WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic senators on Wednesday called on President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary to ensure that a political action committee she controlled pays $5.3 million in fines and penalties owed for campaign finance violations in Ohio eight years ago.
Betsy DeVos’ All Children Matter PAC broke Ohio election law by funneling $870,000 in contributions from its nationwide PAC to its Ohio affiliate in 2008. The state of Ohio later fined the group $5 million, but the fine has not yet been paid.
In a letter to DeVos, five senators expressed concern that DeVos and her PAC would “brazenly disregard election law and blatantly refuse to take responsibility and pay” the fines.
The senators noted that, as education secretary, DeVos would oversee repayment of more than $1 trillion in debt from millions of student-loan borrowers.
“When a student borrower defaults, it has serious ramifications that haunt that student for years — yet when DeVos’s PAC defaulted on its fine for violating the law, they just walked away,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who signed the letter along with Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who aligns with Senate Democrats, also signed the letter, which asks DeVos to pay the fine and any late fees before her confirmation hearing with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
DeVos, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman, is an advocate for school choice and has pledged to oversee a “transformational change” in U.S. education. She leads the American Federation for Children, which along with its state-affiliated PACs contributed to 121 races in 12 states in the general election to support pro-school choice candidates, according to its website.
A spokesman for DeVos called the Senate letter “a transparently political maneuver” that seeks to revive a long-settled issue that derives from a lawsuit filed against the now-defunct PAC.
“This suit was a politically driven effort to derail education reform in Ohio,” said spokesman Ed Patru, adding that DeVos was not named in the lawsuit, nor was she held liable for the judgment.