- Associated Press - Friday, February 3, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. John Kasich is urging confirmation of President Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee without mentioning the significant unpaid fine owed to Ohio by a now-defunct political action committee she controlled.

The Republican governor and 2016 presidential contender didn’t support Trump, but he praised Betsy DeVos for her character, experience and philosophy of limited government in a Jan. 24 letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee that handled her confirmation.

Senators voted 52-48 to cut off debate in an early-morning session Friday, setting the stage for a final confirmation vote next week.

Kasich’s backing of DeVos came as Democratic senators, including Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, called for the $5.3 million in fines and penalties incurred by the former All Children Matter PAC in 2008 to be repaid before DeVos was confirmed.

DeVos spokesman Ed Patru called Democrats’ protest letter “a transparently political maneuver” seeking to revive a long-settled issue that derives from a lawsuit filed against the now-defunct PAC.

He calls the suit “a politically driven effort to derail education reform in Ohio” and notes that DeVos was not named in the suit nor held liable for the judgment.

Campaign finance records show DeVos and her family members have given Kasich’s campaigns for governor and president about $50,000.

DeVos and her family members also have given Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, also a Republican, about $50,000 since 2010, according to data collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

DeVos‘ husband, Dick, is heir to the Amway marketing fortune.

The PAC fine has been turned over for collection to the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, and is still considered unpaid.

The $5.3 million sum is small in the scheme of Ohio’s overall budget of nearly $70 billion over two years - but to some agencies it could be significant.

It exceeds annual general-revenue funding for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, for example, and is roughly equivalent to the annual budget of the Office of Consumers’ Counsel. That office, which provides legal representation on behalf of Ohio utility ratepayers, sustains a cut in the first year of Kasich’s proposed budget and is flat-funded the second year.

Kasich spokesman Jim Lynch said he would let the governor’s letter of recommendation for DeVos speak for itself.

The governor wrote that DeVos has built two of the most successful education reform organizations in the country: the Great Lakes Education Project and the American Federation for Children.

“I believe Betsy DeVos has the potential to usher in an era of real and meaningful education reforms in our country,” Kasich wrote.


This story has been corrected to show Ohio’s budget is nearly $70 billion over two years, not every year.

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