Dick DeVos

Going There: Utah Voucher Group Takes Anti-Gay Tack

For wealthy backers of publicly-funded private school vouchers, Utah has been a crucial battleground. Last year, Amway heir (and 2006 candidate for governor of Michigan) Dick DeVos and others poured a hundreds of thousands of dollars of “seed money” into a Utah PAC, Parents for Choice in Education, which set about electing state legislators who would support a voucher plan. While the group has used heavy-handed tactics before – invoking the specter of “illegal aliens” during last year’s campaign – it’s hit a new low with a recent push poll it conducted in an apparent attempt to stir up anti-gay sentiment against opponents of vouchers:

Bill Lee, a Sandy resident, earlier this week received a call he described as "pretty nasty stuff." He took notes about a portion of the survey he said asks how someone's vote would be affected knowing the same group that opposes vouchers, the "liberal national teachers' union," supports same-sex unions along with higher taxes. Parents for Choice declined to release the survey questions. …

"Many Utahns would be shocked to know the policies and positions promoted by the National Education Association, the parent organization of the UEA," [Elisa Clements, Parents for Choice’s executive director] said, referencing the Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, which opposes vouchers.

The UEA's communications director described the tactic as "dirty politics." "There are absolutely no resolutions dealing with those issues that have been handled by the National Education Association," Mark Mickelsen said.

Voucher advocates see Utah’s new plan – which will face a referendum this fall – as a potential model for the rest of the nation.

AFA Still Thinking up New Reasons to Boycott Ford

Hoping to be the biggest threat to American automobile manufacturers since the arrival of large numbers of low-priced Japanese cars in the 1980s, the American Family Association, a virulently anti-gay group, has marshaled a large portion of its resources over the last two years attempting to organize its constituents to boycott the Ford Motor Company over its marketing to gays and lesbians. While a planned boycott one year ago was cancelled, AFA almost immediately reconsidered – claiming the automaker had “reneged” on some kind of “agreements” – and began a boycott in earnest in March.

Adding to its list of grievances – such as Ford running a commercial during a CBS program that had a kiss between two women – AFA cites an e-mail sent by Ford’s “grassroots action program” that urged its employees to vote, and directed them to two sites with information about candidates and ballot initiatives. One of the sites, Ballot.org, describes ballot initiatives in various states and provides links to proponents’ and opponents’ web sites.  The AFA didn’t like Ballot.org’s descriptions or endorsements – especially the site’s opposition to anti-gay constitutional amendments.

According to AFA, this is just more evidence that Ford has “elected to throw their company resources behind the promotion of homosexual marriage.” AFA is urging more of its supporters to join its boycott and to contact local Ford dealers.

At the Values Voter Summit in September, AFA President Don Wildmon bragged that his efforts were having a considerable effect on the company’s bottom line. While this claim is dubious to say the least – AFA’s nine-year Disney boycott fizzled out – the Ford boycott did at least become an issue in Michigan’s race for governor, with pro-gay groups publicizing ties between AFA and Republican candidate Dick DeVos in order to undermine DeVos’s stated support of the auto industry.

Dick DeVos Supports Local Control, Except When He Doesn’t

Last week, gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos sent his campaign strategists scrambling when he told reporters that he believes creationism, in the guise of “intelligent design,” should be taught as science in Michigan’s public schools. Almost immediately the DeVos campaign starting walking back his comments with this statement:
"I've always believed that our children should be provided with more knowledge, not less. Lots of intelligent people can disagree about the origins of life. In the end, I believe in our system of local control. Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer evolution and intelligent design in their curriculums."
Who doesn’t love a little ‘local control’? The leadership of the Gull Lake Community Schools in southwestern Michigan sure likes it. In 2005, Gull Lake schools decided to prohibit the use of intelligent design textbooks in science class. Of course, the Religious Right was not happy with that and soon after the decision by Gull Lake school, the Thomas More Law Center threatened a law suit on behalf of two Michigan science teachers who want to teach intelligent design in opposition to the local school board’s decisions.. In addition to working to outlaw abortion, prohibit gay marriage and adoption, etc., the More Center, based in Anne Arbor, unsuccessfully defended the Dover, PA school board’s decision to require intelligent design in science class. According to the Detroit Free Press, Dick DeVos is one of the major funders of the Thomas More Law Center: Dick DeVos says he believes in local control, but his actions tell a different story. When it comes to the far right’s pet issues, Dick DeVos won’t let anything stand in the way of pushing ideology into Michigan’s public schools. Note: If you are interested in defending science in your community, check out this brand new resource from PFAW Foundation.

Wealthy Vouchers Advocates Spend Big Money in Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that “most of the cash” injected into Utah’s political system by Parents for Choice in Education “comes from big-business donors outside the state - including the Wal-Mart heirs and founders of multilevel marketing giant Amway.” Once a low-budget operation, the PAC received $255,000 in “seed money” from Amway heirs Dick and Betsy DeVos and their Michigan-based group, All Children Matter, and more high-profile donors followed.

All Children Matter Director Greg Brock says along with Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin, Utah is a key state for the school-choice movement - in part because a political action committee already existed here. Also, campaign money spreads further in small states.

"Our goal is to try to change the political climate in states where education reform is pretty active or being debated in a high-profile way," Brock said. [...]

The strategy is clear. So far, tax-credit advocates have targeted moderate, public-education friendly legislators, many of them schoolteachers. And the tactic already has worked: Lehi Rep. David Cox, a fifth-grade teacher, lost his bid for re-election at the Utah County Republican convention in April. His opponent, Ken Sumsion, got $3,545 from Parents for Choice and Utah Working Moms and Dads.

"That money made the biggest difference," Cox said. "They were researching my record a year ago to find any bills they could twist to make me look bad. I couldn't compete with the level of sophistication and expertise that was brought in."

(Dick DeVos is running for governor of Michigan.)

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Dick DeVos Posts Archive

, Monday 08/20/2007, 4:23pm
For wealthy backers of publicly-funded private school vouchers, Utah has been a crucial battleground. Last year, Amway heir (and 2006 candidate for governor of Michigan) Dick DeVos and others poured a hundreds of thousands of dollars of “seed money” into a Utah PAC, Parents for Choice in Education, which set about electing state legislators who would support a voucher plan. While the group has used heavy-handed tactics before – invoking the specter of “illegal aliens” during last year’s campaign – it’s hit a new low with a recent... MORE >
, Friday 12/01/2006, 2:55pm
Hoping to be the biggest threat to American automobile manufacturers since the arrival of large numbers of low-priced Japanese cars in the 1980s, the American Family Association, a virulently anti-gay group, has marshaled a large portion of its resources over the last two years attempting to organize its constituents to boycott the Ford Motor Company over its marketing to gays and lesbians. While a planned boycott one year ago was cancelled, AFA almost immediately reconsidered – claiming the automaker had “reneged” on some kind of “agreements”... MORE >
, Monday 09/25/2006, 3:46pm
Last week, gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos sent his campaign strategists scrambling when he told reporters that he believes creationism, in the guise of “intelligent design,” should be taught as science in Michigan’s public schools. Almost immediately the DeVos campaign starting walking back his comments with this statement: "I've always believed that our children should be provided with more knowledge, not less. Lots of intelligent people can disagree about the origins of life. In the end, I believe in our system of local control. Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer... MORE >
, Tuesday 06/27/2006, 1:39pm
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that “most of the cash” injected into Utah’s political system by Parents for Choice in Education “comes from big-business donors outside the state - including the Wal-Mart heirs and founders of multilevel marketing giant Amway.” Once a low-budget operation, the PAC received $255,000 in “seed money” from Amway heirs Dick and Betsy DeVos and their Michigan-based group, All Children Matter, and more high-profile donors followed. All Children Matter Director Greg Brock says along with Florida, Louisiana, Ohio... MORE >