Anti-public school billionaire Betsy Devos bankrolls Mike Rogers’ Senate campaign

(​​Photo illustration using image from Alex Wong via Getty Images)

By Kyle Kaminski

October 31, 2023

Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos and her family have reportedly maxed out their political contributions on Michigan Republican Senate candidate Mike Rogers.

MICHIGAN—Former Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has spent much of her career supporting measures to defund Michigan’s public schools, has reportedly donated the maximum allowable political contributions to Republican Senate candidate Mike Rogers.

Recent financial disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show that DeVos gave Rogers’ campaign $3,300 for both the Senate primary and the general election, according to reports from Business Insider. Several other members of the DeVos family—including Betsy’s husband Dick—also maxed out their donations to Rogers’ campaign, for a total of $46,200.

Those donations represent about 7% of Rogers’ overall campaign contributions this quarter.

Before DeVos resigned from the Trump administration in 2021, she spent decades serving as a key donor or leader in a long list of organizations with missions centered on instilling religion in education, and privatizing education under the misleading banner of “school choice.”

DeVos has also repeatedly clashed with Democratic lawmakers over just about every policy related to funding public education—including pushing for a voucher-like program in Michigan last year that threatened to divert $500 million in tax revenues for public schools. She also garnered criticism when she argued last year that the US Department of Education that she once led “should not exist” during a speech at an ultra-conservative Moms for Liberty summit.

Rogers also took some heat of his own last month after he announced his Senate campaign, which included a statement that public schools “care more about social engineering” than basic education. He said schools should focus on the “three Rs” of “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic.”

Some viewed his rhetoric as a nod to voters with the so-called “parental rights” movement, which has opposed school books and curricula dealing with racism and LGBTQ issues. The DeVos family, however, was apparently inspired to make donations after Rogers’ remarks.

Birds of a Feather

Abortion is another issue where Rogers and DeVos appear to be in agreement. DeVos once likened the ability for women to access abortion to the ability for Americans to own slaves.

Rogers, meanwhile, has long made clear that he opposes reproductive freedom in Michigan—including voicing support for a near-total abortion ban in response to an MLive candidate survey in 2010, where he clearly stated “abortions should be legal only to prevent the death of the mother.”

After Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion care was overturned last year, Rogers reportedly told the Daily Mining Gazette that he supported the decision—and vowed to back additional restrictions to care, such as a “full ban on federal funding for abortion.”

And had he lived in Michigan instead of Florida last year, Rogers told reporters that he would’ve voted against Proposal 3 to cement the right to reproductive freedom—including abortion care—into the state Constitution, which passed with about 56% of the vote last year.

While Rogers has made some efforts to walk back his long-standing anti-abortion opinions this year, he also told voters at a town hall event in New Hampshire this summer that he has “been a pro-life candidate my entire career.” And when asked specifically about whether he would support a national abortion ban if elected to Congress, he replied: “I’d have to look at it.”

His congressional record is also littered with votes for anti-abortion bills.

Road to 2024

Rogers’ campaign announcement in September shook up a US Senate race that had been otherwise dominated by Democratic candidates—including US Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who announced her campaign for the seat in February and is considered the frontrunner.

In recent weeks, Rogers has also ramped up efforts to pick up support among Michigan’s far-right Republicans—including by defending the conduct of former President Donald Trump, who is facing a raft of felony charges in four jurisdictions for a variety of alleged crimes.

An Army veteran and former FBI agent, Rogers was elected to Congress in 2000 and served seven terms in the House, the last two as chair of the committee that oversees US intelligence agencies. He left office in 2015 and served briefly on Trump’s transition team as an adviser.

Rogers, 60, is among five Republicans to enter the race thus far, joining candidates including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder.

Former US Rep. Peter Meijer is also reportedly considering launching a campaign for the seat.

Defending the Michigan seat may prove crucial for Democrats, who hold a slim, 51-49 majority in the Senate and face tough headwinds as they defend seats in Republican-leaning states. 

A poll coordinated last year by Lake Effect and Progress Michigan showed that only 8% of Michiganders have a favorable opinion of DeVos, while 50% have an unfavorable opinion. About 44% of those polled said support from DeVos would make them less likely to support a candidate, compared to just 4% who were more likely to support DeVos-backed candidates.

The primary election is Aug. 6, 2024 and the general election will be held on Nov. 5, 2024. 

READ MORE: Rogers tries to distance Senate campaign from his anti-abortion record

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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