Our Recusal Letter: Why 5 Senators Shouldn’t Be Able To Vote on DeVos

Resist DeVos Email

We’ve spent the last few weeks digging into Betsy DeVos’s political contributions and found that 21 senators, including 5 on the Senate HELP Committee, took over $200k from DeVos. We at Higher Ed, Not Debt believe that this constitutes a significant conflict of interest for the senators charged with voting on the nominee’s confirmation. That’s why we wrote this letter to demand that the 5 U.S. senators on the HELP committee that received political contributions from Betsy DeVos recuse themselves from voting on her confirmation.

Some of our partners and allies felt just as strongly, so we’ve included links to their letters of opposition, too. You can find them all below our letter.

 PDF of Generation Progress Recusal Letter Here

January 12, 2017

Sen. Roy Blunt                 Sen. David Perdue
Sen. Richard Burr           Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Bill Cassidy              Sen. Mike Rounds
Sen. Tom Cotton             Sen. Marco Rubio
Sen. Steve Daines           Sen. Tim Scott
Sen. Cory Gardner          Sen. Dan Sullivan
Sen. Chuck Grassley       Sen. John Thune
Sen. Ron Johnson           Sen. Thom Tillis
Sen. John McCain           Sen. Pat Toomey
Sen. Mitch McConnell    Sen. Todd Young
Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Dear Senators,

We are calling on you, recipients of campaign contributions from Betsy DeVos, to recuse yourself from voting on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Ms. DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. As a body entrusted with vetting this nominee and examining her views on public policy, the Senate must uphold the strongest ethical standards throughout the nomination process. As past recipients of contributions from DeVos, you must recuse yourself from her nomination, or risk imperiling the legitimacy of DeVos’s confirmation.

Ms. DeVos once wrote, “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”

Betsy DeVos and her family have made nearly $1 million in campaign contributions to 21 U.S. Senators who will have the opportunity to consider her nomination. In addition to these individual campaign contributions, DeVos and her family contributed $2.25 million during the fall campaign to the Senate Leadership Fund, and have also given $900,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That comes out to a $4 million bid to influence you.

Of special concern is the fact that, in just the last two election cycles, DeVos and her family have given a quarter-million dollars in contributions to five members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), who are tasked with vetting her nomination and will hold her confirmation hearing Wednesday. Sen. Bill Cassidy received $70,000, Sen. Tim Scott and Sen. Todd Young have each received close to $50,000, and Sens. Richard Burr and Lisa Murkowski each received about $43,000.

The plentiful contributions to many senators, combined with Ms. DeVos’ past statements, make it appear that DeVos expects your vote in exchange for her past financial support. This kind of pay-to-play, whether explicit or implied, cannot stand in the U.S. Senate. No one among the 21 senators to whom Ms. DeVos has contributed can make an unbiased decision about whether she is well-suited to protect the interests of America’s 56 million schoolchildren.

DeVos’s confirmation process must include fair and thorough evaluation of her merits by participating senators. As a past recipient of campaign contributions from Ms. DeVos, this cannot be achieved unless you recuse yourself from this process. We urge you to do so.

Donations from Betsy DeVos and family to Senators in the 115th Congress

Blunt, Roy              $33,100

Burr, Richard        $43,200    *HELP Committee Member

Cassidy, Bill           $70,200    *HELP Committee Member

Cotton, Tom          $26,000

Daines, Steve        $46,800

Gardner, Cory       $49,800

Grassley, Chuck    $21,600

Johnson, Ron        $48,600

McCain, John       $50,600

McConnell, Mitch $36,400

Murkowski, Lisa    $43,200     *HELP Committee Member

Perdue, David        $23,400

Portman, Rob        $51,000

Rounds, Mike        $46,800

Rubio, Marco        $98,300

Scott, Tim              $49,200      *HELP Committee Member

Sullivan, Dan        $23,400

Thune, John         $17,500

Tillis, Thom           $70,200

Toomey, Pat          $60,050

Young, Todd          $48,600      *HELP Committee Member

Total $957,950

HELP Total $254,400


Generation Progress
Higher Ed, Not Debt
Student Debt Crisis
One Wisconsin Now
Campaign for America’s Future
CT Citizen Action Group
Education Opportunity Network
Public Higher Education Network
Democracy Matters
Public Citizen
The Rootstrikers Project, Demand Progress
Consumer Action
Franciscan Action Network
Center for Biological Diversity
Every Voice
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Family Equality Council
End Citizens United
Food & Water Watch
US Student Association
National Center for Transgender Equality
Feminist Majority Foundation
Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues
National Alliance of Black School Educators
SEIU’s Faculty Forward
Americans for Democratic Action
Money Out Voters In


Other Organizations With Concerns About Nominee Betsy DeVos

(Updated Jan. 30th, 2017)

American Civil Liberties Union

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees

American Federation of Teachers

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Anti-Defamation League

Center for Inquiry

Civil Rights Roundtable

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc

Democrats for Education Reform

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities 

Educators 4 Excellence

End Citizens United Action Network and Every Voice

Every Voice

Generation Progress

National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition for Public Education

National Council of Jewish Women

National Education Association

National Urban League

New Teacher Center

Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren

People for The American Way

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

Southern Poverty Law Center

Student Debt Crisis

Teach For America & STAND for Children

Teach Plus and NAESP

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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