Ed Patru, Friend of– and Mouthpiece for– Betsy DeVos
I have been doing a lot of reading about Trump’s nominee for US secretary of education, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, and I have noticed a recurring defender of DeVos, Ed Patru, “spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos, a group of supporters.”
We could even just write the tag this way:
since it appears to be a single, unified tag whenever Ed Patru or “Friends of Betsy DeVos” are mentioned.
I searched for any formally organized group calling itself Friends of Betsy DeVos, and I found no record. In fact, the only hits I did find always seem to be some quote by Ed Patru, spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos.
There is just Ed Patru.
According to his Linkedin bio, Ed Patru is a PR guy who is currently VP of Media Affairs for a Washington, DC-based, PR firm, DCI Group.
Below is Patru’s Linkedin summary:
Dynamic communications professional with extensive background and expertise in developing high-impact communications operations for corporate, non-profit and political organizations.
Demonstrated talent in launching regional and national campaigns and securing national, regional, and local media coverage. Track record of building, developing, and leading high-caliber teams of talented communications professionals. Seasoned communicator proficient in generating persuasive written and oral communications.
Specialties: Public Affairs, Media Relations, Crisis Communications / Rapid Response, Client Media Training, Copy Writing, Op-Ed and Article Placement.
Also according to Linkedin, Patru has a history with the Republican Party, beginning in 1998 as press assistant for Engler for Governor ’98. Also in 1998, Patru became press secretary for the Michigan Republican Party (1998-2000). In 2000, for less than a year, Patru was a media specialist for McCain 2000.
Patru then became press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from 2001 to 2003 and then NRCC deputy communications director from 2005 to 2006.
Patru then became US House of Representatives Republican Conference communications director (2006-2007).
DeVos was the chair of the Michigan Republican Party on and off between 1996 and 2000, then on again from 2003 to 2005. She has held multiple roles related to the Michigan Republican Party and National Republican Party spanning 1908 to 2016; for more info, see DeVos’ publicly-released, 23-page HELP Committee questionnaire.
“Friends of Betsy DeVos” does not have a website; it is apparently a private group, if it is even a group at all. The DeVoses could have simply hired Patru to field PR for Betsy DeVos.
It sure looks like Ed Patru is “Friends of Betsy DeVos.”
Interestingly, Patru does not name the group, Friends of Betsy DeVos, on his Linkedin bio. Nevertheless, he sure does look official in his defense of DeVos by having “Ed Patru, spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos,” and sometimes, “a group of supporters,” following his being quoted in news articles.
Based upon his defense of what DeVos means and stands for, it is fair to ascertain that Ed Patru is the spokesman for Betsy DeVos herself.
During her 5-minute speech on Trump’s Michigan stop in Grand Rapids on December 09, 2016, DeVos stated, “In deference to the US Senate confirmation, I’m not giving interviews.” So, it seems that she is “giving interviews by proxy” through news articles via spokesman Patru.
Here is one such article, a piece by Washington Post education writer Emma Brown, as published in the January 07, 2017, Durango Herald, entitled, “Education Nominee, Family Members Donors to Senators Who Will Vote on Confirmation.” An excerpt:
DeVos supporters push back against the notion that her track record as a donor is unusual, pointing to billionaire Penny Pritzker, Obama’s Commerce Secretary, as one of several recent examples of Cabinet members with a history of making significant political donations. In the four years before her nomination, Pritzker donated about $20,000 to Democratic senators who then voted on her confirmation, according to FEC records.
“If you accept the faulty premise that political contributions create a conflict of interest, then any amount is problematic,” said Ed Patru, spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos, a group of supporters. “I don’t remember a single Democrat, citing conflicts of interest, recusing themselves from a vote on billionaires like Penny Pritzker.”
Patru said that the DeVos family has given to Republicans for decades, not because they were plotting for Betsy DeVos to become Education Secretary, but because they are ideologically aligned with Republicans.
“They are proponents of limited government, personal responsibility, free markets and a strong national defense,” Patru said. “Betsy believes labor’s monopolistic stranglehold on public education holds back progress, particularly in communities of color.”
DeVos family members, heirs to the Amway fortune, are consistent major donors to Republicans and groups supporting their candidacies. Since 1989, they have given at least $20.2 million to Republican candidates running at the federal level, party committees, PACs and super PACs, according to OpenSecrets.org. They gave at least $10 million in the 2016 cycle.
And there is this January 02, 2017, article in PJ Media, entitled, “7 Desperate Liberal Lies about Trump’s Education Pick, Betsy DeVos.” Another excerpt:
“Betsy DeVos is very much against public education,” declared USA Today senior political reporter Heidi Przybyla on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Przybyla wasn’t alone, either. The Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss wrote a story entitled “To Trump’s education pick, the U.S. public school system is a ‘dead end.'”
Strauss was indeed quoting DeVos’ words, from a speech she gave at South by Southwest in Texas in 2015. “We are beneficiaries of start-ups, ventures, and innovation in every other area of life, but we don’t have that in education because it’s a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market,” DeVos said. “It’s a monopoly, a dead end. And the best and brightest innovators and risk-takers steer way clear of it. As long as education remains a closed system, we will never see the education equivalents of Google, Facebook, Amazon, PayPal, Wikipedia, or Uber.”
DeVos wasn’t condemning the U.S. education system, she was supporting reforms to bring in more choice. “Reasonable people don’t read that speech or listen to it and get hung up on ‘dead end,'” wrote Ed Patru, spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos, in an email to Valerie Strauss.
“Strauss knows full well that Betsy doesn’t believe public schools are a dead end, but she ran the headline anyway,” Patru told PJ Media in an email statement. “Strauss took a quote, divorced it from context, and then labeled Betsy and opponent of public education writ large. It’s among the most dishonest reporting I’ve seen in 20 years.”
Patru argued that DeVos does not push for school choice in “the thousands of school districts across the country where public schools are doing a great job.” Rather, her “focus has always been on the hundreds of thousands of poor kids who, by no fault of their own, are forced to attend public schools that aren’t working.” In sum, “it’s eminently possible to be both pro-public schools AND pro-choice.”
The New York Times‘s Kate Zernike painted DeVos as an anti-regulation extremist. “A believer in a freer market than even some free market economists would endorse, Ms. DeVos pushed back on any regulation as too much regulation. Charter schools should be allowed to operate as they wish,” Zernike wrote.
“That is an organized labor talking point verbatim,” Patru, the spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos, told PJ Media. He explained that Zernike’s story was “well-reported” but “completely one-sided” because “it made no attempt to understand or explain why Betsy opposed a labor-supported plan to create a third bureaucracy overseeing charter schools in Detroit.”
What DeVos opposed, Patru explained, wasn’t oversight itself but rather a double standard for public and charter schools: “It wasn’t because Betsy’s opposed to oversight; it was because Betsy is opposed to imposing additional oversight on charters while Detroit public schools have none. One hundred charters have closed in Michigan; not a single traditional public school has closed.”
Rather than opposing all oversight, DeVos actually backed legislation to subject Detroit charters to more accountability. As Politico reported, DeVos supported many steps to increase oversight, including “a measure requiring automatic closure of charters that rank in the bottom 5 percent of schools for three consecutive years.”
The New Yorker‘s Rebecca Mead, after noting that DeVos has no ties to Putin and has not actively called for the dismantling of the department she was chosen to lead, went on to suggest that her history made her unqualified to run the department. What experience? “DeVos has never taught in a public school, never administered one, nor sent her children to one.”
To this, Patru had a strong, simple response. “Neither Obama, nor Hillary, were ever said to be unqualified to lead on education issues, despite the fact that they both sent their kids to private school and never seriously considered enrolling their kids in DC public schools,” the Friends of Betsy DeVos spokeswoman told PJ Media.
The New York Times‘ Zernike quoted Tonya Allen, president of the Detroit non-profit the Skillman Foundation. “If she was showing herself present in places and learning from the practitioners, that’s a fine combination,” Allen said. “But Betsy never showed up in Detroit. She was very eager to impose experimentation on students that she has not spent time with and children that she does not have consequence for.”
Patru argued that this was an obvious insinuation that DeVos is racist, considering black children unworthy of her care. “The subtext there is anything but subtle,” the Friends of Betsy DeVos spokesman told PJ Media.
While this racial line of attack has not been explicit, it could not be further from the truth. Patru pointed out “the broad base of support she has earned among African Americans, urban Democrats, Latinos, and other minorities because of her work in promoting educational equality.” …
“There isn’t a serious person in America who looks at Betsy’s nearly 30-year record of investing her time, energy and fortune in bringing educational equity to communities of color and concludes that her motivation for doing this is racism,” Patru declared. “It doesn’t even make sense. It’s absurd and preposterous on its face.”
This likely explains why The New York Times‘ Zernike did not explicitly attack DeVos as racist. But Patru insisted that the racial attack is there. “That is one of the mainstream media narratives we’re seeing: that Betsy’s policies are part of a larger right-wing effort to control minorities.” …
Shortly after Trump announced DeVos as his education pick, liberals launched a coordinated attack branding her as a religious extremist. The ACLU of Michigan said her support for school vouchers “perverts the bedrock American value of separation of church and state,” because vouchers allow parents to choose religious schools. …
“Betsy has never and will never attempt to impose her personal beliefs on anyone,” Patru, the Friends of Betsy DeVos spokesman, told PJ Media. “To the contrary, she’s been an outspoken advocate for empowering parents to choose how their children are educated.”
And here is Patru in the January 06, 2017, Holland Sentinel article, “Stabenow Opposed Betsy DeVos for Education Department Head”:
DETROIT – U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she will vote against Betsy DeVos as the next head of the U.S. Education Department.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the Michigan Democrat says she talked to DeVos and “our conversation reaffirmed my strong concerns about her nomination,” Stabenow said. “Betsy DeVos and her family have a long record of pushing policies that I believe have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children. Therefore, I cannot support (her).” …
Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group called Friends of Betsy DeVos, said Stabenow and DeVos still can find “common ground” on education issues.
And one more: A December 14, 2016, Boston Globe article entitled, “Ed Markey Wants Trump’s Education Pick Betsy DeVos to Pay Old $5.3 Million Fine”:
In their letter Monday, the five senators wrote the group’s “blatant disregard for the law” was “deeply troubling” and the refusal to pay the fines was “unconscionable.”
They noted that as education secretary, DeVos would “be responsible for administering our nation’s student-loan programs and ensuring that borrowers repay their loans in a timely manner.”
In an e-mailed statement, Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group called Friends of Betsy DeVos, dismissed the lawsuit as a “politically driven effort to derail education reform in Ohio.”
“Betsy was not a party to the suit, a trial court judge ruled none of ACM’s officers or board members can be held liable for the fine, that ruling was never challenged by the state of Ohio, and as a result, the issue was put to rest eight years ago,” Patru wrote. …
The full letter can be read here.
There we have it– what Betsy really stands for, what Betsy really meant, how given situations with Betsy really played out– straight from the mouth of
Friends of Betsy DeVos mouthpiece, Ed Patru.