- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

CLEVELAND | One of the GOP’s top financial backers said Thursday that Donald Trump has not yet made overtures to woo the party’s big donors, but she said there’s plenty of interest in helping down-ticket Republicans win their races.

Betsy DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan GOP, said Mr. Trump’s unique campaign has broken all the traditional rules and he’s had success without reaching donors. But donors themselves are also still not sold on the billionaire businessman, with Mrs. DeVos saying she’s “still in a very much watch-and-wait mode” when it comes to Mr. Trump.

“I, like others, am concerned about things that have been said and the tenor of this campaign up to this date. But he is now the nominee and I’m hopeful that we’re going to hear a refinement of his approach, and more substance on a wide range of issues,” she said hours before Mr. Trump was slated to speak at the GOP convention.

Mrs. DeVos is part of Michigan’s delegation to the convention, and was on the floor when Sen. Ted Cruz refused to endorse Mr. Trump. “I think it was kind of vintage Ted Cruz. It wasn’t a surprise to me,” she said. “I don’t think he did himself any favors.”

She and her family — the DeVoses co-founded and remain involved in running Amway — backed Sen. Marco Rubio in the primary, and are now looking for other ways to help boost the GOP.

Mr. Trump’s fundraising has been a source of interest since he began his run. He did not actively solicit donations during the primary, saying it would make him beholden to special interests.

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Since sewing up the nomination in May he has reversed himself and said he will raise money. Indeed, on Thursday his campaign said it raised some $3.5 million online in 24 hours, coinciding with vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaking at the convention Wednesday night.

Those donations represent small-dollar contributions. The larger contributions, who fill not only the campaign treasury but party committee coffers, have been slower this year than in the past.

“It’s not an absence of engagement, but at the presidential level the nominee has not as of yet reached out to us. Like I said, I think his campaign has been working thus far,” Mrs. DeVos said.

“I think you’re going to continue to see lots of engagement on the part of donors. It’s a question mark where they specifically invest, but there’s no lack of interest and no lack of intensity.”

Mrs. DeVos is chairman of the American Federation for Children and said she has been waiting to hear a vision from Mr. Trump on education policy.

She and her family are major backers of school choice, and she said Republicans have a “huge opportunity” to carve out space on the issue at the national level — not to impose federal control, but to empower parents.

Mrs. DeVos said picking Mr. Pence was “very significantly positive” — the Indiana governor has long been active on those education issues — and said other convention speakers, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, highlighted the issue.

She said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton wants to avoid the subject, while Mr. Trump himself “has only mentioned it in passing once, maybe twice.”

Even given her reservations about Mr. Trump, if the election is a binary choice, it seems clear where she’ll land: “I sure as heck am not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

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