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Business leaders and their companies have profited royally off of President Donald Trump's pro-business policies.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family are among the groups that have seen an income boon of millions through their own investments since Trump's tax reform plan was signed, according to her latest annual financial disclosure report.
In 2018, DeVos' total income had a valuation of at least $33 million through assets listed on her most recent public filing. The valuation of those assets was between about $200 million and $600 million.
Even though it appears neither she, nor her family, have made recent investments that conflict with her position as chief of the Department of Education, ethics attorneys argue that the complexity of her finances makes it nearly impossible for government watchdogs to track who may be trying to have an influence over her.
A DeVos family spokesman, Nick Wasmiller, disputed whether the recent run of success was based on the Trump administration's policies, but later noted the business friendly laws have had a positive impact on all Americans.
"Like all investors, the family seeks investments that grow in value over time. These long-term investments have and do fluctuate in terms of income produced annually and that fluctuation is based on a variety of factors," he said in a statement to CNBC. "It is impossible, given the complexity and diversity of these investments, to attribute any individual shifts to specific policy changes as you suggest. Certainly, the strong economic expansion during the Trump administration has had a positive impact on the investments of all Americans – whether direct or via their 401Ks, IRAs, pensions, etc."
The RDV Corp., a DeVos family run investment firm chaired by her husband Dick DeVos brought in more than $6 million in 2018 through distributive shares. A year earlier, while Trump was trying to and eventually did pass the Republican tax reform plan, that business helped them bring in $1.6 million, the 2017 filing shows.
Their financing of Grakon Parent Inc., now a subsidiary of Chicago-headquartered Methode Electronics, led to the DeVos family having more than $5 million in capital gains in 2018, while in 2017, their disclosure shows an income amount of less than $201.
The family has also been profiting off of a Michigan-based company, Profile Industrial Packaging. DeVos' records describe the business as the "manufacturing of custom polyethylene bags, sheeting, tubing and other converted products." Two years ago, with investments valued between $1 million and $5 million, the DeVoses had an income amount of at least $277,000. In 2018, that same investment gave them an income of $1.3 million of distributive shares and capital gains.
While Betsy DeVos herself is not involved with her husband's family businesses or their overall investments, the income listed on these filings shows that her related organizations have likely reaped the benefits of the administration's business-friendly policies. The DeVos family has an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion, according to Forbes.
Ethics experts believe that because DeVos' holdings are all private investments, including a variety of limited liability companies, government watchdogs are unable to track who may be trying to have influence over her and the department she runs.
"I think that when you have somebody who is the head of an agency, they have a much greater impact as a regulator than people who might be put into other positions," Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington," said in an interview. "We have no idea who the investors are, who the creditors or who the customers are for these types of investments. They could be doing business and profiting with their affiliation to people who have business before the Department of Education," she added.
As the Education secretary and her husband have made millions from outside sources, Betsy DeVos has been proposing strict cuts to public education that could impact children within impoverished communities.
A Washington Post analysis shows Trump's 2020 budget proposal would cut education spending by 12%, or the equivalent to a drop in spending of $8.8 billion, compared with a year earlier. The administration wants to remove $2 billion from a federal grant program and in doing so would eliminate grant aid for millions of students with families making less than $60,000 each year.
CNBC reported Monday that White House and congressional negotiators are close to a budget deal that will end across-the-board spending cuts.
Representatives from the Department of Education did not return requests for comment.
Historically, the DeVoses have been staunch financial supporters of the Republican Party, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
During the 2016 presidential election, Dick DeVos' father, Richard DeVos, spent $250,000 on Right to Rise, a super PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. His son wrote numerous checks backing the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to helping Republicans capture Senate seats, and the Republican National Committee.
Members of the DeVos family have yet to contribute to any of Trump's reelection committees, including his joint fundraising operations that also benefits the RNC.
The family has business ties to a wide range of corporations that are often located in their home state of Michigan. They founded Amway, a marketing company that focuses on health, beauty and home care products and is currently co-chaired by Doug DeVos, Dick's brother.
Dan, another DeVos brother, is a partner in real estate investment firm CWD while Dick is the president of another investment company, The Windquest Group.
The DeVoses own an NBA basketball franchise, the Orlando Magic. The father, Richard, purchased the basketball team and before he died in 2018, started giving his family operational power.
Dan DeVos is the current chairman of the team.