Powerful Republican family holding out against nominee

Powerful Republican family holding out against nominee
© Jonathan Swan

CLEVELAND — Betsy DeVos, who belongs to arguably the most powerful family of political donors in America, is here for her party's convention, but she has not met with the nominee and is holding out supporting him. 

That’s unheard of for a DeVos, a family that has shaped conservative and Republican politics for decades and has become a required meeting stop for any Republican candidate with national ambitions. 

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For the first time in her adult life, DeVos says she’s neither personally nor economically invested in the outcome of a presidential race. 

Like many influential Republican donors, DeVos derived no pleasure watching Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE become the official 2016 Republican presidential nominee on Tuesday night. 

Such resistance is leaving Trump’s fundraising languishing badly behind the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain MORE cash juggernaut. 

“I cannot see a Hillary Clinton presidency and be in any way comfortable with that or supportive of that or happy with that,” DeVos told The Hill on Wednesday at the Ritz Carlton hotel near the convention center in Cleveland. 

“[But] I haven’t got there on the other side of the equation.” 

As a longtime loyal party member, DeVos grimaced in expressing such a thought out loud, saying it’s the first time in her life she’s felt that way. 

Losing the DeVoses is a big deal for a Republican presidential candidate. It's especially bad given that the political network led by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is refusing to spend a penny of their quarter-billion dollar 2016 budget to help Trump. 

Betsy is married to Dick DeVos, the son of billionaire patriarch Richard DeVos Sr., co-founder of the direct-selling company Amway.  

The Michigan-based DeVos family has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past several decades on philanthropic and conservative causes. 

Over the course of 2015, no family in conservative politics donated more “hard dollars” to political campaigns than the DeVoses. “Hard dollars” is the term fundraisers use for money given directly to campaigns; it is capped at $5,400 per donor for each candidate during an election cycle.

Analysis by The Hill shows that members of the DeVos family donated $964,000 in hard dollars to Senate and House campaigns and to Republican Party committees at both the state and national level.  

This spending easily surpasses the $97,000 in hard dollars from the Koch family and $72,000 from the Coorses — two other major conservative donor families. 

Betsy has long been active in Republican politics but lately her main focus has been advocating for school choice--much of which is done at the state level through her organization American Federation for Children (a cheeky play on the left-wing union, American Federation of Teachers).

Betsy DeVos is attending this year's convention as a Michigan delegate supporting John Kasich, but she concedes her family has effectively given up on presidential politics this year unless Trump dramatically changes his tune. 

She can’t abide Trump’s national security policies, including his warming to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and she’s against his policies of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico and his proposal to deport 11 million illegal immigrants.

“Our party needs to be one of openness, recognizing that we live in an increasingly small world,” DeVos told The Hill. 

“And of course we need to have good trade deals, but the notion that we would put walls up around our nation is just not a tenable position.

“That said, I understand the anxiety and the frustration that he has clearly tapped into.” 

DeVos was encouraged by Donald Trump Jr.’s impassioned discussion of school choice in his convention speech on Tuesday night, but she doesn’t believe his father, the candidate, has given much thought to education policy — or any other policies, for that matter. 

Unless Trump profoundly changes in these policy areas, DeVos says, she and her family are going to dedicate their resources this political season to saving the Republican-controlled Senate. 

"The Senate is key," she said. "There are some good people who are vulnerable."