The early 20th century writer and activist Upton Sinclair famously said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
If he was right, it may be hard to make Indiana’s new Republican senator, Todd Young, understand the danger to public education posed by Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s choice to be secretary of education.
DeVos and her family contributed $48,600 to Young’s campaign last year, helping him win election against Democratic former Sen. Evan Bayh. She and several relatives – her husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law – appear to have each given the maximum $5,400 in 2016.
Young sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is scheduled to hear testimony on DeVos’ nomination today and will vote on whether to recommend her confirmation.
The DeVos family’s direct contributions to Young’s campaign were a pittance for an election in which more than $30 million was spent by the two sides. Young will no doubt say they won’t be a factor in his vote.
But the family also gave millions of dollars in 2016 to GOP and conservative political action committees, including the National Republican Committee, the Senate Leadership Fund and American Crossroads. Some of those PACs spent millions on nasty political ads trashing Bayh and painting him as a flaming liberal (a joke for Hoosiers who remember his tenure as governor and senator).
The DeVoses have also given generously to four other Republicans on the HELP Committee, according to Federal Election Commission filings: $70,200 to Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, $49,900 to Tim Scott of South Carolina and $43,200 each to Richard Burr of North Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
They have given nearly $1 million to 21 members who will vote on her confirmation by the full Senate, according to the Center for American Progress.
There’s a campaign taking place on social media and through letters to newspaper editors to get senators who took campaign money from DeVos and her family to recuse themselves from voting on her confirmation. That almost certainly won’t happen. But Young’s constituents should let him know what they think.