Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's Education Secretary pick, "brazenly disregarded" Ohio election laws, says a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Those senators, including Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), are demanding in an open letter that DeVos pay the $5.3 million fine levied by the state in 2006 against her pro-school voucher PAC, All Children Matter.
All Children Matter knowingly violated the law, the senators charge:
In 2006, the federal All Children Matter PAC sought an advisory opinion from the Ohio Elections Commission to determine whether it was allowed to contribute more than the $10,000 statutory limit to its Ohio based affiliate. The Commission provided an advisory opinion stating that aggregate contributions of greater than $10,000 in a year to the Ohio affiliate would violate the law. Inexplicably, your PAC ignored this advisory opinion proceeded to contribute $870,000 to the Ohio affiliate.
The bipartisan Ohio Elections Commission unanimously found both the federal and Ohio All Children Matter PACs to have violated the state's campaign finance laws and imposed fines of $5.2 million. An Ohio court subsequently upheld the fines and imposed additional late fees for failing to pay. Rather than pay the fines for violating the law, the All Children Matter PACs simply ceased operation and never paid the significant sum it owed to the state of Ohio.
"The blatant disregard for the law that your PAC demonstrated is deeply troubling," the senators write. "However, when the organization's violations of law were punished by the Ohio Elections Commission, the PAC's refusal to take responsibility and pay the fines is unconscionable. If confirmed as Secretary of Education, you would be responsible for administering our nation's student loan programs and ensuring that borrowers repay their loans in a timely manner. However, the PAC that you chaired failed to pay fines that were imposed on it over eight years ago. This demonstrates a serious lack of judgment by the PAC's board and a willingness to avoid paying legally obligated public debts."
The senators observe in a press statement that "DeVos' leadership role in the All Children Matter PAC is one of her many activities as a longtime billionaire mega-donor for conservative causes, with DeVos stating her own goal to be 'buying influence.'"
"We expect a return on our investment," she wrote in a 1997 op-ed in Roll Call.
The senators demand that DeVos, a billionaire, pay the fine before her Senate confirmation hearing.