Betsy DeVos

Though perhaps many missed it at the time amidst the avalanche of dramatic and negative news pertaining to the still young Trump administration, one of the president’s first actions as chief-executive was to effectively turn back the clock on minority rights by rescinding an Obama-era rule that enshrined liberal restroom access guidelines for people who identify as transgender.

Before the White House announced this decision back in February, Betsy DeVos -– the embattled education secretary who was then not far removed from a bruising and embarrassing confirmation hearing and was still trying to gain a foothold in the hot-house environment of Washington -– took it upon herself to be physically present inside a room in the Education Department while her aide explained to a transgender rights employee what the whole world would learn about a few hours later.

In public, Betsy DeVos did not hint at any internal rifts regarding this decision, but as reports had speculated at the time, it turned out there indeed had been a small battle of wills inside the administration, primarily between attorney general Jeff Sessions –- a Washington insider’s insider with decades of experience and an influential voice in Trump’s ear for some time -– and Ms. DeVos. Though she spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference the next day and seemed to support her boss’ directive affecting federally funded schools, the fact is that Ms. DeVos went to bat for not only her own transgender employees at her department, but for transgender people and minorities all across the nation.

Though in this case she failed and suffered an early setback, critics and allies alike share the same view that Ms. DeVos is a political fighter, should not ever be counted out, has firm and deeply held convictions and has the ability to forge positive alliances to further her goals born of these convictions.

Trump’s February decision — which inserted yet another matter of national contention into the already heated debate regarding federal school policy -– although proving a hefty and multifaceted setback, if anything caused Ms. DeVos to renew her resolve and redouble her efforts.

A lifelong passion and priority of Ms. DeVos’ has been the issue, as she and other reform advocates call it, of school choice. In her capitalistic viewpoint, the nation’s public school systems represent a monopoly and these situations aren’t given to reform or innovation if things aren’t working optimally. Monopolies are biased towards the status quo, and this concerns Ms. DeVos because, objectively, the nation’s public schools –- even the better-performing ones –- simply aren’t performing as well as they should.

In Ms. DeVos’ dream scenario -– which goes further than even some leading advocates for school choice and which downright scares some liberals considering she’s currently the leader of the Department of Education — funding for charter schools and school vouchers would be about on a par with funding for public schools. She has also in the past resisted calls for more oversight and regulation of charter schools and most controversially seems to have no qualms with charter schools being run by for-profit organizations. Learn more: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/a-tale-of-two-betsy-devoses/518952/

End Citizens United Takes The Fight Against Big Money To Washington

In the fight against big money in politics, big money just might be the only way to accomplish the end of the Citizens United ruling.

 

The trailblazing grassroots movement End Citizens United has become a PAC of its own in its efforts to overturn the Supreme Court ruling permitting unlimited monetary contributions to political campaigns. In their first three months of operation, they have raised over $4 million dollars in funds and are projected to raise $35 million before the 2018 midterm elections. This would outstrip the $25 million dollar war chest they were able to raise for the 2016 elections.

 

According to statistics provided by the PAC, they have amassed a group of 100,000 donors, over 40,000 of which donated to the cause for the first time this quarter. The purpose of the PAC is the fund the reelection efforts of candidates who are champions of campaign finance reform. The mission of End Citizens United is to level the playing field by funding candidates who may be put at a disadvantage by big-money donors such as corporations who flood the coffers of candidates with policies friendly to the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

 

Although End Citizens United operates under the rules of a traditional PAC – and thus cannot accept donations in excess of $5000 from any one donor – their fundraising in 2016 ranked among the top Democratic PACs in terms of spending.

 

Recently, End Citizens United has fought the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice candidate Neil Gorsuch and Education Secretary Candidate Betsy DeVos, both of whom seek to defund or privatize essential state and federal institutions. They also supported neophyte Democrat Jon Ossoff in his unsuccessful bid in the special election to fill Georgia Republican Tom Price’s vacant seat in the House of Representatives.

 

Their latest move is endorsing U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for his 2018 re-election campaign, calling him a “champion of campaign finance reform.” In his 2017 book “Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy,” Whitehouse opposed the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in no uncertain terms. He has been an advocate for greater transparency in campaign spending, especially in regards to money coming from foreign sources or corporations with foreign interests.

 

Big money has always been a corrosive influence on government, and with these latest actions End Citizens United has taken the fight against the unlimited influence of the wealthy to the halls of power in Washington.