The moneyed, conservative universe of Betsy DeVos

By Laurie Bennett

November 19, 2016 at 8:49am

Betsy DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and a vocal advocate of charter schools, reportedly is under consideration for education secretary.

No matter who her competitors* are, DeVos has the most interesting Muckety map.

Her husband, Dick DeVos, ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor of Michigan in 2006. His father, Richard DeVos, is a co-founder of Amway. The DeVos family is ranked 88th on the Forbes billionaire list, with an estimated worth of $5.1 billion.

Betsy DeVos is the daughter of the late Edgar Prince, founder of the Prince Corporation, which was acquired by Johnson Controls in 1996 for $1.35 billion. His widow, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, was in the news recently after longtime friend and family investor Robert Haveman pleaded guilty to stealing $16 million from her. Haveman was a trustee of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which funds such conservative groups as the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.

The most infamous family member is DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater. The private security firm, renamed Xe Services and later known as Academi, made the news in 2007, when its employees killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Four of the employees were sentenced to prison terms.

Prince no longer heads the company formerly known as Blackwater. He moved to Abu Dabai, where he became an adviser to the crown prince. He also reportedly was involved in the training of forces to combat Somali pirates.

Donald Trump has another connection to Prince. One of his security advisers during the campaign was Joseph Schmitz, a former Pentagon inspector general who later worked as COO and general counsel of the Prince Group.

* Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, made a surprise trip Friday to Success Academy, a charter school in Harlem. The visit followed the announcement by the school’s founder, Eva Moskowitz, that she wasn’t interested in the cabinet post. Other possible candidates include Indiana Rep. Luke Messer; William Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools.

Update: Trump announced Betsy DeVos on Nov. 23 as his nominee for education secretary.

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