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Every Voice: Only Way to Ensure DeVos’ Political Donations Don’t Cloud Judgment of Senators: Recuse Themselves

January 18, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

Washington, D.C. — As Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee members raise concerns about education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos’ political donations at her nomination hearing, money-in-politics reform group Every Voice said the only way for senators to ensure DeVos is not “ushered in under clouded judgement” is for senators who have received DeVos donations to recuse themselves. 

“It may very well be true that Betsy DeVos is in the position she is today because of her and her family’s history as prolific political donors,” said Laura Friedenbach, press secretary for Every Voice. “What’s more is that especially as Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander remains unwilling to allow for more questioning, the public has no way of knowing if DeVos’ nomination is getting the scrutiny it deserves from every member of the Senate since DeVos and her family have directly helped elect many of the senators considering her nomination. The only way to ensure DeVos’ nomination is not ushered in under clouded judgement is for senators who have benefited from DeVos donations to take the advice of many of their constituents and recuse themselves.” 

Sen. Sanders asked DeVos if her family had given $200 million to the Republican Party — which she did not dispute — and asked if she believed she would have been nominated if her family had not given $200 million. 

This month, Every Voice and End Citizens United launched a campaign calling on the five senators on the HELP Committee who have received over $250,000 from the DeVos family to recuse themselves from voting on her nomination. As a result: 

  • Nearly 60,000 petitions were delivered to senators’ offices in DC.  
  • Local and national reporters to put pressure on senators to respond: Sen. Bill Cassidy told the Times Picayune that he does not plan to recuse himself and Sen. Richard Burr declined to answer the Winston-Salem Journal when asked if he plans to recuse. More reporting can be found in the Washington Post,  PoliticoEducation WeekMLiveThe HillReal Clear Politics, and Breitbart
  • Letters to the editor were published across the country in South CarolinaNorth CarolinaAlaskaIndianaLouisianaMaineMinnesota, and Michigan by Every Voice and End Citizens United members. Here’s a letter in the New York Times by Every Voice’s Adam Smith
  • Members began a call-in campaign to their senators’ offices last week which will continue this week with both emails and calls to directly demand the senators recuse themselves.
  • End Citizens United launched a paid advertising campaign that in its first wave of geo-targeted digital ads generated nearly 1.5 million impressions in the senators’ home states and Washington, DC.  
  • A diverse coalition of 27 progressive groups joined the call for recusal with a letter organized by the Center for American Progress and sent to all 21 senators who took campaign contributions from DeVos.
  • Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, the former top ethics watchdogs for Presidents Bush and Obama, questioned whether DeVos is going to get special treatment by the committee because of her campaign contributions.
  • End Citizens United and Every Voice launched the website RecuseYourself.org to serve as a hub for members to take actions such as signing a petition, writing a letter to the editor, or posting on social media. 

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Every Voice is a national nonpartisan organization fighting for a democracy that works for everyone.