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February 03, 2017

Philly teacher launches GoFundMe to buy Pat Toomey's vote on Betsy DeVos

UPDATE, Friday, 3:05 p.m.: GoFundMe said today that the "Buy Pat Toomey's Vote" is the top trending campaign on the platform, with donations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The campaign has raised $39,839 of $55,800 goal on the strength of 2,451 donors.

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In a week that has become a full court press against Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, there is now a GoFundMe page up and running to buy his potentially pivotal vote in the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, President Donald's Trump's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education.

Toomey was thrown into the middle of a heated movement on Wednesday after two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said they would oppose DeVos's nomination. Criticism of DeVos arose almost immediately over her staunch advocacy of charter schools and education vouchers, a hardline position foes believe could endanger the U.S. public education system. She was also criticized for a lack of knowledge of some of the finer points of the education system.

If three Republicans join 48 Democrats aligned to block DeVos's confirmation, her nomination could be rejected.

Any hope of that happening through Toomey was buried Wednesday afternoon when a spokeswoman said the senator thinks DeVos is a "great pick." Angered constituents immediately pointed out that DeVos has donated $60,500 to Toomey's campaign funds.

Convinced that the senator's support was bought, local costume designer and teaching artist Katherine Fritz set up a GoFundMe page to buy his allegiance back.

"Betsy DeVos has never set foot in a classroom, did not send her children to public school, cannot distinguish between proficiency and growth, and thinks that guns should be allowed in schools in the event of grizzly attacks," Fritz wrote. "That fictitious grizzly is about as qualified as Ms. DeVos to run the Department of Education. If Betsy DeVos can buy Senator Toomey's vote, we should be allowed to do the same."

The campaign is calling for $55,800, a steep hill to climb within the week, but even if that total isn't reached, all funds raised will go to Camp Sojourner, the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network, and the Children's Literacy Initiative.

Fritz posted an update late Wednesday night, voicing surprise that a campaign that began as a joke had raised thousands of dollars. She acknowledged that buying Toomey's vote would be illegal.

"This campaign isn't actually about buying a vote from an elected official," Fritz wrote. "But it is about using satire to point out the various ways in which our elected officials can — legally! — take money from the same people that now seek political office. Our education system shouldn't be "pay-to-play," and neither should our democracy."