Who Is Erik Prince? Betsy DeVos Shouldn't Be Held Accountable For Her Brother's Actions
Donald Trump has chosen charter school advocate and Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education, and the decision is already drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. Besides her support of school voucher programs and her flip-flopping on the issue of Common Core, DeVos' familial ties are causing concern amongst opponents to her opposition. DeVos' brother is the infamous Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the private military company whose contractors were responsible for the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007, among other incidents. But DeVos shouldn't be held responsible for her brother's actions.
Additionally, as reported by The Intercept, Prince became the subject of a Department of Justice investigation earlier this year for money laundering and attempting to sell mercenary services in Libya, a violation of U.S. defense export regulations. Moreover, Prince has funded several anti-LGBTQ ballot measures over the years and wants to criminalize abortion, according the The Intercept.
Prince, an avowed Mike Pence supporter, is an enemy to LGBTQ and women's rights, and an architect of paramilitary forces, but how much should his record be taken into account when considering DeVos' appointment to the Trump cabinet? In the wake of the announcement of DeVos' appointment, several have taken to Twitter to point out her relation to Prince, but that shouldn't be the main focus when considering her ability to lead. There are plenty of reasons to oppose DeVos that have nothing to do with her brother.
This handy 2014 chart from Mother Jones shows the Christian right-leaning organizations that the DeVos family supports. And though Prince financially supports such conservative organizations as Action Institute, American Enterprise Institute and Council for National Policy, DeVos and her husband Dick support those and more, including Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation and Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
When it comes to education, DeVos is a proponent of charter schools, but opposes their regulation. In October, the NAACP called for more oversight of charter schools, saying that such regulation could help to get rid of racial inequities in those schools. Detroit, in DeVos' home state of Michigan, has been hit particularly hard by the failures and upsets that come with widespread and unregulated charter schools. Lastly, as DeVos' organizational donations suggest, she will likely not be an advocate for the rights of transgender students.
DeVos has big ideas when it comes to reforming U.S. education through expanding charter schools and voucher programs. Still, whether you support or oppose DeVos' viewpoints and initiatives, it should be on the basis of what she has done rather than the actions of her brother.