President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team acknowledged Friday that Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, omitted a $125,000 political donation from disclosures she submitted to a Senate committee in advance of her confirmation hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
“We appreciate this being called to our attention and we will be updating our committee submission,” a transition team spokeswoman said Friday.
The missing donation — to a Michigan committee that successfully opposed a ballot initiative that would have enshrined collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution — represents a small fraction of the more than $5 million in donations that DeVos did disclose last week to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).
But the acknowledgment that DeVos’s disclosures were incomplete comes as Democrats have raised concerns that GOP leaders are trying to rush a confirmation hearing before DeVos — a Michigan billionaire and major Republican donor — can be fully vetted.
[Betsy DeVos and her family members are major donors to the senators who will vote on her confirmation]
The Office of Government Ethics — which is responsible for vetting presidential nominees, and identifying and resolving potential conflicts of interest — has not yet completed its review of DeVos’s background and finances.
And DeVos’s personal and business financial disclosures to the Senate HELP committee are also missing some information, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, told the New York Times this week. Those personal disclosures are not public.
DeVos’s hearing, originally scheduled for Jan. 11, is now scheduled to take place Tuesday.
A spokesperson for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the HELP committee, said he does not have concerns about DeVos’s paperwork. It is not unusual for nominees to clarify and update their disclosure forms to correct for oversights, the spokesperson said, and clarifying questions about personal disclosures are the norm during any vetting process.
DeVos is among the GOP’s most generous donors. She and her family members have given at least $20.2 million to federal Republican candidates and committees since 1989, according to OpenSecrets.org, including to sitting senators who will decide whether she should be confirmed.
In the run-up to her confirmation hearing, the Senate HELP committee asked DeVos to disclose political donations of $200 or more that she made during the past five years. She disclosed more than 400 donations in disclosures that ran more than nine pages.
The donation missing from her disclosure to the Senate, $125,000 to Protecting Michigan Taxpayers in 2012, was identified by American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic super PAC. The Washington Post verified the omission using records made public by the Michigan secretary of state.
“From top to bottom, the Trump transition team has been rushing through the nomination process and hiding information from the public, so it’s no surprise that Betsy DeVos has omitted a huge anti-union donation that targeted American workers and their right to organize,” said Jessica Mackler, president of American Bridge.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick for attorney general, failed to disclose his ownership of oil interests on land in Alabama, The Washington Post previously reported.
In its analysis, American Bridge also identified approximately $70,000 in additional donations that appeared to be missing from DeVos’s disclosures to the Senate.
[Ethics director says vetting of ultrawealthy nominees can take weeks, months]
The Trump transition team said none of those additional donations were actually missing.
Some of them were wrongly attributed to DeVos in public records, a spokeswoman for the transition team said. For example, campaign finance documents filed with the Federal Elections Commissions show that in September 2016, Betsy DeVos donated $25,000 to Team Ryan, a joint fundraising committee for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, his PAC, Prosperity Action, and the National Republican Congressional Committee. In fact, that donation was made by Dick DeVos, Betsy’s husband, according to the transition team, which said the FEC record is inaccurate.
Some of the donations on the HELP disclosure were labeled differently than in federal records, the transition team said. For example, American Bridge identified a $12,700 donation from Betsy DeVos to the Faso Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee; that amount shows up as two separate transactions on the HELP committee form as a $2,700 donation to Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.) and a $10,000 donation to the New York Republican Federal Campaign Committee.
Two donations — $3,400 each to Michigan Supreme Court justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra — were ultimately refunded, according to the transition team. The Post could not immediately confirm those refunds.
The transition team said that a $2,700 donation in September 2016 to Speaker Ryan was accounted for in DeVos’s disclosures, but it was not clear where or how. The form lists two $2,500 donations to Ryan in 2015 and one, for $400, in 2016.