of her adult life. One became her husband; the other became her governor.


If there’s one law of physics that defined how Michigan politics moved in the 1990s, it’s that Governor John Engler was a master of the state Legislature. His political acumen—honed over a 20-year run in the Legislature, during which the 22-year-old boy wonder grew into his sturdy tree-stump physique and Ben Franklin hairline—was legendary even before he won a stunning upset in the 1990 governor’s race.

Never was that mastery more evident than on July 19, 1993, a date that set into motion every battle over education the state has seen since—a day that led to Betsy DeVos becoming Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education.

Deep into his first term, Engler wanted to show progress in his signature proposal to reduce the state’s onerous property taxes by 20 percent. Property taxes being the funding source for Michigan’s public school system, Democrats ruled out any plan that did not include a replacement for the lost revenue, and since any new revenue would require legislators to vote for new taxes or fees, that option had little appeal heading into the 1994 campaign. On July 19, 1993, Democratic state Senator Debbie Stabenow proposed an amendment that was interpreted as an attempt to point out the absurdity of Engler’s plan: Why not cut them by 100 percent without having any replacement revenue source?

Democrats were dumbstruck by what happened next: Engler whipped the state Legislature into action, and in the course of a 24-hour period, the Senate and House eradicated property taxes—in the process completely defunding Michigan’s $6.5 billion public-education system. In the ensuing crisis, Engler legalized charter schools.

Throughout the 1990s, Republican Governor John Engler was a force without parallel in Michigan politics. | AP Photos

Throughout the 1990s, Republican Governor John Engler was a force without parallel in Michigan politics. | AP Photos

By that point, Betsy DeVos was already a major Engler backer—she had served as the GOP chair in powerful Kent County, and in 1992, won one of the state’s seats on the RNC, ousting Ronna Romney (sister-in-law of Mitt Romney and mother of Ronna Romney McDaniel, whom Trump has chosen to helm the RNC). But education reform had long been a passion, and now she had an opportunity to help the governor who was enacting the changes she so badly wanted.

In May 1996, the chair of the Michigan Republican Party stepped down to run for Congress. John Engler had just the person for the job. Betsy DeVos accepted, and the following year, decided to run for a full term as party chair.

If Engler thought he had anointed a rubber stamp, he quickly learned otherwise. In January 1997, DeVos cleared house, unilaterally firing all of the party’s top directors and pausing all contracts with vendors, blaming them for the party’s losses months earlier. “Betsy regarded the governor’s input as good advice, not an order,” Greg McNeilly, a close associate of Betsy DeVos, told an Engler biographer years later. “That’s when the problems started.”

After an enormously successful 1998 campaign wherein Engler won a third and final term in a landslide, the governor encouraged Betsy DeVos to run for chair of the RNC. DeVos had a different battle in mind: a statewide campaign to legalize school vouchers.

The Michigan state constitution expressly forbids public funds from being used to pay for private, religious schools. Betsy DeVos aimed to change that via a constitutional amendment—Proposal 1 on the November 2000 ballots.

Engler was opposed to the idea—the timing was off. “I was pretty certain that it was premature to go to the ballot in 2000,” Engler says, “because if you’re going to go to the ballot, you want to win.” The DeVoses had counted on his support, and when it didn’t materialize, things soured. (“[John Engler] would have a hard time being a first mate even on the largest ship in the world,” Betsy DeVos later wrote. “I think he’d sooner be captain of a smaller boat than the first mate on a much bigger ship.”)

DeVos quickly realized that the situation was unsustainable. So she hatched a plan designed to surprise Engler just as his opposition had surprised her: She would resign as state GOP chair without notifying him in advance. She chose a date in February 2000 when she knew Engler would be in Washington. Around 9 a.m., she left a message on his phone, informing him that she would announce her resignation at an early-afternoon news conference. Engler quickly changed his itinerary and booked a flight home for his own news conference that evening. Publicly, Engler saved face, but the message from the DeVoses was unmistakable: We are a political force with our own agenda, like it or not.

The message from the DeVoses was unmistakable: We are a political force with our own agenda, like it or not.

Now, however, the DeVoses were on their own, pushing Prop 1 with minimal support from the state’s Republican establishment. Among the broader public, the opposition was fierce and widespread. “That was one of the best campaigns I was ever on,” says Julie Matuzak, who was, at the time, the American Federation of Teachers’ top political hand in the state.

While the DeVoses campaigned on expanding educational choices for parents and students, their opponents reframed the issue. “When you really looked at it, the parents weren’t the ones with the choices; the parochial schools were the ones with the choices,” Matuzak remembers. “If all you do is transfer the money, you don't transfer any of the other requirements that are put on public schools. Public schools are required to take everyone who comes through the door. But private schools, parochial schools, get to pick and choose. … It’s not really the parents who have the choice, it’s the schools. And people ultimately understood that.”

When Election Day came, the result was overwhelming: Proposal 1 failed with 69 percent of voters opposed. Across the spectrum, political observers viewed the initiative as a debacle that drove up Democratic turnout and likely cost Republicans a U.S. Senate seat, as Debbie Stabenow defeated incumbent Senator Spencer Abraham by 67,000 votes.

There was a silver lining for the DeVoses, albeit one not immediately apparent. They had established a purity test for fellow Republicans: Had they supported Prop 1? And in unintentionally contributing to Senator Abraham’s loss, they had created a scenario in which, once Engler was term-limited in January 2003, the state GOP would be without any marquee statewide officeholders. No governor. Neither U.S. senator. An attorney general and secretary of state without any previous statewide experience.

There was a power vacuum in the Republican Party, and the DeVoses were the only ones who could fill it. Which they did, with lots and lots of money.


When Dick and Betsy DeVos are asked why they’ve chosen to mount a personal crusade for education reform, they often cite their family’s charitable giving, which puts them into contact with scholarship applicants. For years, the DeVoses read reams of personal essays filled with wrenching stories of dire finances and an abiding hope in the transformative impact of education. Those stories, the DeVoses have said, made it clear that something had to change.

But there’s another reason why Dick and Betsy DeVos want to change America’s schools. They see it as the literal battleground for making a more Christian, God-centered society.

In 2001, Betsy DeVos spoke at “The Gathering,” an annual meeting of some of America’s wealthiest Christians. There, she told her fellow believers about the animating force behind her education-reform campaigning, referencing the biblical battlefield where the Israelites fought the Philistines: “It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture—to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things—in this case, the system of education in the country.”

Dick DeVos, on stage with his wife, echoed her sentiments with a lament of his own. “The church—which ought to be, in our view, far more central to the life of the community—has been displaced by the public school,” Dick DeVos said. “We just can think of no better way to rebuild our families and our communities than to have that circle of church and school and family much more tightly focused and built on a consistent worldview.”

For the DeVoses, an electoral loss—even an embarrassing one—is but a small skirmish on that Shephelah. Prop 1’s failure was evidence that they needed to redraw their battle plans for a much larger war. 

Betsy DeVos stressed that Christians need to focus on “greater Kingdom gain” by “changing … the system of education in the country.

Dick DeVos echoed that: As the center of the community, “The church … has been displaced by the public school.”

They unveiled the new strategy in 2001, the same year they spoke at The Gathering: Instead of direct appeals to voters, the DeVoses would devote their resources to PACs and nonprofit organizations to push legislators to enact the changes they desired. Thus, the Great Lakes Education Project, or GLEP, was founded.

Initially, few in Michigan knew quite what to make of GLEP. At the time, most PACs were affiliated with membership organizations, like a labor union or chamber of commerce, and focused on issues important to those members. GLEP wasn’t anything like that. It was a largely family-funded effort with a singular focus on education reform; a multipronged structure gave GLEP great latitude to advocate, from lobbying legislators to purchasing attack ads on TV.

In the years since the DeVoses debuted GLEP, we’ve witnessed the nationwide rise of single-issue PACs funded by a small number of extraordinarily wealthy donors, especially since the Citizens United ruling uncorked the dam of corporate money. “The [DeVos] family has been forward-thinking in their use of money to influence politics,” says Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “And what’s happening with them in Michigan seems to be an example of where we’re going as a country with the concentration of power in our politics.”

Betsy DeVos has pushed a drastic transformation of Michigan’s education system, with mixed and controversial results.

Betsy DeVos has pushed a drastic transformation of Michigan’s education system, with mixed and controversial results.

In 2002, the first election of GLEP’s existence, its PAC had more money than the Michigan Education Association, United Auto Workers, or any Democratic-affiliated PAC in the state. And if they lacked the influence and statewide presence of those groups, it was only a matter of time. “They take a very long-term view,” says Matuzak. “If you pick up a few new Republican legislators every two years, and throw a fair amount of money at legislators who are already there, you can create coalitions of folks who can tackle what seem to be impossibly large issues.”

It was the lesson of John Engler’s governorship: If you want to get things done, control the state Legislature. But you can’t get that without inspiring some degree of fear.

One Republican who caught the DeVos family’s ire was Paul Muxlow, a realtor and former educator elected to the state house in 2010, representing a mostly rural district in southeast Michigan. Muxlow was a dependable conservative, but disliked the idea of eliminating the cap on the number of charter schools. While he was fine with charter schools in underserved communities, he said he couldn’t support them in rural areas—“It would kill those districts,” he explained to the Detroit Free Press in 2014. When the cap elimination came before the state Legislature in 2011, it passed with Muxlow voting against it. The following year, when he ran for reelection, he faced a blitz of attacks from GLEP, which didn’t even need his district, but spent just under $185,000 to take him out in the primary. Muxlow won by just 132 votes.

Privately, many Michigan Republicans are afraid of getting on the DeVoses’ bad side. “At the American Federation of Teachers, there were always Republicans we’d endorse,” recalls Matuzak, who retired from the union in 2014. “And it got to the point where … the Republicans would say, ‘Please don’t endorse me because it will hurt me with the DeVoses.’ They’d send back money because the DeVoses would punish them.” (In an email to POLITICO, the chief of staff to one Republican state senator declined comment for this story, saying it would “not be productive” before linking to two anti-DeVos columns in the Detroit Free Press. The articles “speak for themselves,” he wrote.)

“The Republicans would say, ‘Please don’t endorse me because it will hurt me with the DeVoses.’ They’d send back money because the DeVoses would punish them.”

“There’s a general awareness if they’re not supporting you,” says John Truscott, a longtime Republican operative in Michigan and the president of Truscott-Rossman, a powerhouse bipartisan PR firm that represents the DeVos family on certain matters. “If you’re always getting along with everybody, you’re probably not making a difference.”

Year by year, cycle by cycle, the DeVoses built a state Legislature in their own image. By the time Democrat Jennifer Granholm was term-limited in 2010 and Republican Rick Snyder was elected governor without any political experience, it was the DeVoses, not Snyder, who knew how to get things done. Unlike the Engler years, this time, they had more sway than the governor.

Today, 16 years after the DeVoses’ failed constitutional amendment, this constant push has totally remade Michigan education. The cap on the number of charter schools eliminated and attempts to provide public oversight have been defeated, making Michigan’s charters among the most-plentiful and least-regulated in the nation. About 80 percent of Michigan’s 300 publicly funded charters are operated by for-profit companies, more than any other state. This means that taxpayer dollars that would otherwise go to traditional public schools are instead used to buy supplies such as textbooks and desks that become private property. It is, essentially, a giant experiment in what happens when you shift resources away from public schools.

And while a state constitutional amendment legalizing public funding for religious schools is unlikely to win public support anytime soon, charters have had much the same impact. While a charter school cannot be religiously affiliated, many walk a fine line, appointing, for instance, a preacher as head of the school board or renting school space from a church. “They have a couple ways of getting around it,” says Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University who specializes in charter school evaluation and research. “I’ve been in charter schools where I’ve seen religious prayers to Jesus Christ—they mention Christ by name—and prayer circles with students, teachers and parents.”

For students, the results of the Michigan charter boom have been mixed. Most charters perform below the state’s averages on tests, even while their enrollment has grown to include more than 110,000 students, nearly half of whom live in the Detroit area. A 2013 Stanford study that compared Detroit’s charters with its traditional public schools found that the charter students gained the equivalent of more than three months’ learning per year more than their counterparts at traditional public schools. But that doesn’t mean they’re performing at a high level, simply that by some measures, certain charters marginally outperform the historically challenged Detroit public schools.

Whatever the quality outcome, the political lesson isn’t lost. The DeVoses have transplanted their organizational model to other states—New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana, Virginia, Wisconsin, among them. They have done this by marshaling forces under the umbrella of their American Federation for Children, a nationwide campaign for school reform that has attracted high-profile speakers to its conferences, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, former Governor Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former D.C. school czar Michelle Rhee.


In the transformation of Michigan from a blue-collar Rust Belt Democratic stronghold to a free-market, Republican conquest, no issue may be more symbolic than the enactment of right-to-work legislation.

On its face, the debate over right-to-work is about an arcane bit of labor law—whether workers under a contract that was collectively negotiated by a union should have to pay dues to that union, regardless of whether they’re members. But that debate is a proxy for a larger battle that is less about employment law than political jockeying: Unions tends to align with Democrats, and as a result, if it becomes more difficult for unions to collect dues, they’ll be weakened and less able to advocate for the political causes of their choosing.

Days after the 2012 election, Dick DeVos picked up the phone and rallied Republican lawmakers to pass right-to-work in lame duck while they still had the votes, reportedly promising financial support to those members who would find themselves facing tough reelections and suggesting he would back primary campaigns against those who didn’t step in line. “There’s one family who gets these people elected, and consequently, you can assume they can get them unelected, too,” says Gretchen Whitmer, who was the state Senate’s Democratic leader at the time. 

“There’s one family who gets these people elected, and consequently, you can assume they can get them unelected, too,” says Gretchen Whitmer, the former Democratic leader of the state senate.”

To opponents, right to work ran counter to every story Michigan told itself about who it was, a repudiation of generations of hard-won gains. In metro Detroit, labor’s historic triumphs are retold like folklore by men with thick, calloused hands, lest future generations forget the Battle of the Overpass or the Flint Sit-Down Strike. Right-to-work, labor feared, would undo much of that.

Though anxious, labor officials had reason to feel confident. On November 26, 2012, the Monday after Thanksgiving, Republican Governor Rick Snyder had reassured them that right-to-work was “not on my agenda.” “The impression we had from the beginning was the governor wanted to keep this thing off his desk,” Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association, said at the time.

Over the course of a few days in late November and early December, everything changed. Perhaps it had something to do with the $1.8 million blitz of TV and radio ads promoting right-to-work the DeVoses bankrolled.

On December 6, eight days after Snyder met with labor leaders, the governor flipped on the issue, announcing his intent to sign right-to-work into law. “The day it became apparent, he wasn’t returning phone calls from any of us,” remembers Whitmer.

Protesters in and around the state capitol in Lansing on December 11, 2012. "Governor 4 Sale,” read one sign. “Call 1-800-Dick-DeVos.” | AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Protesters in and around the state capitol in Lansing on December 11, 2012. "Governor 4 Sale,” read one sign. “Call 1-800-Dick-DeVos.” | AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The next five days saw large protests on the Capitol grounds, culminating with an estimated 12,500 demonstrators on December 11, the day the House voted on the legislation. Two-thousand demonstrators flooded into the Capitol, sitting in the hallways and laying down in the rotunda. They stomped their feet, chanted familiar slogans, sang “Solidarity Forever”—a cacophony that some in the House chamber one story up initially confused for thunder.

Right-to-work passed by a handful of votes, including an Engler-esque flourish: The legislation was amended to include a small appropriation, which meant that once signed, it would be impossible for voters to repeal by public referendum.

Outside the Capitol, state police donned riot gear while officers on horseback pushed protesters away from the building. Loudspeakers blared Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” and as the wind picked up, four 20-foot-tall inflatable rat balloons skittered from side to side. Each rat represented one of the key players protesters blamed for right-to-work’s hasty adoption: the governor, the House speaker, the Senate majority leader, and—the only unelected member of the rat pack—Dick DeVos.

It isn’t known what, if anything, the DeVoses said to Governor Snyder to change his mind and detonate this atomic bomb in Michigan politics. But Snyder would’ve been under no illusions about the possible consequences of inaction. “There was all kinds of scuttlebutt that if Snyder didn't sign up for right-to-work in 2012, he would’ve bought himself a primary in 2014,” says Demas of Inside Michigan Politics. “I think Snyder understands the powerful place the DeVoses have in Michigan, and that it’s often more trouble than it’s worth to tangle with them.”


In the weeks since Donald Trump announced that he would nominate DeVos for secretary of education, Michigan’s political circles have been abuzz. As ever, the DeVoses are loved and hated, with little in between. “She is a strong supporter of public education and of quality education for every child,” says Engler. “It’s horrifying. It’s a slap in the face,” says Whitmer. “The only people who have anything to worry about are those running failing schools,” says Truscott. “It is as if you were to appoint some radical pacifist as secretary of defense,” says Jack Lessenberry, a senior political analyst for Michigan Public Radio.

After years operating behind the scenes, Betsy DeVos is set to become the public face of education policy in America—an advocate of private Christian education helming the largest public-education agency in the country. Most education policymaking happens at the state and local level; the Education Department administers financial aid and collects and analyzes educational data, but doesn’t set state standards or school curricula. Even so, the position is a considerable bully pulpit, one with the ability to define the national discussion on education.

Donald Trump applauds as Betsy DeVos speaks at Trump’s “Thank You USA” rally in Grand Rapids, December 9, 2016. | Reuters/Mike Segar

Donald Trump applauds as Betsy DeVos speaks at Trump’s “Thank You USA” rally in Grand Rapids, December 9, 2016. | Reuters/Mike Segar

As secretary, it’s likely DeVos will pursue a national expansion of school choice and charters. In this, DeVos has an ally in President-elect Trump. “There's no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump said in a September 8 speech. “It is time to break up that monopoly.” In that speech, Trump proposed a $20-billion block grant program to fund national vouchers administered at the state level. “Parents will be able to send their kids to the desired public, private or religious school of their choice,” Trump said.

It’s what Betsy DeVos has wanted all along.

Barring a surprise at confirmation hearings, the DeVos family will soon have a seat in Washington. But a question lingers: Will they continue as activists? While there’s a long history of Cabinet members donating to campaigns prior to assuming their roles atop the government, it would be fairly unprecedented for a Cabinet secretary to push policy within the government while her family simultaneously funnels millions to lobby and campaign for those same policies. But the DeVos family isn’t shy about using its clout.

Some donors couch their push for influence in the anodyne language of “improvement” and “empowerment.” Betsy DeVos is more upfront. “My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party,” she wrote in a 1997 editorial for Roll Call. “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.”

“I have decided … to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” Betsy DeVos wrote in a 1997 editorial for Roll Call. “Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.”

It’s one thing to be an advocate and quite another to be a policymaker in a realm where you have little professional training or personal experience—a charge that DeVos’ opponents are quick to lob. If confirmed by the Senate, DeVos would be the first secretary of education in at least 30 years without any experience as a government official, school administrator or teacher. “She’s not someone with an education background—she never went to a public school, never sent a child to a public school,” says Whitmer, who recently announced her candidacy for Michigan governor. “It’s just stunning that they’d want to export the ugliness [the DeVoses] have brought to the education debate in Michigan and send it to the rest of the nation.”

Even so, among the DeVoses’ skeptics, there are those who strike a hopeful, if cautious, tone. “I think Mrs. DeVos could potentially be a really good secretary of education if she allowed parents and school districts to make policy at the local level,” says Daniel Quinn, executive director of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, a nonprofit that receives a portion of its funding from the National Education Association. “But at the same time, I’m concerned.”

Julie Matuzak, the DeVoses’ foe from the 2000 voucher fight, disagrees strongly with DeVos’ appointment but concedes the couple has good intentions. “I do believe they have a deep-seated belief in quality education for all children,” says Matuzak. “They see it as a continuum of public education that includes everything—private schools, parochial schools, charters, public schools. But they believe in the market force as the rule of the universe.”

Sarah Pulliam Bailey in the Washington Post, November 23, 2016

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick, is a billionaire with deep ties to the Christian Reformed community.

Source: Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick, is a billionaire with deep ties to the Christian Reformed community in The Washington Post


Christian Right Origins and the DeVos’ Mission

The Christianization of U.S. Department of Education

The History of Dominionism


       In the 15th century, Papal Bulls were issued that gave Christian explorers the right to claim, for their Christian monarchs, the land that they had discovered. Any land that was not already inhabited by Christians was decreed to be available for discovery, for claiming, and for exploitation. If any so-called ‘pagan’ inhabitants could be converted, it was possible for them to be spared from enslavement or from being killed.

These Papal Bulls, which collectively came to be known as the Discovery Doctrine or the Doctrine of Discovery, is also a concept of public international law, one that was first extensively addressed in a series of United States Supreme Court decisions, going back to Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823. It was the means for Chief Justice John Marshall to explain the way that colonial powers first laid claim to newly discovered lands during the Age of Discovery and Exploration. Under the Doctrine of Discovery, titles to newly discovered lands were issued by the government whose subjects discovered the new territory. While Chief Justice Marshall is credited with describing the doctrine, he did not support it as a means for justifying judicial decisions, or for invalidating or disregarding aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. The alleged inferiority of native cultures was a known reason for the use of this doctrine, which still governs Indian Law in the United States to this day. It was cited as recently as 2005, in a case that involved the city of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation in the state of New York.

Post-Millennial Dominionism

       In a January 17 article written by Peter Montgomery for Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, it is noted that the religious right eventually rallied around Donald Trump’s candidacy for President of the United States in 2016. This support was described as being “heavy with the self-proclaimed apostles and prophets from the dominionist Pentecostal wing of American Christianity who declared Trump anointed by God.”

As Trump prepared for taking office, many of these dominionists came to Washington, D.C. to launch what they are calling “a movement designed in part to “discern, declare, and decree the strategies of the Lord for our nation, with a special sensitivity to the three branches of the United States government.”

Individuals involved in this movement, known as POTUS Shield include Cindy Jacobs, Lance Wallnau, Lou Engle, Rick Joyner, Harry Jackson, Jerry Boykin (a favorite figure of the alt-right who is a good source for insane conspiracy theories), E.W. Jackson (who preached that God will punish American for embracing marriage equality), Jennifer LeClaire, Mark Gonzalez, and Alveda King.

Jennifer LeClaire, a senior editor of Charisma magazine, told the Christian Broadcasting Network that the red we all saw on the electoral map after election night was “parabolic of the blood of Jesus”. Even more alarming, she claimed that God told her that He was “releasing the angels of transition…to help transition the government into what we’ve all been praying for,” namely, Trump, who has “surrounded himself with Godly counsel.”

The stated inaugural principals of POTUS Shield are the following:

  1. To assemble, structure and activate The POTUS Shield as a powerfully interactive spiritual, apostolic, prophetic force that acts and reacts in unity, with efficiency and expedience;

  2. To be a leadership forum that is inclusive and embraces the Bible believing Body of Christ, with a Kingdom heart to embrace the Body of Christ as One, even as prayed by our Lord as written in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17;

  3. To connect as an apostolic network exclusively assigned to the affirmation and reformation of The United States of America as ONE nation under GOD;

  4. To discern, declare, and decree the strategies of the Lord for our nation, with a special sensitivity to the three branches of the United States Government;

  5. To prepare the way and coordinate the simultaneous spiritual alignment of the Kingdom shift that is manifesting and impacting the government and the Church;

  6. To lay the foundation to convene in Philadelphia in March during Purim to declare a renewed covenant as the renewed United States of America, as one nation under God, and to commission and plan similar covenants in each of the 50 states in the Union.

Ted Cruz, a Republican opponent of Trump’s during the 2016 presidential campaign, was raised by a Cuban refugee father that happened to be an evangelical pastor subscribing to the ideology of dominionism. This theocratic idea grew out of American evangelicalism, and it animated the Christian right. Its fundamental tenet is that God has called conservative Christians to exercise dominion over society by taking control of political and cultural institutions.

Analysts observe that, while there is a spectrum running from soft to hard among dominionists, it is agreed that they all celebrate Christian nationalism. That is, they believe that the United States once was, and should once again, be a Christian nation. Because of this belief, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy. Dominionists also promote religious supremacy. They generally do not respect the equality of other religions, let alone other versions of Christianity. Dominionists endorse theocratic visions. They believe that the Ten Commandments, or biblical law, should be the foundation of American laws, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing biblical principles, not the rule of our land.

During the holiday season, after Donald Trump was declared the winner of the election, many citizens of the United States objected when Reince Preibus referred to the “rise of a new king” in a tweet, believing it to be a reference of Trump, and an attempt to give him a title that is prohibited by the Constitution. While LeClaire, a member of POTUS Shield, has had visions of Trump as our anointed leader, evangelical historian, John Fea points to a sermon at the New Beginnings church in Bedford, Texas in 2012 as the beginning of a rise in the political career of Ted Cruz, with the blessing of dominionists. During Cruz’s Senate campaign, his father, Rafael described his son as the “fulfillment of biblical prophecy”, and he declared that “God would anoint Christian kings to preside over an end time transfer of wealth from the wicked to the righteous” in order to “help Christians in their effort to go to the marketplace and occupy the land and take dominion over it.”

This end-time transfer of wealth, according to LeClaire, will relieve Christians of all financial woes, allowing true believers to ascend to a position of political and cultural power in which they can build a Christian civilization. Jesus won’t return until these Christian nations are in place.

According to Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, followers of one particular strain of evangelical theology, known as Seven Mountains dominionism,  believe that in order for the Christian nations to become a reality, they are to take control over seven leading aspects of culture. These are family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government. Notable dominionists include the likes Sara Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich.

Branches of Dominionism

            There are two schools of thought within dominionism—Christian Reconstructionists or 7M. Christian Reconstructionism was founded by late theologian R.J. Rushdoony. He promoted the idea that Christians weren’t only to be dominating society, they were also supposed to be instituting and enforcing Old Testament biblical law. This branch of dominionism is credited with providing a biblical rationale for the political actions of the Christian right and for supporting not only a theory of government, but one for public policy development, as well. Rushdoony’s legacy is the modern homeschooling movement, which Department of Education Secretary nominee, Betsy Devos has publicly supported. It is through this appointment that both schools of dominion wish to assert their influence, by taking control of the seven leading aspects of our American culture, and by dominating American society, through the institution and enforcement of Old Testament, or biblical, law.

The “mainstream” of the other branch of dominionism is Latter Rain. This branch began as a Pentecostal movement in the 1940s known as the New Apostolic Reformation. The Latter Rain movement taught its followers that “there would be an outpouring of supernatural powers in a coming generation,” that would allow them “to subdue or take dominion over nations.”

The Latter Rain movement promised that this outpouring of supernatural powers would happen along with the restoration of the neglected offices in the contemporary church of apostles and prophets, whose teachings about the supernatural authority of the apostles are credited with providing key theological and structural elements of contemporary dominionism. It is interesting to note that the teachings of this branch were once rejected by Pentecostal denominations for being deviant, only to be embraced by them later.

In 1980, Christian Reconstructionist, Rushdoony wrote Institutes of Biblical Law, a work which offered dominionists a vision, of a foundation for a future society that was biblically based, where dominion men advanced the dominion mandate that is described in Genesis. In this book, a biblically-based Christian society would include a legal code that is based on the Ten Commandments and the laws of Old Testament Israel. Its laws would include a long list of capital offenses that would largely be religious or sexual in nature. This biblical kingdom that Rushdoony envisioned could only emerge from the gradual conversion of people who would embrace what they consider to be the whole word of God, and it was acknowledged that this accomplishment could take as many as hundreds or even tens of thousands of years to be realized.

Evangelical theology ultimately split between the premillennial dispensationalist camp– which believes that true Christians would be raptured into the clouds in the End Times when Jesus would return to defeat the forces of Satan– and Christian Reconstructions. Reconstructionists believed that Jesus could not return until the world was perfectly Christian and the faithful had ruled it this way for 1,000 years. Premillennialists are not interested in politics. Postmillennialists have a need for politics, to help them build these perfect Christian nations that are founded on biblical principles and laws.

One leading theologian, Francis Schaeffer advocated massive resistance to ‘anti-Christian society’, but not to the contemporary application of Old Testament laws. Instead, he insisted on the need for a “militant Christian resistance to tyranny”, a call that was echoed all-too-eerily recently in an audio clip of Trump senior advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, the same Bannon that Trump attempted to place on the national Security Council after a call to Vladimir Putin, bypassing Senate approval and displacing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the process.

Reconstructionist Dominionists, the CNP, the Muslim Ban, and Betsy Devos

Many have been questioning the recent moves of Trump to enforce executive orders regarding immigration and entry into the United States because of their religious nature, after federal courts granted stays. Indeed, lawsuits have been filed. While most Americans treasure their rights to religious freedom, dominionist strategists often like to refer to religious freedoms as a weakness of our constitutional democracy, one that can be exploited to advance their agendas. For example, Christian Reconstructionist theorist Gary North believes that the Constitution’s ban against religious tests for public officials that is included in Article 6 is a legal barrier to an eventual Christian theocracy, but he dreams of a day when biblically correct Christians will gain enough political power to be able to amend the Constitution by limiting access to their franchise and civil offices, the way Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has shut off his fax machines and refused acceptance of petitions related to plans for de-funding Planned Parenthood by placing guards at the door to his office. Trinitarian churches are also a factor. Most dominionist theorists view Jefferson’s conception of religious equality under the law as something that is inherently tyrannical. Rushdoony, the Reconstructionist who was affiliated with CNP for many years, argued that religious liberty is attacked when the states are secularized in the name of freedom, and when every prerogative of the church is attacked in an indirect manner. This is where the secretive organization, known as the Council of National Policy, and its connection to the Trump administration, and most importantly, the pending approval of Department of Education nominee, Betsy Devos, becomes relevant.

Last August, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Kellyanne Conway and Trump’s (then) presidential campaign manager, who is now his senior advisor, and who also happened to be the executive chairman and founding board member of alt-right platform, Breitbart News, have been members of the Council of National Policy. It is not known at this time the duration of their respective memberships or what the current status is of them, but after perusing the conditions and rules of memberships of what the New York Times once called “a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservative it the country”; it is unlikely that very many people would terminate their membership into this elite organization willingly.

This group is so secretive, it tells its members to not admit that they are a member, let alone speak the name of the group. Revealing when or where the group meets, and what it discusses, is also forbidden. The only way one can join is by invitation and with a generous donation. The SPLC, which publishes Hatewatch obtained a copy of the CNP’s 2014 membership directory, something it calls a’ closely held document’. That’s because it shows that Kellyanne Conway was a member of the CNP’s executive committee that year, and that Bannon was a regular member. This means there is a clear connection between individuals who are very likely influenced by Reconstructionist principles and dominionist policies, and who also have direct access to, and influence on, Donald Trump.

At the end of this article, screenshots and a PDF of a document related to the CNP’s Phase I and Phase II plans for the future of the Department of Education, contingent on the confidently named ‘designee’, Betsy Devos are available for examination and dissemination. This document outlines the general strategy that the Trump administration has been implementing since inauguration day.

The writer of this piece does not take lightly the gravity of what is being revealed. A secret, non-profit organization, that has been affiliated with dominionists, specifically, Reconstructionist dominionists, has direct access to the presidential office, and may very well be influencing his policies, decisions, and orders. After enough individuals have read this article, have examined the documents attached, and have listed to a near hour long SoundCloud recording of a meeting in which a post-election analysis is provided by the guest speakers, in addition to a description of what is said to be an outline of what will happen in Trump’s first 100 days, questions will be answered and raised, regarding the manner in which Trump has begun his administration. The PDF of the CNP was made available in a Southern Poverty Law Center article online, from August of 2016. Both the PDF describing the CNP’s plans moving forward, with allusions to their confidence in Trump’s following their suggestions, which were contingent on the approval of Betsy Devos, his nomination for the Department of Education, were both obtained by the writer, by using the CNP’s own user interface. Specifically, the content the CNP posted that was related to its November of 2016 meeting was easily made available to the public at large, yet it has remained right under our noses, until now.

            Getting to Know the Council for National Policy

           Before concluding this article, in order for the reader to gain a greater appreciation for the sort of people this organization recruits and attracts, a few descriptions of what the SLPC calls “real extremists” who can be found in the directory are provided below, in no particular order:

  • Michael Peroutka– A neo-Confederate who was on the board of the white supremacist group, League of the South for a number of years.

  • Jerome Corsi– The propagandist who was responsible for the Swift boat conspiracy of John Kerry’s is also a fervent Obama “birther”. Corsi once described Martin Luther King, Jr. as a ‘shakedown artist’. In his latest book, he claims that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun fled to Argentina after World War to live out their lives happily ever after.

  • Joseph Farah- Farah runs the conspiracist “news operation”, the WorldNetDaily. He also employs Corsi. It was Farah who accused President Obama of trying to help the United Nations create a one-world government. WorldNetDaily also ran a six-part series on the hidden dangers behind the consumption of soybeans—they were responsible for causing homosexuality.

  • Mat Staver- This Liberty Counsel leader has worked to re-criminalize homosexual sex. He described the Boy Scouts as a “playground for pedophiles” and likened LGBT activists to terrorists.

  • Alan Sears- Founder of the Alliance Defending Freedom and co-author of The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, in which pedophilia is falsely linked to homosexuality.

  • Philip Zodhaites- a gay activist who was charged with conspiracy and international kidnapping after he helped a self-described ‘former lesbian’, who had kidnapped her daughter from her former partner before fleeing the country. He faces up to five years in prison. Although CNP’s mission is to strengthen Judeo-Christian values, his direct mail company, Response Unlimited, sold lists of subscribers to America’s leading anti-Semitic tabloid, The Spotlight, and its successor, American Free Press, neither of which is now listed at the Response website.

  • Madeleine Cosman- During a 2005 nativists conference, she states that most Latino immigrant men molest girls under 12, although some specialize in boys, and some in nuns. Most likely, she could be the source of Trump’s statements regarding Mexicans when first announcing his run for President, and his continuing fixation with securing our borders with Mexico, by building a wall no one wants to pay for. Cosman is also the source of a false claim made on-air by then-CNN anchor, Lou Dobbs, that immigrants were responsible for bringing leprosy to the United States.

  • Howard Phillips- Founder of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, he wishes to implement biblical law in the United States. He is also known for his opposition to the Voting Rights Act, homosexuality, pornography, immigrants, and abortion.

  • Haley- He wanted to use the Texas Rangers to enforce school segregation after the Supreme Court outlawed it.

  • Clarence Arch Decker- A one-time Colorado state senator whose Summit Ministries once published a book that suggested the possibility of having to intern homosexuals.

  • Paul S. Teller-Ted Cruz’s chief of staff. He is described by The Hill as being his “agitator in chief”.

  • Tony Perkins- Head of LGBT-bashing Family Research Council (along with vice-president and three executive officers, including CNP Executive and former Attorney General of Ohio, Kenneth Backwell). He falsely claimed that pedophilia “is a homosexual problem” and that homosexuals “recruit” children. Most significantly, he secretly purchased a mailing list for a candidate he was managing from former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, and in 2001, he addressed the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which inspired Dylan Roof to kill nine churchgoers last year.

  • Michael Peroutka-On the CNP’s board of governors, and for many years on the board of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group that still wants the South to secede from the United States and be ruled by white people. This 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate is opposed to abortion in all cases and makes regular appearances on white nationalist radio shows.

  • Chad Connelly- The two-term head of the South Carolina Republican Party (until 2013), who is currently the national director of faith engagement on the Republican National Committee.

  • Nelson Bunker Hunt- A one-time member of John Birch Society’s ruling council, this billionaire went broke trying to corner the silver market.

  • Cullen Davis- A multimillionaire from Texas who was tried and acquitted in two separate murder cases.

  • William Cies- Wealthy John Birch Society member and major CNP funder.

  • Paul Weyrich- Co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

  • Frank Gaffney– He provided Trump with what are described by the SLPC as “bogus statistics about American Muslims”. He was also a senior advisor to Cruz until last May.

  • Michael Centanni–The COO of a direct mail company that raised money for conservative candidates, he pled guilty to possession of child pornography, with more than 3,000 images and 267 videos being used as evidence against him, in October of 2014. He was sentenced to 46 months for his crimes.

  • Tim Wildmon–Leader of the American Family Association, an intense anti-LGBT group. One of the organization’s officials once complained that “welfare rewards black people who rut like rabbits” and proclaimed falsely that “homosexuality gave us the Brown Shirts” (a reference to fascism) and “the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” Besides denouncing homosexuality, Wildmon described “Islam as a religion of war, violence, intolerance, and physical persecution.”

  • Tim LaHaye–one of CNP’s five founding members, this co-author of the novels in the apocalyptic Christianity’s Left Behind series, described homosexuals as being vile and said that he thought the Illuminati were conspiring to establish a New World Order. He also attacked Catholicism.

  • Richard DeVos- The co-founder of Amway whose net worth was estimated at $5 billion in 2012.

  • Foster Friess- Stock picker who was recognized in 2011 for contributions exceeding $1 million to right-wing funders the Koch brothers. Friess is known for throwing himself a birthday party that cost him nearly $8 million, and for saying on television that women used to avoid pregnancy by putting a Bayer aspirin between their knees.

In this directory, in addition to names, affiliations with various institutions and a wide range of issues that are of interest to each member of the CNP are included. Fourteen conservative media outlets, major donors to conservative causes, officials from conservative universities and colleges, business leaders, many from the private sector and industry, and the William F. Buckley Council, a list of young conservative members are all inside. The William F. Buckley Council members include Daniel Suhr, chief of staff to Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch; Nicholas L. Wenker, law clerk for Senate Judiciary Committee; Garrett Gibson, Texas Supreme Court clerk; William J. Rivers, press assistant to Republican Senator of Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey, and Josh Duggar- who was caught up in a scandal in 2015 when he was accused of molesting five girls, four which were his sisters; his membership in the hookup dating site, Ashley Madison, was also revealed.

The SPLC noted last May, when it first published the 2014 directory, that the CNP “provides an important venue in which relatively mainstream conservatives meet and very possibly are influenced by real extremists, people who regularly defame LGBT people with utter falsehoods, describe Latino immigrants as a dangerous group of rapists and disease-carriers, engage in the kind of wild-eyed conspiracy theorizing for which the John Birch Society is famous, and even suggests that certain people should be stoned to death in line with Old Testament law.”

CNP member and White House staff member, Steve Bannnon’s Breitbart News has been credited by the likes of well-known white supremacist, Richard Spencer, for being the alt-right platform. Under his leadership, it has manufactured headlines such as There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews, Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy, Lesbian Bridezillas Bully Bridal Shop Owner Over Religious Beliefs, and so many more, just as equally outlandish. Last fall, The National Review, reported that Donald Trump was by far the favorite candidate of the CNP, when there were still five other candidates running.

While the names of many members and officers of this secret group have been leaked since its establishment in 1981, some of its officers are reported on the organization’s tax forms. The last time a list such as the one the SLPC released in August of the 2014 directory, was in 1988.

In the 191-page 2014 CNP Membership Directory, 413 members, 118 deceased, and 14 past presidents were listed.  In its vision statement, reproduced at the front of the directory, the CNP describes itself as “a united conservative movement to assure, by 2020, policy leadership and governance that restores religious and economic freedom, a strong national defense, and Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution.”

The Reconstructionist theologian described in this article, John Rousas Rushdoony, is listed in the In Memoriam section. He pushed for a society that was ruled by Old Testament law, which called for the stoning of adulteresses, idolaters, and incorrigible children.

Members and executive officers of the CNP are business titans, Christian college presidents, owners and editors of right-wing media outlets, GOP mega-donors, government staffers, leading members of conservative think tanks and lobby groups, such as the Hermitage, the National Rifle Association, Citizens United, the Federalist Society, politicians, political appointees and evangelical ministers.

According to the latest available tax forms for the CNP, it has a budget of between $1.5 and $ million. In 1992, eleven years after it was founded as a tax-exempt organization, the IRS revoked this status on the grounds that the CNP was not being run for the benefit of the public. Eventually, the CNP was able to restore their status by promising that it would produce a quarterly journal meant to educate the public. It would be years before they would actually fulfill this obligation when it launched a website that distributes Policy Counsel and Heard Around the Hill.

As for this group’s secrecy, members are told not to discuss the group, reveal the topics discussed in the closed-door meetings, or even say whether or not they are members of the organization. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that the membership list is strictly confidential, guests may attend only with the unanimous approval of the executive committee, and according to The New York Times, another rule is that “the media should not know when or where [they] meet or who takes part in [its] programs, before or after a meeting.”

The CNP has a legal right to hold its meetings in private and to try to keep its membership secret. Surprisingly, it does publish many of the speeches its members hear, including most of the talks given by all but Trump’s presidential campaign speeches in 2016. Speakers in recent years have included President George W. Bush, Vice-President, Dick Cheney; and Clarence Thomas, one of the most conservative of the Supreme Court justices. Speakers at the Council for National Policy’s candidate forum last October included Trump, Ben Cason, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum.

In order to allow “open, uninhibited remarks” from its speakers, CNP members must adhere to strict rules regarding their thrice-yearly meetings. A memorandum from former executive director and 2014 Executive Committee member Morton C. Blackwell lists the rules. They include the following:

  • Special guests may attend only with advance unanimous approval of the Executive Committee.

  • The solicitation of funds on a one-to-one basis is prohibited at meetings.

  • Council meetings are closed to the media and the general public. The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before or after a meeting.

  • Speakers’ remarks at Council meetings are off the record and not for circulation later, except with special permission.

  • Members and guests are requested to keep in their personal possession their registration packets and other materials distributed at the meeting.

  • Our membership list is strictly confidential and should not be shared outside the Council.

  • Fundraising from the list is also prohibited.

  • Members are asked to avoid organizing and attending formal meetings of other groups or organizations in the same city before, during or immediately after a Council meeting.







Note: In case any URLs for these listed files fails, or its content becomes unavailable for any reason, contact us.

Valerie Howland


Imposition of Betsy DeVos
by Christian Right Republicans

One of the most disturbing things about the Trump administration is its antipathy toward public schools.

Perhaps you remember the president’s mini-rant in his inaugural speech about an “education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

Well, Trump’s choice for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is responsible for Michigan’s charter school boom, which currently costs the state about $1.1 billion a year. A 2014 investigation by The Detroit Free Press found myriad examples of “wasteful spending and double-dipping.” Thanks in large part to DeVos’s lobbying in the Legislature, there’s virtually no oversight. So much for the young and beautiful students.

Take that for a rant.

DeVos is stupendously rich, and a longtime crusader for charters, vouchers and using federal funds for religious education. She was once the Michigan Republican state chairwoman, a fact completely unconnected to the $200 million or so her family has donated to the party. She’s used all that clout to make Michigan a model of how not to improve public education.

“I’m amazed at how many people on the street are saying, ‘Please, don’t let her be in charge of education,’ ” said Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee that’s considering DeVos’s nomination, which is adorably called Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). It’s not particularly astonishing that a Democratic senator would hear complaints about a Republican president’s nominees. But it is sort of remarkable how much ire, wrath and terror this particular one is causing. You’d expect everybody would be focused on the proposed budget director who wants to cut Social Security and failed to pay taxes on his babysitter’s salary.

Betsy DeVos at her confirmation hearing. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

The committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday, January 31, on the nomination. So far there’s not much sign of Republican defections, even though DeVos' appearance before it was a disaster. The chairman, Lamar Alexander, desperately tried to throw himself in front of the train wreck. But it was hopeless, even before DeVos said that guns in school might be necessary “to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Poor Senator Alexander, who was once secretary of education himself, has an excellent reputation for bipartisanship. But there he was, limiting his members to five minutes worth of questions each and refusing to allow a second round.

In the short time allotted, the committee did manage to learn that DeVos doesn’t understand federal laws on educating disabled students and that in all her years working on school reform in Detroit, she has never asked any public school principals whether they had enough resources.

We have two problems here. One is that DeVos is obviously unqualified. While it was nice to learn that she “mentors students,” that’s not really a great preparation for running a 4,400-employee organization with a $68 billion budget. She has never actually worked in a school system or managed a large institution — she and her husband became billionaires through the old-fashioned strategy of having stupendously rich parents.

DeVos’ big selling point for Republicans is her manic devotion to charter schools. There are, of course, some great charters around the country. But there are also some terrible ones, and she is deeply unenthusiastic about any system that would weed out the losers.

This would be the second problem.

DeVos seems to be a particularly big fan of for-profit schools. There’s nothing more disturbing about the school-choice movement than its infatuation with private enterprise. Running schools like a business (and, of course, driving away the teachers unions) is supposed to create more efficiency. But mainly, it creates more income for management. About 80 percent of the charters in the Michigan system are for-profit, and The Free Press investigation found that the charters were generally spending more on administration and less on the classroom than traditional districts.

The DeVos family has invested in a company called K12, which runs online charters and has a history of wooing urban parents by suggesting that their kids will be safer going to school in the living room. The Walton Family Foundation, a huge supporter of school choice in general, funded a recent study which determined that if the virtual charters were grouped together as a single school district, “it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst performing.”

At the hearing, Senator Tim Kaine (wow, seems like a long time since we were thinking about Tim Kaine) asked whether DeVos would insist upon “equal accountability” for all schools that receive federal funding “whether public, public charter or private.”

“I support accountability,” said the nominee. This went on for some time, but she just would not go for that “equal.”

Finally, Kaine volunteered that he thought all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be equally accountable, and he asked if DeVos agreed.

“Well, no,” she replied.

[Source: Gail Collins, The Trump War on Public Schools in The New York Times]