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Why Michigan Voters Can’t Trust Dick DeVos

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Michigan voters can't trust Dick DeVos. He says one thing - about jobs, Michigan schools, and ethics - but his record says another.

He has spent millions on slick TV ads describing himself has a "job-maker." He claims he will bring jobs to the state, but he doesn't say how. And his record shows something altogether different. While he was the CEO of Amway, he laid off over 1,300 workers. Three years later his company announced plans to invest $220 million in production facilities in another country. He has lobbied Congress in support of free trade policies that have killed tens of thousands of jobs in Michigan.

A lot people here get angry when jobs leave the country. They say, China is stealing our jobs, or Mexico is stealing our jobs. But the truth is that it is guys like DeVos who are sending jobs overseas so their companies can make higher profits. We can't control China's economic policies, but we have the power to control our own by stopping Dick DeVos on November 7th.

DeVos may be a "job-maker" in other countries, but in Michigan he's a job-killer. Michigan working families can't trust a guy with a record like that.

On this campaign, he is telling folk that he wants to boost spending for education. Again he has no specifics, but his record shows that he has no love for Michigan public schools. In 2000, he personally financed and led a divisive campaign to gut public school funding with a privatization scheme that was soundly defeated by Michigan voters. In 2002, he told the conservative Heritage Foundation that if he ever got the chance he would push the privatization scheme again, essentially forcing Michigan voters to waste their time and taxpayer dollars voting on his personal views, again. Imagine what he'd do as governor. On top of this, AP reports that he has investments in a private education corporation called K-12 Inc., which could see higher profits if one of its shareholders-turned-politician could dismantle Michigan's public schools.

Voters just can't trust him when his record contradicts his rhetoric.

On ethics, his financial ties to Tom Delay and the Republican culture of corruption in Washington has seriously damaged his credibility. In 1999, he provided his private yacht to DeLay for a huge Republican fundraiser attended by none other than convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. About this time, he exchanged thousands of dollars with DeLay through his ironically named PAC, Restoring the American Dream. DeLay was indicted for conspiring to launder illegal campaign funds this way, though Republican roadblocks to serious ethics investigations have prevented a full accounting of all that money.

Closer to home, people in DeVos' hometown of Grand Rapids have begun to raise their eyebrows over his close relationship with a guy by the name of John Wheeler, CEO of Rockford Construction. Wheeler appears in a DeVos campaign ad in which DeVos claims undue credit for personally revitalizing and renovating Grand Rapids. Aside from these outrageous claims, people are questioning how Wheeler's company won lucrative contracts to build a sports arena and a convention center in Grand Rapids. As a media watchdog group in Grand Rapids wonders, did Wheeler's friendship with DeVos, who has given millions to the Republicans - some say he owns the Michigan Republican Party - help Wheeler get those contracts? But as long as the Republicans dominate the state legislature and Republican state Attorney General Mike Cox remains in office, few people believe a serious inquiry of this matter will take place. These suspicions come on top of DeVos' attempt to avoid public scrutiny of his financial dealings.

With so much to hide and so much that makes him look ethically challenged, Michigan voters simply can't trust him.

Governor Granholm, on the other hand, has gone to bat for Michigan working families. Every day she goes to the capitol with an agenda to create jobs, invest in public schools and higher education, expand affordable health insurance, and so on. And every day, a hostile Republican-dominated state legislature blocks her in a partisan move that hurts the state. But they aren't just partisan or a loyal opposition; they are openly hostile, even hateful towards her, and refuse to work with her.

But she hasn't given up or gotten discouraged. She basically said, if the Republicans in the state legislature won't work with me, I'll go elsewhere to find the resources to rebuild Michigan's economy. And she did. She has hit the bricks, traveling across the state, the country, even the world, to fight for every job and every investment that has come to the state. Few people work harder than she does. Even people - like myself and this publication - who disapprove of many of the Democrats' postions or disagree with many of the Governor's views have to give her credit for her commitment to fighting for jobs in Michigan.

Over the last few months, one can find stories in the Michigan media about her efforts to bring this company or that investment project to the state. Her latest accomplishment was the recruitment of an out-of-state investment group to open up a bio-diesel production facility in Bangor, Michigan. This facility will turn agricultural waste into fuel. There are plans to open several others across the state. These plants are creating jobs, and they could create a basis for an alternative energy sector. With gas prices racing to $3 a gallon and Americans demanding energy independence, Governor Granholm has taken leadership on an issue that DeVos and the Republicans (in Michigan and nationally) have fought.

The results are striking. Not only has Michigan's unemployment rate fallen to the lowest it has been since the 2001 Bush recession, but these kinds of eco-friendly policies are bringing our economy into the 21st century. DeVos and the Republicans, who blamed Governor Granholm for the ill effects on Michigan of the 2001 Bush recession, are now dishonestly refusing to give her credit for helping to turn things around.

The fact is, DeVos has no comparable record of accomplishment, though as seems to be his habit, he will try to convince Michigan voters that he does - even if he has to invent one. We can't trust a guy like that. The choice for governor this November 7th is as clear as day.

--Reach Joel Wendland at
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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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