U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has demanded that Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, ensure payment of millions of dollars in fines and penalties her political action committee owes to the State of Ohio.
In a letter sent yesterday to DeVos, Brown asked that this happen before DeVos' Senate confirmation hearing.
Brown was joined in the letter by three other Democratic U.S. Senators and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
In the letter, Brown said the bipartisan Ohio Elections Commission imposed the fines eight years ago for campaign finance violations, and the fines were subsequently upheld by an Ohio court.
According to Brown, DeVos was head of the All Children Matter PAC, and she and her husband were among its major contributors at the time of the violations. Brown said the contributions were made after the Commission had provided an advisory opinion that the contributions were illegal.
The letter said the PAC stopped operating and disbanded, instead of paying the more than $5 million owed; the letter called this a "blatant disregard for 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. However, the PAC you chaired failed to pay fines that were imposed on it over eight years ago," said the letter. "This demonstrates a serious lack of judgment by the PAC's board and a willingness to avoid paying legally obligated public debts."
In a written statement, Ed Patru, a spokesman for DeVos, said that the senators' demands are "a transparently political maneuver." Patru said that a trial court judge ruled that none of the PAC's officers or board members are liable for the fine and the state of Ohio never challenged that ruling.