How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politic
With her nomination as education secretary, a powerful political clan will bring its overtly Christian agenda to Washington.
The Michigan gubernatorial race that year had been a dogfight of personal attacks between DeVos, the Republican nominee, and Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. Gloomy, bleached-out b-roll of shuttered factories in anti-Granholm ads made the governor’s sunny economic promise that “You’re gonna be blown away” sound less like an aspiration than a threat. Anti-DeVos ads cut closer to the bone, with one depicting a cartoon DeVos cheering a freighter hauling Michigan jobs to China. It was an unsubtle reference to DeVos’ time as president of Amway, the direct-sales behemoth his family co-founded and co-owns, when he eliminated jobs in Michigan while expanding dramatically in Asia. DeVos ended up personally spending $35 million on the race—the most expensive campaign in Michigan history—and when the votes came in, lost by a crushing 14 points.
At the Lansing Sheraton, the mood was grim. “If we aren’t going to be able to serve in this way, I look forward to the ways we can,” DeVos told his glum supporters. Behind him on the ballroom risers stood his family; closest to him was his wife, Betsy, choking back tears.