Confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominations continue on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos faced intense questioning by Democratic senators over her role in her family’s foundations, which have poured millions of dollars into funding private Christian schools and anti-LGBT organizations, including the groups Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as an “anti-LGBT hate group.” This is New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: “I understand that there is a foundation, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which I take it is a foundation named for your parents. Is that correct?”
Betsy DeVos: “It’s my mother’s foundation, yes.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan: “It’s your mother’s foundation. And you sit on the board.”
Betsy DeVos: “I do not.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan: “You do not?”
Betsy DeVos: “No.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan: “OK. So when it made its over $5 million donation to Focus on the Family, you didn’t know anything about it.”
Betsy DeVos: “My mother makes the decisions for her foundation.”
That’s Betsy DeVos answering Senator Hassan’s questioning. Later in the confirmation hearing, Senator Hassan again questioned DeVos about her role in the family foundation.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: “I just wanted to clarify the issue about whether you were on the board of your mother’s foundation. I have 990s up through 2013 where you’re listed as the vice president and a board member. So, was that just a mistake on your part?”
Betsy DeVos: “That was a clerical error. I can assure you I have never made decisions on my mother’s behalf on her foundation board.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan: “So the listing that you were the vice president of the board is incorrect.”
Betsy DeVos: “That is incorrect.”
DeVos was listed as the foundation’s vice president in federal tax filings for several years. DeVos is a longtime backer of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. She and her husband have also invested in a student debt collection agency that does business with the Education Department. During Tuesday’s hearing, Washington Senator Patty Murray questioned DeVos about whether she would privatize education.
Sen. Patty Murray: “Can you commit to us tonight that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public education?”
Betsy DeVos: “Senator, thanks for that question. Um, I—I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students. And we acknowledge today that not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them. And I’m hopeful that we can work together to find common ground in ways that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.”
Sen. Patty Murray: “I take that as not being willing to commit to not privatizing public schools or cutting money from education.”