Major GOP donors also work together helping Michigan college

By Laurie Bennett

July 13, 2011 at 12:44pm

Western Michigan, the state’s GOP stronghold, has long boasted some big-money contributors to conservative causes.

This is the home base of the DeVos family, who reaped fortunes from Amway Corp. and spent fortunes on Republican campaigns.

Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, grew up here. His mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, whose fortunes derive from her late husband’s auto parts company, was a major donor to the effort to ban same-sex marriages in California.

So it should come as no surprise that college backers in the region would also lean to the right.

But in our ongoing examination of political power nodes, the Grand Valley University Foundation stands out. The foundation is a nonprofit organization supporting Grand Valley State University, a public college.

Richard M. DeVos, co-founder of Amway, is chairman. His son Daniel is also on the board, as is Daniel’s wife, Pamella. (Not on the board are his son Dick, who ran for goernor in 2006, and his daughter-in-law Betsy, former state Republican chair and sister of Erik Prince.)

The DeVoses and other members of the foundation board have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to federal-level PACs and campaigns.

Board member Peter F. Secchia, former U.S. ambassador to Italy, was a bundler for John McCain in 2008, as was fellow board member Samuel M. Cummings.

Another member, J.C. Huizenga, was a bundler for Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign. His cousin, Blockbuster founder H. Wayne Huizenga, headed Romney’s Florida finance team.

IRS filings show that the foundation raised almost $700,000 last year for scholarships at the college. Expect board members to help raise at least that much for the 2012 presidential and congressional races.

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