6 Right-Wing Sports Team Owners Bankrolling Their Radical Agenda With Your Tax Dollars
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1. Richard ‘Dick’ DeVos
The 85-year-old multibillionaire, Richard DeVos, is the 62nd richest person in America and 254th wealthiest in the world, according to Forbes. He amassed much of his $4.2 billion fortune as cofounder of the Amway Corporation. Along the way, he purchased the NBA’s Orlando Magic for $85 million. That was back in 1991. Today, Forbes values the team at $385 million, a number that could rise now that the team’s brand new Amway Center is complete and expected to host the NBA All-Star game in 2012.
DeVos spent years insisting that Florida’s residents build him a new arena, even threatening, as most owners do, to uproot the team if Orlando didn’t heed his demands. Ultimately, his request was granted and last October the Orlando Magic’s new home was unveiled along with a $480 million price tag. State and local taxpayers picked up most of the tab, while the team pitched in a puny 12 percent, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
But DeVos is more than just a billionaire owner soaked in hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare. David Zirin has dubbed him “the top chef of every religious-right cause on Pat Robertson’s buffet table.” DeVos funnels millions of dollars through his nonprofit Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation to fund conservative Christian groups championing such causes as discredited reparative gay therapy designed to turn gay and lesbian people into heterosexuals, the teaching of creationism in schools, and the privatization of all things public, to name just a few.
Among his favorite funding projects are Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Traditional Values Coalition, all of which made it onto the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of groups that “help drive the religious right's anti-gay crusade.” DeVos has also backed the Christian Dominionist movement, which believes in instituting a Christian theocracy governed by Biblical law in place of the constitution. He is also a member of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive group created by the radical John Birch Society in the early 1980s.
Rachel Tabachnick, writing for AlterNet, recently exposed another layer of DeVos' agenda—his relentless support for the decades-long conservative effort to privatize public education, most recently with public school vouchers under the guise of “school choice.”
Dick DeVos also had a close relationship with the late Michigan billionaire Edgar Prince, whose daughter Betsy Prince married Dick DeVos’ son, Dick Jr., in what Zirin describes as a “royal coupling” reminiscent of “feudal Europe.” Edgar Prince’s son is the infamous Erik Prince, founder of Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide), a private army of mercenaries that has received over $1 billion in government contracts over the last decade to help occupy Iraq, Afghanistan and even post-Katrina New Orleans.
The forces of the Prince and DeVos families have combined to manipulate the country’s political landscape by heavily funding organizations of the religious right, free-market fundamentalism and Republican interest groups. According to ABC News, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation helped fund the group Citizens United, which filed the lawsuit that led to last year's Supreme Court decision enabling corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections, without disclosure.
2. Philip Anschutz: The Invisible Billionaire
Phil Anschutz is a 71-years-old business tycoon worth $7.1 billion, making him the 34th richest American on the Forbes 400. He is minority owner of the NBA’s L.A. Lakers and the NHL’s L.A. Kings. He also owns Staples Center in L.A., which is among 120 entertainment venues controlled by his privately held Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). AEG promotes tours for the top names in music, like the Black Eyed Peas, Cher, Jon Bon Jovi and Justin Bieber.