Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kaiser's "F" bomb on Latino leaders reveals his ties to DeVos family

Michael Kaiser
Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, responded to criticism of the Center's anti-Latino bias by telling National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts Chairman Felix Sanchez to "go fuck yourself." While Kaiser, who fancies himself a Kennedy liberal, was forced to apologize, he remains atop the prestigious, heavily endowed, cultural awards group.

But a closer look at the Center's patrons reveals Kaiser's close ties to extreme right-wing billionaires like the Dick and Betsy DeVos who donated $22.5 million to the Center in 2010. It was this gift which allowed Kaiser to remain part of the center's leadership structure through 2017, directing what will be named the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. Kaiser will assume that role in late 2014, after his contract extension is completed.
Betsy DeVos said she was impressed by how Kaiser talked about "how we invest millions of dollars in the arts, and training artists, but how we invest very little in training the leaders who hire the artists and run the organizations. We want to help develop human capital and leverage that capital to the greatest extent possible."  
If you follow this blog regularly, you already know about the DeVos family. They are a powerful force behind school vouchers and privately-managed charter schools and corporate-style education "reform." They also finance the far-right Family Research Council, and Focus on Family as well as various white supremacist groups in their home state of Michigan. Betsy DeVos is sister to the founder (Erik Prince) of Blackwater (now Xe Corp.) the private security firm that has become one of the largest supplier of mercenary soldiers in the world. As a member of ALEC, she provided millions to anti-immigration groups in Arizona. and to the failed campaign to prevent the recall of racist pol Russell Pearce.  The DeVoses are also patrons of Wisconsin's Tea Party Gov. Walker and put millions into his campaign against the state's teacher unions.

Dick & Betsy DeVos   
Dick DeVos also owns the NBA's Orlando Magic. Read my favorite sports writer, Dave Zirin describe his own run-in with DeVos.

This is not to say that these Tea Party billionaires put those racist, disgusting words into Michael Kaiser's mouth. But when your whole career is built on currying favor from people like the DeVoses, it can't help but influence you. There have only been two Latino Kennedy Award recipients in the past 35 years, singer Plácido Domingo and Broadway performer Chita Rivera, No Latino has received the award in a decade.

Actor Jimmy Smits, one of the founders of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, told POLITICO that, upon hearing the news of the phone call between Kaiser and Sanchez, he was disappointed, but not surprised. For Smits, the current situation at the Kennedy Center reaches into the White House as well.
”The last thing you want is for the president and the first lady to find themselves presiding over an event that is locking out Latinos. You can’t leave that decision up to the producer, the White House and the board have to be involved in the final selection of these honorees. You do not want these awards to embarrass either the president or the Kennedy family again.”
Side thought: If a mayor of Chicago ever used such language to debase local black or Latino leaders (particularly a certain teacher union leader), he would certainly be run out of town. Right?

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