Friday, January 27, 2017

Friend$ of DeVos

If you follow the many pieces about Presumptive Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, you will notice that there are folks who stand up for her as a super-duper prospect for Secretary of Education.

For instance, Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal spoke up for her hometown girl Betsy, and was, according to released emails, prepared to accept an all-expenses-paid trip to DC to give a public school stamp of approval to the private charter school face of Betsy DeVos. The DeVos organization American Federation for Children was all set to foot the bill-- and at no extra charge, they were throwing in some dandy talking points that Neal could use while in DC. All heart, those AFC folks.

In fact, the talking points were so thorough that if Neal was questioned by reporters about how a public school superintendent from Michigan just happened to be sitting behind DeVos providing helpful optics, she needn't worry about how to respond to that-- just say

I’m proud and honored to be a guest of Secretary of Education-designate DeVos and confident she’ll be an effective, compassionate and innovative Secretary of Education.

The rescheduling of the hearing threw off the travel plans, which included a steak dinner and a night at the Marriot, costs for which fall roughly into the "loose money we dig out of the sofa cushions" category for the DeVos clan.

DeVos friendships often are tied up in money; witness the Senate Democrat's inquiry into the several school business operators who have sent dark money floating her way. Nothing nefarious there-- just being friendly with a woman who may soon decide the fate of education entrepreneurs.

But nobody is a better friend of Betsy DeVos than the organization Friends of Betsy DeVos. Here they are defending her a few days ago in the Washington Post, where they speak out against returning to "pre-Watergate" ethics standards where partisanship determines who gets chased.

Well, actually, Ed Patru spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos said it.

Patru is a busy friend, and yet, it seems that he is perhaps the only friend. I've looked for the organization on line and cannot find hide nor hair of it. Mercedes Schneider, who has an advanced degree in Look-It-Up-And-Hunt-It-Down-Ology, can't find anything, either. Just a string of articles with Patru leaping to DeVos's defense.

The most likely explanation is that Patru is paid to be Betsy's friend, and that he is a group all by himself.

Patru is currently a vice-president at DCI, a PR firm whose self-description is "an independent public affairs consulting firm that specializes in public relations, crisis management, grassroots engagement, and digital advocacy." A Michigan native, Patru has logged a lot of time with GOP contests, serving at one point with the House Republican Committee. Back in 2008 the Daily KOS was wondering if he was the new Karl Rove. Patru mentions that he worked on John McCain's 2000 Presidential campaign as Michigan media specialist; he also helmed the Senate campaign of Linda McMahon (wife of wrestling mogul Vince McMahon).

He's had some cute spats with other operatives like Jen Crider as part of his time with Freedom's Watch, the attempt to launch a conservative MoveOn that ultimately failed due, reportedly, to lots of infighting. After FW folded, Patru launched his own firm Amplifico which was supposed to provide "corporations and business coalitions with a fully staffed presidential-campaign-style war room on a contractual basis." Patru said that 

Amplifico is prepared to participate in today's high speed news cycle, providing campaigns with "a turn-key, fully functional 24-hour war room [paired] with aggressive online or offline public relations."

Which seems kind of like what he's doing for DeVos right now.

Annnd once upon a time he was the spokesman of the American Automobile Dealers Association.

Friends of Betsy DeVos doesn't have a twitter account, but Ed Patru does, and I've asked him to let me know who else is in the club with him. I'll let you know if he replies.

In the meantime, Betsy DeVos displays another characteristic common to many reformsters-- most of her "friends" are people to whom she has some sort of financial ties. They pay her, she pays them, everyone pays each other. It remains to be seen just how much she intends to turn USED into a pay-to-play business, but at least as long as the department and its secretary have a bunch of money, they will never run out of friends.

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