Brown Demands Information from DeVos on Failure to Pay Ohio $5.3 Million She Owes for Breaking Ohio Election Laws

The Postponement of DeVos’ Confirmation Hearing Gives the Nominee More Time to Answer the Senator’s Questions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) again called on President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos to provide information on the blatant campaign finance violations of her All Children Matter Political Action Committee (PAC), and on the PAC’s subsequent refusal to make good on $5.3 million in unpaid fines and penalties she owes the State of Ohio for breaking the law. DeVos has failed to respond to Brown’s earlier inquiry about her PAC’s illegal activities, indicating through a spokesperson that she has no plans to pay Ohio taxpayers prior to her upcoming confirmation hearing. DeVos hearing was recently delayed until January 17, giving her more time to respond to questions regarding her nomination and for the Office of Government Ethics to properly complete its vetting of her.

“Betsy DeVos’ disregard for the law and refusal to pay the $5.3 million she owes to Ohio taxpayers raise serious questions about whether she’s fit to lead the Department of Education,” said Brown. “Billionaires are not above the law and if Betsy DeVos believes she can disregard the law today, how can we hold her accountable to American students as Secretary of Education?”

DeVos’ All Children Matter PAC owes Ohio money for campaign finance violations dating back to 2008. All Children Matter broke Ohio election law by illegally funneling $870,000 in contributions from its nationwide PAC to its Ohio affiliate – and accordingly, the state of Ohio levied a record fine of more than $5 million against DeVos’ group. Rather than taking responsibility for its debts, DeVos’ group chose to simply cease operations and disband and, nearly a decade later, it still has not paid the fine for its illegal activities. 

In the latest letter to DeVos, Brown and his Senate colleagues stated that DeVos’ PAC’s flagrant violations of campaign finance law and its total indifference to paying millions in court approved fines and penalties – will factor significantly in the Senate’s consideration of her nomination for Secretary of Education. As the senators noted, DeVos’ violations are especially relevant given that her PAC was acting to influence education policy. To ensure that the American people have confidence DeVos will follow the law if confirmed as Education Secretary, the senators continue to request significantly more information from DeVos than she has been willing to provide on her role in operating the All Children Matter PAC, its decision to violate campaign finance laws, and its failure to take responsibility for the illegal activity.

The full text of the letter can be found below and here

Betsy DeVos

Secretary-Designate

U.S. Department of Education

Dear Secretary-Designate DeVos:

We are writing again in reference to the failure of the All Children Matter Political Action Committee (PAC) to pay Ohio $5.3 million in fines and late fees for violating the state’s campaign finance laws. 

We have not received a response from our previous letter, dated December 12, 2016. However, media reports stated that your spokesman, Ed Patru, told reporters that you were not named as a party to the suit and that you have no intention of ensuring the fine is paid prior to your confirmation hearing.

While you may choose to respond to our request by stating that All Children Matter, Inc. is solely liable for paying the fine, the actions of its board members to allow the PAC to disregard the state of Ohio’s advisory opinion, to flagrantly violate the law, and then to refuse to pay a court approved fine is a significant issue in weighing your nomination to be Secretary of Education. These actions demonstrate a blatant disregard for the rule of law and a willingness to use legal loopholes to avoid any individual accountability.

This lack of accountability is especially notable because these campaign finance activities, and subsequent legal violations, were all in the pursuit of influencing education policy. If confirmed as Secretary of Education, the American people need to have confidence that you will follow the law when making and implementing education policy as set by Congress, not flout the law in pursuit of your personal ideological beliefs.

In order for the Senate to properly consider your nomination, we need significantly more information about your role in operating the All Children Matter PAC and the circumstances surrounding the decision to ignore Ohio’s advisory opinion and transfer $870,000 to the PAC’s Ohio affiliate in violation of campaign finance laws. 

Prior to your confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, please provide the following information:

  1. Please provide a detailed explanation of the decision to contribute more than the legally allowed amount from All Children Matter, Inc. to its Ohio affiliate that led to the fine imposed by the Ohio Elections Commission and upheld by a state court. Include the names of all individuals involved in the decision making process, the role of each individual in the organization, and copies of records related to your involvement throughout the process (including the provision of copies of any and all written or electronic correspondence, telephone messages, voice mail messages, e-mails, facsimiles, daily agendas and calendars, information about meetings and/or discussions, whether in-person or over the telephone, agendas, minutes and a list of participants for those meetings and/or discussions, and transcripts and notes of any such meetings and/or discussions).

  2. Please provide a detailed explanation of the decision to disregard the Ohio Elections Commission’s advisory opinion stating that aggregate contributions of greater than $10,000 in a year to the Ohio affiliate would violate the law. Include the names of all individuals involved in the decision making process, the role of each individual in the organization, and copies of records related to your involvement throughout the process (including the provision of copies of any and all written or electronic correspondence, telephone messages, voice mail messages, e-mails, facsimiles, daily agendas and calendars, information about meetings and/or discussions, whether in-person or over the telephone, agendas, minutes and a list of participants for those meetings and/or discussions, and transcripts and notes of any such meetings and/or discussions).

  3. Please provide a detailed explanation of the decision to not pay the fine imposed on All Children Matter, Inc. and its Ohio affiliate by the Ohio Elections Commission and later upheld by a state court. Include the names of all individuals involved in the decision making process, the role of each individual in the organization, and copies of records related to your involvement throughout the process (including the provision of copies of any and all written or electronic correspondence, telephone messages, voice mail messages, e-mails, facsimiles, daily agendas and calendars, information about meetings and/or discussions, whether in-person or over the telephone, agendas, minutes and a list of participants for those meetings and/or discussions, and transcripts and notes of any such meetings and/or discussions).

  4. Describe the organizational structure of All Children Matter, Inc. in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Include the number of employees, the leadership of the organization with decision making authority, and your duties and authority as a board member and contributor.

  5. Some prior tax filings for All Children Matter, Inc. list the organization’s address as 201 Monroe Avenue NW, Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503. List the individuals who worked at that location in 2006, 2007, and 2008. 

  6. Other prior tax filings list the organization’s address as P.O. Box 203225, Grand Rapids, MI, 49523. Please list all individuals authorized to access this P.O. Box in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

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