Will Betsy DeVos’ no-donation vow hurt Michigan GOP?

Detroit News staff

Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos made a statement during her Tuesday Senate hearing that evoked no controversy in the committee room, but might affect Michigan Republicans.

When asked Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont democratic socialist, if the DeVos family had given $200 million to Republicans, DeVos said it was “possible.”

Neither DeVos nor husband Dick DeVos, the 2006 GOP gubernatorial candidate, contributed to a joint GOP-Trump Victory Fund, but four other DeVos family members contributed $245,000, according to federal records in October.

Under questioning, the 59-year-old west Michigan billionaire said she and Dick would not make any political contributions if she becomes President-elect Donald Trump’s head of the U.S. Department of Education.

The response among some Michigan political experts was swift.

“Gasps can be heard from Republicans around the state as @BetsyDeVos commits to suspend political contributions if confirmed,” tweeted political consultant Tom Shields, the longtime president of the Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group.

But one Democratic political consultant cautioned that the DeVos promise may not be a big blow to GOP fundraising.

“It’s an excellent political move from a master of power politics,” said Joe DiSano of Lansing-based DiSano Strategies. “Seems magnanimous to the casual observer, but there are far more pots of money out there beyond Dick and Betsy DeVos, so the net effect is negligible.”

Whitmer headlines women’s march

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer will serve as a headline speaker at Saturday’s “Women’s March on Lansing,” one of several Michigan rallies set to coincide with a massive demonstration in Washington, D.C., the day after Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Lansing version, scheduled from 1-3 p.m. outside the Michigan Capitol, could be huge too. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 7,500 people had signed up to attend on Facebook and another 10,000 indicated they were interested.

“I think a lot of us are sort of girding ourselves for what we view is going to be a very tough time for women, for access to health care, for education considering his nomination of Betsy DeVos,” said Whitmer, a Lansing Democrat who announced her 2018 gubernatorial campaign two months after Trump’s election.

“I’m very worried.”

All genders are welcome at the Capitol rally, where organizers say their goal is to be “all inclusive” while peacefully demonstrating against hate crimes and violence.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Flint Township Democrat who is also considering a run for governor in 2018, said he will be attending Trump’s inauguration Friday and then participating in Saturday’s march in Washington, D.C.

“This is a way for people to express themselves,” Kildee said of the march. “This is a president-elect who was elected without a public majority of votes.

Delta lobbyist to retire

Delta Air Lines’ top lobbyist Andrea Fischer Newman is retiring this summer after 22 years in the airline industry, according to a Politico Playbook report.

Fischer Newman is the senior vice president of government affairs at Delta Air Lines, overseeing the Atlanta-based company’s federal, state, and local government affairs. She worked at Northwest Airlines before it was bougtht by Delta.

Fischer Newman is a longtime University of Michigan regent and is influential within the Michigan Republican Party.

“Andi is an extraordinary public policy leader who has guided Delta’s efforts in Washington during some of the most exciting and impactful times in aviation,” Delta CEO Ed Bastin said in a memo provided to Politico. “She has played a key role in every public policy issue that has faced the airline industry over the past two decades … the Delta family is proud to have had her guiding our policy efforts.”

Moo-ve on over

Few have ever accused Gov. Rick Snyder of being funny, but the certified public accountant and self-described nerd surprised observers with some barnyard humor Tuesday night in his seventh annual State of the State address.

“Michigan cows are the second most productive in the nation behind Colorado,” Snyder said, praising the dairy industry for a 44 percent production increase over the past decade. “When you see those cows, give them a shout-out. We want Colorado to moo-ve on over.”

The governor followed his ungulate pun with a grin fit for a milk mustache, but he kept a dry upper lip as legislators belted out a loud but largely indecipherable response that sounded something like a cow giving birth.

Up on the third floor of the Capitol, where many reporters were working out of a makeshift media center, the response was a spontaneous, collective groan.

Granholm gets new gig

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who seemed a probable hire in a new administration if Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential race, has a new gig with CNN.

The cable news network is tapping Granholm to serve as a senior political analyst, a development first reported by Ad Week and later confirmed by Granholm herself.

“Excited to be contributing my voice to CNN,” she wrote on Twitter.

Granholm has been a guest commentator on CNN and other networks. She hosted her own show on Current TV from 2012 to 2013. The former governor moved to California after leaving office and has taught at the University of California-Berkeley.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting and Richard Burr