DeVos family divided between Calley, Schuette

Jonathan Oosting

Lansing — The powerful Republican DeVos family of west Michigan appears to be divided on their choice for the state’s next governor, with two helping Lt. Gov. Brian Calley raise cash and five others contributing to Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Calley announced Monday that Dan and Pamella DeVos of Grand Rapids will help lead his statewide finance committee ahead of the Aug. 7 primary election.

But a handful of other DeVos family members, including Amway co-founder Rich and son Dick DeVos, gave maximum $6,800 contributions to Schuette on Jan. 19, according to his campaign.

Greg McNeilly, a longtime spokesman for the DeVos family, confirmed the donations, which have not yet been publicly disclosed but will appear on Schuette’s next required report to the state. He declined to comment on behalf of individual family members.

Dan and Pamela DeVos, a business executive and fashion designer, respectively, will co-chair Calley’s finance committee along with venture capitalist Phillip Fisher of Bloomfield Hills and PVC Chemicals President and CEO Jim Nicholson of Detroit, who lost the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 1996.

“Their success and leadership in both the public and private sectors are widely admired,” said Calley, a Portland Republican, in a statement announcing his new finance team. “They will help grow the momentum that is building behind our campaign.”

Dan and Pamela DeVos praised Calley in a campaign statement, calling him a “relentless advocate and proven leader” and suggesting Michigan’s “tremendous comeback wouldn’t have been possible” without his leadership.

But Schuette, who led the GOP field in fundriasing through the end of 2017, is also touting support from the DeVos family. Doug, Maria and Cheri DeVos joined Rich and Dick DeVos last month in making maximum contributions to his campaign.

“Cynthia and I have long standing friendships with the DeVos family,” Schuette said in a statement provided to The Detroit News. “We appreciate the support of so many members of the DeVos family backing my candidacy for governor."

The Midland Republican raised more than $3 million in campaign cash last year and ended 2017 with $2.4 million in reserves. Calley raised $1.8 million for the year and ended it with $1.37 million in cash on hand.

The DeVos family routinely ranks among Michigan’s most prolific donors. Their political contributions became a flashpoint early last year during the nomination hearing for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who said it was “possible” her family had contributed a total of $200 million to the Republican Party over several years.

In her testimony, DeVos told lawmakers she and her husband, 2006 GOP gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVos, would suspend their political contributions during her tenure under President Donald Trump. McNeilly later told The Detroit News that Dick DeVos believed the pledge was specific to federal races and was “open” to supporting state level candidates this cycle.

State records show he contributed $20,000 to the Kent County Republican Committee on Oct. 30 and $40,000 to the Michigan Senate Republican Campaign Committee on Dec. 29. Both groups support Republicans in various local and state-level races.

Betsy DeVos did not make any contributions in 2017. She also followed through on her promise not to take a salary, opting instead to donate her 2017 salary of nearly $200,000 to four charities focusing on education and special needs.

While the family often contributes in groups – four DeVoses each donated $6,800 to Republican Secretary of State candidate Mary Treder Lang on Dec. 29 – they were also split eight years ago on GOP gubernatorial candidates.

In 2010, DeVos family members contributed to Republican candidates Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, then-U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and former Attorney General Mike Cox, along with eventual Gov. Rick Snyder, who is nearing the end of his second term and cannot seek re-election.

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines are also seeking the GOP nomination for governor. Democratic candidates include Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing, Abdul El-Sayed of Shelby Township, Shri Thanedar of Ann Arbor and Bill Cobbs of Detroit.