U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur joined two of her Democratic congressional colleagues Tuesday in calling on education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos to pay a $5.3 million fine owed to Ohio she has headed.
Mrs. DeVos of Grand Rapids, Mich., an advocate for charter schools and vouchers, is awaiting a Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 17.
Miss Kaptur (D., Toledo), along with Reps. Joyce Beatty of Columbus and Marcia Fudge of Warrensville Heights near Cleveland spoke on the House floor demanding that Mrs. DeVos pay the fines levied by the Ohio Elections Commission.
Mrs. DeVos was a chairman of and contributor to the Virginia-based All Children Matter Political Action Committee. That PAC and an Ohio subsidiary were found to have given campaign contributions that violated donation limits of $10,000 per candidate.
The committee funneled $870,000 in national PAC money to state Republican candidates who pledged to advocate for privatizing public school education through vouchers, Miss Kaptur said.
“The $5.3 million fine that Betsy DeVos’ political organization owes to Ohio could pay for better education for Ohio’s children. It is outrageous that a candidate for Secretary of Education holds herself above the law and fails to make good on outstanding fines, imposed nearly 10 years ago,” Miss Kaptur said.
Phillip Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission, said the fines were imposed on the two political action committees that Mrs. DeVos contributed to, not Mrs. DeVos herself.
Also demanding more accountability from Mrs. DeVos was U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio).
“Betsy DeVos’ disregard for the law and refusal to pay the $5.3 million she owes to Ohio taxpayers raise serious questions about whether she’s fit to lead the Department of Education,” Mr. Brown said. “Billionaires are not above the law, and if Betsy DeVos believes she can disregard the law today, how can we hold her accountable to American students as Secretary of Education?”
Mr. Brown said Mrs. DeVos’ violations are “especially relevant given that her PAC was acting to influence education policy.”
DeVos’ spokesman, Ed Patru, did not immediately respond to a Blade question. He has said Mrs. DeVos was not named as a party to the suit and had no intention of taking responsibility for the fine.
The suit centers on contributions made in 2006. In 2008, the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that the PAC illegally skirted Ohio campaign-finance limits. In 2010, the elections commission referred the fine to the Ohio Attorney General for collection. A Franklin County judge in December, 2012, upheld the record fine.