A group of Democratic senators, lead by Vermont's Bernie Sanders, is demanding that Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's education secretary nominee, pay millions of dollars in old fines from an old political action committee.
According to the Washington Post, Sanders and fellow Democratic Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ed Markey (Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) recently sent DeVos a letter asking that she pay $5.3 million of a nearly decade-old fine from Ohio prior to her Senate confirmation hearings before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
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DeVos previously ran All Children Matter, a school-choice PAC that ran afoul of Ohio election laws. The PAC was fined more than $5.3 million by the Ohio Elections Commission after it contributed $870,000 to its Ohio affiliate, even after the commission warned in an advisory opinion that any contribution over $10,000 would break the law.
"If confirmed as Secretary of Education, you would be responsible for administering our nation’s student loan programs and ensuring that borrowers repay their loans in a timely manner," the senators wrote to DeVos. "However, the PAC that you chaired failed to pay fines that were imposed on it over eight years ago."
The senators added that failure to pay the fine "demonstrates a serious lack of judgment" and "blatant disregard for the law."
"[W]hen the organization’s violations of law were punished by the Ohio Elections Commission, the PAC’s refusal to take responsibility and pay the fines is unconscionable," they wrote.
Udall added in comments to the Post that because DeVos would be responsible for the national student loan program — and therefore ensuring that those loans are repaid — it's "troubling" that she "blatantly ignored" the PAC's debt.
"When a student borrower defaults, it has serious ramifications that haunt that student for years — yet when DeVos’s PAC defaulted on its fine for violating the law, they just walked away," he said.
According to the Post, DeVos' name was never actually listed in Ohio's case against the PAC, despite her being an officer of the organization.