Betsy DeVos' 'clerical error' dates back to nearly two decades

Story highlights

  • DeVos said a "clerical error" led to her being listed as a leader of her mother's multi-million-dollar foundation
  • That error, however, dates back as early as 1999

Washington (CNN)Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Education Department, is seeking to dismiss questions about donations to Focus on the Family from a foundation tied to her.

She said at her confirmation hearing Tuesday that a "clerical error" led to her being listed as an officer of her mother's multi-million-dollar foundation, which made the donations.
That error, however, dates back as early as 1999, when the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation filed its 1998 federal tax returns, according to IRS documents obtained by CNN. Edgar and Elsa Price are Betsy DeVos' parents.
DeVos was listed as a vice president of the charity for 17 consecutive years, including most recently in the organization's 2014 tax filing.
When pressed by Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire about the discrepancy during her confirmation hearing, DeVos said her appearing in tax filing was a "clerical error."
"I can assure you, I have never made decisions on my mother's behalf on the foundation board," DeVos said, adding later that it is "incorrect" that she was ever in leadership on her mother's firm.
On Wednesday, when presented with the 17 years of tax documents, Hassan said DeVos blaming a "clerical error" was "concerning, to say the least."
"It is hard to believe that Mrs. DeVos could be listed as vice president of the Prince Foundation ... and yet have no involvement with, or knowledge of, the millions of dollars in donations made to anti-LGBTQ groups that promote intolerance," Hassan said in an email to CNN. "For Mrs. DeVos to try to explain away these donations by claiming that her title was simply a 'clerical error' is concerning, to say the least."
DeVos "is not now -- nor has ever been -- an officer nor director of the foundation in question," a Trump spokesperson said in response to Hassan.
"When she became aware that the foundation was reporting her erroneously in that capacity, she requested an immediate restatement of filings. That has been taken care of," the spokesperson said.
Michigan state records show a "certificate of correction" was filed Tuesday -- the day after the issue surfaced in DeVos' confirmation hearing -- for the charity's 2006 and 2015 annual reports requesting the corporate records by amended to remove DeVos' name from the list of directors.
DeVos is a woman who stands between two wealthy and powerful conservative families who have given considerable money to conservative organizations, Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.
Multiple Democratic senators pushed DeVos Tuesday for her connection to Focus on the Family, a conservative non-profit that, among other things, has pushed the benefits of conversion therapy for LGBT men and women.
"I have never believed in that," DeVos said, noting that she embraces equality and asked senators to not conflate her political donations and those from "other families members beyond my core family."
But her family has given millions to the organization.
According to watchdog groups, DeVos' personal foundation and the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation have given at least $5 million to Focus on the Family.
The conservative religious group touts conversion therapy on their website, arguing that groups like the The American Psychiatric Association have "no evidence" to back up their finding that the practice is damaging.