The politically powerful DeVos family of west Michigan made their presence unmistakable in 2018 by spending $11.3 million on state and congressional campaigns, according to the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN).
While the 2018 elections marked the most expensive campaign season in Michigan history, millionaires and billionaires – Democrats and Republicans — carried an outsize influence on races for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, the state Legislature and Michigan congressional races.
Forty Michigan families and individuals – representing barely more than 1/1000th of Michigan’s population – demonstrated their financial prowess ahead of the 2018 election by spending a combined $56.5 million on political contributions.
The DeVos clan held the top spot in Michigan by a wide margin. The second most active spenders from Michigan were Ron Weiser, the 2017-18 Michigan Republican Party chairman, and his wife, Eileen Weiser, who dished out $2.1 million.
The vast majority of the DeVos family’s spending benefited groups that support only Republican candidates. The MCFN, a watchdog group, found that about $4.5 million of the family’s total went to groups active in Michigan campaigns. About $4.6 million of the total went to groups active at the federal level to influence races for the U.S. House and Senate.
In addition to direct contributions to candidates, some of the DeVos money went to Republican Party organizations, some was given to two PACs controlled by the family.
To be clear, none of these numbers reflect on U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has vowed to steer clear of partisan political operations. The DeVos family is far-reaching but the patriarch was multi-billionaire Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway, who died last year. His son, Dick DeVos, Betsy’s husband (pictured above), served as CEO of the company for about a decade. In 2006, he ran a failed campaign to unseat Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
DeVos family members made more total contributions ahead of the 2016 election, about $15 million, than they did in the 2017-18 election cycle, according to MCFN’s tracking. However, much of that $15-million went to GOP groups involved in the 2016 presidential race.
During her 2017 Senate confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos said she will refrain from engaging in campaign contributions while serving in President Trump’s Cabinet. While Dick DeVos has cut back his giving on the federal level, he has continued to make contributions at the state level, according to disclosures.
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