Friday, September 22, 2006

Attention Michigan media: The truth is out there

Brian Dickerson tells us this morning that Republican strategists are "cringing" at DeVos revealing that he supports teaching intelligent design. It really shouldn't come as a shock to anyone at this point that DeVos is a proponent and major financial supporter of extreme right-wing organizations and causes, but the press seems to be acting as if this is some big revelation that took them by surprise.

If the strategists are cringing, that only confirms that capital "C" Conservatives have to hide their true agenda, and that the Republicans are more than happy to deceive the public. Dick is hiding his true agenda, but as Dickerson points out in this piece all a reporter has to do is follow the money. It's all there.

If only the media had been reporting the truth about DeVos all along. Hats off to those journalists who have done some homework on Dick's background, but, honestly guys, most of you have done a pretty poor job at reporting on the man that has been hiding in plain sight.

Is anyone going to investigate a little deeper? Are there any investigative reporters left in this world? Will the real DeVos be presented to the public in the next month? Or do we have to rely on the TV commercials alone for information?

Since last February, Michigan voters have been steeped in a $13-million TV campaign designed to portray DeVos as a sophisticated businessman with little time for the social agenda that animates his party's conservative Christian wing.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm finally joined the broadcast scrum in August, but even Democratic strategists concede privately that DeVos' TV campaign has been more polished.

DeVos himself has been equally disciplined, eschewing the evangelical causes that have preoccupied him as a private citizen to hammer away at the jobs issue every pollster says is the electorate's paramount concern.

Granholm's ads paint DeVos as an outsourcer of jobs and exploiter of corporate tax breaks. But even those attacks reinforce Republican efforts to frame DeVos as a businessman more interested in economic development than in abortion or school prayer.

Here is one major point where the media has failed.

DeVos is not a jobs maker. He has changed his story repeatedly, still cannot point to any jobs he has created except for a handful at Windquest, and is left to claiming the jobs in the company he inherited as his own, and even there he lost jobs.

In the K-zoo Gazette article highlighted yesterday, DeVos once again boasts that he has "created jobs".

DeVos said he has a proven record as a job creator based on his experiences at Alticor and Windquest and his role as an economic booster in Grand Rapids. Under his ownership, Windquest grew from 70 to 140 employees, he said, while Alticor employs 4,000 people in Michigan. DeVos also presided over a restructuring of Alticor in 2000 that eliminated 1,300 jobs, including 597 in Michigan.

Amway was his father's company. Dick did not create those jobs. He eliminated jobs there, and there was no growth during his reign, except for thousands of jobs in China.

Windquest was started in 1989. If he is claiming growth of 70 employees in 17 years, well, that's not a lot to brag about.

And as far as being an economic booster in GR, once again that was daddy's money. Dick's name rarely, if ever, came up around here- it was always Richard the Elder and Jay VanAndel. Always. If Dick threw money at GR, that money originated from his father. Even the Grand Rapids Press questioned his claims as "revisionist".

So, where are all these jobs Dick has created?

Better yet, why doesn't the media investigate these claims and bring out the truth?

And that brings us to the intelligent design flap. Watch as DeVos and the Republicans try to cover up the reality of their candidate once again.

Asked Wednesday whether he supported proposed guidelines that would allow school boards to mandate the teaching of intelligent design as part of their districts' science curriculum, DeVos replied that he did.

The AP story broke on and other newspaper Web sites around lunchtime. By midafternoon, DeVos campaign manager Greg McNeilly and spokesman John Truscott were phoning reporters and editors around the state, challenging headlines that described DeVos as a proponent of intelligent design and insisting that his comments had merely reiterated his long-standing support for control of public school curricula.

Voters who e-mailed the campaign to inquire about the interview received a reply informing them that news reports had "misrepresented" DeVos' views and enlisting voters' help in quashing "this untruthful rumor."

For the record, Hoffman neither misrepresented nor embellished DeVos' comments. Her story was a faithful account of her taped interview.

The DeVos campaign is now trying to obfuscate the truth and enlisting supporters to do the same, putting the blame on the media for "getting it wrong", when, in fact, the media got it right.

That, in itself, is a story, don't you think? Rather than owning up to the candidate's real position, they twist what was said and call the press "untruthful"? Basically, they are saying the press is lying.

Matter of fact, this has been Dick's only line of defense so far. When someone tells the truth about his record, he calls them a liar. He has done it to the MDP. He has done it to Granholm. Now he is doing it to the press. Anyone notice the trend here?

Dickerson rightfully points to the money trail that shows us the real DeVos.

DeVos' status as one of the Republican National Committee's preeminent financiers is well known; without his patronage, our current president might be just another name on the lecture circuit.

But what DeVos and his wife, Betsy, have given to politicians pales beside their generosity to conservative religious organizations working to outlaw abortion, prohibit gay marriage and adoption and promote school prayer, religious displays in government buildings and the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

Since 2002, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation gave at least $5,000 to the Thomas More Law Center, which unsuccessfully defended the Dover, Pa., school board in last year's federal court showdown and has threatened to sue on behalf of two Michigan science teachers who want to teach intelligent design.

Tax records detailing the foundation's most recent donations weren't available Thursday. But the contributions documented in its 2002 tax return are among hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to similar groups ranging from the Michigan Family Forum and Right to Life of Michigan to the Lansing-based Foundation for Traditional Values, which sponsors what it calls the state's "premier Biblical worldview and leadership training program."

All this generosity presumably betokens a more-than-casual interest in advancing the conservative Christian agenda espoused by these organizations.

The truth is out there. The bloggers can yell all they want, and I believe we are helping advance the conversation, but at this point it is still up to the traditional media to inform the public on the views of those who aspire to power. It is also up to them to point out when the candidates are distorting the facts.

If the candidates choose to hide who they are, as DeVos is obviously trying to do, it is the media's duty to find the truth and report it. To not do that threatens our state, and threatens to render the press irrelevant when the public finds out after the election who the candidate really is.

They will be angry that they weren't warned, and then they might cancel the paper.

Give us the real story, Michigan media. The job and the state you save might be your own.