Associates of Betsy DeVos’ Brother Caught Spying on Teachers’ Union, Now Congress Must Investigate

Washington D.C. – In response to the explosive New York Times story revealing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother Eric Prince “helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating” the Michigan office of American Federation of Teachers, consumer watchdog group Allied Progress called on the House Oversight Committee to conduct an immediate investigation into what DeVos knew and when did she know it.

“There’s not a lot of dots to connect here,” said Derek Martin, director of Allied Progress. “Secretary DeVos’ brother was directly involved in a spying scheme in her home state against a teachers’ union she’s been hostile with for years. If this doesn’t clear the bar for an immediate Congressional investigation, nothing does. The American people, especially hardworking teachers, have a right to know what role Secretary DeVos may have played in this. We already know Secretary DeVos is no friend of public education, but if she gave the go-ahead to enlist former intelligence officers to steal documents from public education advocates that she disagrees with, it steps well beyond policy disagreement and into criminal territory. If Secretary DeVos was in any way involved, it will confirm that she stops at nothing to undermine public schools.”  

Key points from the New York Times story, ‘Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups’ : 

Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

[…]

Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.

Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Mr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials.

[…]

As education secretary, Ms. DeVos has been a vocal critic of teachers’ unions, saying in 2018 that they have a “stranglehold” over politicians at the federal and state levels. She and Mr. Prince grew up in Michigan, where their father made a fortune in the auto parts business.

AFT Michigan sued Project Veritas in federal court, alleging trespassing, eavesdropping and other offenses. The teachers’ union is asking for more than $3 million in damages, accusing the group of being a “vigilante organization which claims to be dedicated to exposing corruption. It is, instead, an entity dedicated to a specific political agenda.”

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