This report was written by David Sirota, Andrew Perez, and Julia Rock.
The Republican legislators that Donald Trump is relying on to overturn Michigan’s presidential election results have been bankrolled by the family of Trump’s current education secretary who would lose her job if Trump leaves office.
On Friday, Trump is scheduled to meet with Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Michigan Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell “said he expects Trump is bringing Shirkey and Chatfield to the White House to pressure them to appoint pro-Trump electors to circumvent the popular vote as well as lean on the state's GOP canvassers not to certify the election,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
President-elect Joe Biden won Michigan by roughly 150,000 votes, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
The family of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is collectively Shirkey’s third largest career donor and Chatfield’s fourth largest career donor, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Chatfield also co-chairs a caucus of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), a group bankrolled by corporate interests, nonprofits tied to Trump’s judicial adviser, and the DeVos family as well.
Shirkey and Chatfield have previously pledged to honor the results of the popular vote. However, the Associated Press reports that “if Trump succeeds in convincing Michigan’s state board of canvassers not to certify Biden’s victory in the state, state lawmakers could be called on to select electors.”
That would put Shirkey and Chatfield in a position to boost or block a slate of Trump electors.
Key Lawmakers Bankrolled By The DeVos Family
During their careers, Shirkey and Chatfield have received nearly $140,000 from the DeVos family. Those donations represent only a fraction of the money the DeVos family has delivered to Michigan Republican legislators who could decide the fate of the state’s elector slate.
In the 2020 election cycle alone, Michigan's Republican House and Senate campaign committees received nearly $1.2 million from the DeVos family members, according to data from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office. That made the DeVos family the largest donor to Michigan’s Republican legislative committees by far — the next largest source is a family whose relatives sent $125,000.
DeVos family members also delivered a combined $100,000 to a series of committees called the Chatfield Majority Fund (1-4).
During her confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos pledged that she and her husband would halt their campaign contributions — but the Detroit Free Press recently reported that her husband has subsequently donated more than $500,000 to campaigns and political causes. The newspaper noted that the family has donated $1 million to a super PAC backing Trump.
DeVos also publicly campaigned for Trump’s reelection in Michigan, as Trump administration officials traveled around the country openly flouting a longstanding federal law designed to deter government officials from explicitly political activities.
Trump Allies Funded RSLC, Which Boosted Michigan GOP Lawmakers
Shirkey’s top career donor is the RSLC, which funds GOP state legislative races across the country. In June, the RSLC announced that Chatfield was selected as co-chair of its campaign committee caucus.
The RSLC received $2.4 million this election cycle from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which recently congratulated Vice President Joe Biden for winning the presidential election, but has not publicly urged the Republican legislators it bankrolls to stop trying to hand the Electoral College to Trump.
RSLC also received $2.2 million from the Judicial Crisis Network and its new parent organization, the Concord Fund. Those groups are key cogs in the sprawling conservative dark money network steered by Trump judicial adviser Leonard Leo.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam have contributed $5 million to RSLC this year. DeVos family members have additionally donated at least $300,000 to RSLC this cycle.
State records show the RSLC’s Michigan PAC donated a combined $880,000 this cycle to the four Chatfield Majority Fund committees. The PAC also gave $84,000 to the Michigan House Republican campaign committee.
Other major donors to Michigan’s Senate and House campaign committees include Comcast, the parent company of MSNBC; health insurer BlueCross Blue Shield; and DTE Energy, the electricity utility in Detroit, which voted overwhelmingly for Biden.
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