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Dick DeVos: Top Ten Things to Know about his Real Agenda

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Dick DeVos, co-owner of Amway, will likely win the Republican Party primary for the governor’s race in Michigan. He has spent millions of his personal fortune on a glitzy television and radio ad campaign, using misleading claims and distortions to attack current Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm and to hide the facts about his own agenda. DeVos’ real record shows that he has absolutely nothing in common with Michigan’s working families and poor people. The truths he is trying to hide are that the practices he follows in business favor outsourcing job overseas, while his political connections link him to some of today’s most unscrupulous criminals in Washington, DC. Here are ten things you need to know about Rich "Dick" DeVos.

1. DeVos has financial and personal ties to Tom DeLay and the Republican culture of corruption. DeVos and his political action committee (PAC), Restoring the American Dream, exchanged thousands of dollars with DeLay and his PACs in 1999 and 2000. DeLay was indicted last September for illegally laundering corporate campaign dollars through numerous political campaign funds and PACs similar to that of DeVos. DeLay held his first Republican Majority Issues Committee fundraiser on DeVos’ private yacht in 1999, an event also attended by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. DeVos also donated $5,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund last year. (sources: Federal Election Commission, Washington Post)

2. DeVos paid over $4 million for a $300 million corporate tax break. A tax loophole inserted into the 1997 federal budget bill benefited Amway to the tune of nearly $300 million. This tax giveaway was passed after Amway and the DeVos family had given $4.1 million to the Republican Party between 1991 and 1997. (Common Cause)

3. DeVos secretly backs a dishonest campaign to repeal the estate tax. Since 1998, the DeVos family has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help finance a campaign to repeal the estate tax, an effort led clandestinely by some of the country’s wealthiest families. They misleadingly claim that this tax affects millions of people, including family farms and small businesses. The truth is that only 1/4 of 1 percent of all estates will be subject to any estate tax this year, and these are owned by the richest families. Like many members of such families, Dick DeVos has never really had to work for a living, but rather was born into a family fortune estimated at $3.4 billion. (Public Citizen).

4. DeVos believes in cutting jobs. As head of Amway, Dick DeVos laid off nearly 1,400 people in Michigan between 1998 and 2000. Three years later, DeVos' company announced plans to increase investments by more than $200 million in its manufacturing and distribution facilities overseas. DeVos has helped Michigan lose 180,000 manufacturing jobs since 1999. Meanwhile companies with huge investments overseas, like DeVos,' have seen their profits grow (Detroit Free Press, Grand Rapids Business Journal).

5. DeVos gets richer while Michigan workers suffer. DeVos supports "free trade" agreements like NAFTA. He has used his personal wealth to support publicity campaigns and lobbying efforts to convince the public and members of Congress that "free trade" agreements are good for workers. As of July 2005, NAFTA had cost Michigan over 63,000 jobs (Economic Policy Institute). DeVos’ efforts played a big role in making that happen.

6. DeVos thinks large corporations shouldn't have to pay their fair share of Michigan's tax burden. DeVos wants to eliminate Michigan's Single Business Tax to benefit large companies like his own and shift an additional tax burden of $800 per year onto working families.

7. DeVos dishonestly fought Michigan’s minimum wage increase. At a campaign event last October, DeVos parroted a slew of tired anti-minimum wage myths. "Most minimum wage jobs are part time," he proclaimed. He also said, "[If] you raise it, you end up losing jobs," and added that "a lot [minimum wage workers] are kids coming out of schools." DeVos' misleading comments show that he doesn't understand or care about the people who work at minimum wage jobs. In reality, most minimum-wage workers are people with families who are hurting economically because people like DeVos use their wealth and power to block their chances at a better life. According to the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 54% of the country’s minimum wage workers earn more than half of their household's income. About 75% are adults over 20. Almost 800,000 are single mothers, and 1.8 million households in the US would receive a raise if the minimum wage were raised to $7.25 nationally. Thousands of these people are members of Michigan’s working families. EPI also reports that in 1998, the year after the last federal minimum wage increase, the low-wage job market showed lower rates of unemployment, indicating that no link between a higher minimum wage and job loss exists. On the contrary, many economists argue that better pay results in decreasing costs to small businesses associated with frequent turnovers and training new hires. DeVos also described a minimum wage increase as "artificially raising the minimum wage," despite the fact that the federal minimum wage (which equals Michigan’s) has lost 31% of its value since it was last raised in 1997. The truth is that Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage has "artificially" kept it down.

8. DeVos despises Michigan's public schools. This is no exaggeration. DeVos was the main financial backer and chair of a failed 2000 anti-public school voucher ballot initiative in Michigan that was basically a scheme to cut funding for public education. He is a staunch advocate for privatization and in a 2002 speech to the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation declared, "When the time comes, we will bring the fight back to Michigan again." Furthermore, DeVos, while serving on the State Board of Education (before abruptly quitting after two years of an 8-year term), advocated handing over public education resources to private corporations, thereby undermining Michigan's public schools. He personally financed the Education Freedom Fund, an organization of anti-public school advocates, by lavishing hundreds of thousands of dollars on it in the 1990s. Undoubtedly DeVos' investments in K12 Inc., an educational corporation that provides materials for private schools, would see solid returns if he could successfully undermine Michigan's public schools. (Booth Newspapers, Center for Media and Democracy, AP)

9. DeVos supports the failed Republican ideology of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation. DeVos has personally benefited from deregulation of the energy and education sectors and the weakening of federal trade standards and state and federal environmental laws. Since 1990, successive Republican administrations and Republican-controlled state legislatures have aggressively passed tax cuts and deregulation in Michigan. DeVos and the Republicans insist these policies create jobs and strengthen the economy. Unfortunately, in reality, the result has been disastrous. As a result of such Republican policies, Michigan unemployment remains more than 2 points higher than the national average. Rather than creating jobs, tax cuts for the rich have made rich folk like DeVos wealthier, while forcing Michigan and its cities to make hard choices about the public services people care deeply about and need: schools, health care, roads, environmental conservation and clean-up, public transportation, water service, sanitation services, and on and on. (Detroit News, Center for Media and Democracy, San Francisco Chronicle, Michigan Department of Labor)

10. DeVos hides the truth about his wealth. So far DeVos is refusing to release his income tax returns. In a patronizing statement earlier this year on Michigan radio station WILX, DeVos said, "I will be disclosing to the people of Michigan that which I think is appropriate to understand."

While DeVos tries to hide his record on cutting jobs and gutting schools, it is eminently "appropriate" that the voters of Michigan and the US in general know the truth about Dick DeVos. People have called Michigan's gubernatorial race a bellwether for the 2008 presidential race. Indeed, this is our chance to stop a candidate that poses a grave danger to working people in Michigan. If this race is a sign of things to come on the national political scene, it is also our chance to make a bold statement to the country that the anti-people politics of Republicans like DeVos, DeLay, Bush, and their cronies are now done for.

--Joel Wendland is managing editor of Political Affairs and will be door-knocking and phone-banking this fall to bring down the corrupt Republican Congress.
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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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