As Senate offices are overwhelmed with calls against DeVos, supporters resort to shady tactics

A group linked to DeVos is reportedly paying people to support her nomination.

Asher Kockler, 3, carries a sign during a rally in Portland, Ore., Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. CREDIT: AP/Don Ryan
Asher Kockler, 3, carries a sign during a rally in Portland, Ore., Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. CREDIT: AP/Don Ryan

As opposition to Betsy DeVos’ nomination for education secretary grows, DeVos’ supporters are reportedly resorting to shady tactics, such as paying people to support her. After DeVos’ confirmation hearing — during which she showed a deep lack of knowledge on major education policy issues — thousands of people called their senators’ offices, asking them not to support DeVos.

Teachers, students, and parents held hundreds of protests across the country opposing her nomination. Democratic senators have been particularly vocal in their opposition to DeVos — Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) explained her staunch opposition in the New York Times. And on Wednesday, two Republican senators, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Lisa Ann Murkowski (R-AK), said they would not vote for DeVos to become the next education secretary. Only one more Republican senator would need to vote against DeVos to break a tie, with the final Senate vote expected Tuesday.

Due to the overwhelming opposition to DeVos, someone is paying sites to pay people to go to SupportDeVos.com, a website that is run by American Federation for Children, which was formerly led by DeVos, and voice their support for her nomination, Jezebel’s The Slot reported. Jezebel spotted these requests on Swagbucks.com and Instagc.com, sites where people can earn money through filling out surveys or watching videos with advertisements.

When Jezebel made calls to American Federation for Children, Dean Petrone, CEO of GoBigMedia, who said he was handling media requests, said “these ads are not the property of AFC.” These requests for support disappeared soon after they received press attention.

The LIBRE Initiative, which calls itself non-partisan but is a pet project of the Koch brothers, is also trying to drum up support for DeVos. Its mission is to “empower the U.S. Hispanic community.”

The organization urged its followers on Twitter to call Sens. Collins and Murkowski and claimed Latino students would lose educational opportunities if DeVos is not confirmed.

In January, End Citizens United, a campaign finance reform PAC, ran ads against senators on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee who have received money from DeVos, such as Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Burr and Scott spoke in support of DeVos during the HELP committee vote to advance her nomination on Tuesday. Burr read a long list of foundations DeVos has donated to and said Democrats should “give her a little credit” for her philanthropy.

Constituents of senators who have received from DeVos have also taken action. A Philadelphia woman, a teaching artist named Katherine Fritz, drew attention to Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) support of DeVos by setting up a GoFundMe page to “buy Pat Toomey’s vote.” The campaign has already surpassed its goal. Fritz, who was surprised by the attention her page received, said she wanted to draw attention to “pay-to-play” politics.

“This campaign isn’t actually about buying a vote from an elected official. But it is about using satire to point out the various ways in which our elected officials can — legally! — take money from the same people that now seek political office,” Fritz wrote.