Several senators have sent a letter to Donald Trump's education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos, calling on her to pay more than $5 million in election fines owed by a school-choice advocacy group she once ran.
All Children Matter lobbies for school-choice legislation, and owes the state of Ohio more than $5.3 million for violations from nearly a decade ago, Politico reports. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent DeVos a letter Wednesday addressing the "significant concerns" they had over the fines and urging her to take care of them. "If confirmed as secretary of education, you would be responsible for administering our nation's student loan programs and ensuring that borrowers repay their loans in a timely manner," the letter stated. "However, the PAC that you chaired failed to pay fines that were imposed on it over eight years ago. This demonstrates a serious lack of judgment by the PAC's board and a willingness to avoid paying legally obligated public debts."
The Ohio Elections Commission said that in 2008, the national PAC, based in Virginia where there are no limits on political contributions, funneled $870,000 in contributions to the now-shuttered Ohio affiliate. Ohio has a $10,000 cap on individual gifts, and this move broke election law. Ed Patry, a spokesman for DeVos, told Politico the legal battle over paying the fines is a "politically driven effort to derail education reform in Ohio," and called the letter "a transparently political maneuver." A Trump transition representative said the fines are no longer legally binding because of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, though the transfer by DeVos' group took place two years before that. A judge upheld the fine in 2013 and found All Children Matter financially liable, Politico says, though the national PAC reported only $275 on hand at the end of 2015.