UPDATE (5:19 p.m.): President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday afternoon that he had reversed his administration’s budget request to cancel federal funding for the Special Olympics, which Education Secretary Betsy DeVos immediately claimed was her idea all along. As reported by Axios, DeVos said in a statement she was “pleased and grateful the president and I see eye to eye on this issue, and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes the last several years.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week defended the Trump administration’s effort to wipe out the $17.6 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics, telling congressional panels the nonprofit should depend on the private sector and contributions from wealthy patrons like herself.
“I love Special Olympics myself. I have given a portion of my salary to Special Olympics,” DeVos said Thursday at Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, referring to her arrangement to divide her government salary between the Special Olympics and three other organizations.
But the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, which doles out tens of millions of dollars to her and her husband’s favorite causes, has given just $1,000 (or 0.006 percent of the funding she wants to cut) to the Special Olympics of Michigan since 2001, according to its filings with the IRS.
Most of the foundation’s contributions — totaling nearly $49 million since 2011 — have gone to Christian schools, crisis-pregnancy centers and right-wing think tanks, many concentrated in the couple’s native Michigan, the filings show.
Betsy DeVos’ parents’ charity, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, has given at least $20,000 to the Special Olympics of Michigan since 2002, but DeVos claimed she had nothing to do with that organization after senators raised concerns about its support for anti-gay groups.
DeVos had been listed as a vice president of the Prince Foundation between 2001 and 2013, but she told Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., during her confirmation hearing that she had no involvement with it.
“That was a clerical error — I can assure you,” DeVos said.
On Tuesday, Democrats grilled her about the cuts to the Special Olympics during a hearing of a House appropriations subcommittee, prompting the secretary to release a defensive statement criticizing the media and members of Congress.
“It is unacceptable, shameful and counterproductive that the media and some members of Congress have spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts,” DeVos wrote, before defending the move.
“The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It’s a private organization. I love its work, and I have personally supported its mission,” she wrote. “But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.”