A powerful group focused on “racial justice” – with leaders who have personally donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Obama campaign and the DNC – is leading the leftist-driven charge to weaken voter ID laws in key states before the November election.
The Advancement Project describes itself as a “multi-racial civil rights organization” that works “‘on the ground’ helping organized communities of color dismantle and reform the unjust and inequitable policies that undermine the promise of democracy.” The organization states, ” Simultaneously, we have aggressively sought and seized opportunities to promote this approach to racial justice.”
It was founded in 1999 and has offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Massive assault on voter ID laws
Just last week, a federal court struck down a Texas law requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. According to the organization website, “Advancement Project intervened as defendants in this federal litigation in support of the Department of Justice’s position that Texas’ Photo ID law is racially retrogressive and should be denied preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Prior to the ruling, on Sept. 13, 2011, the Advancement Project sent a letter to the Justice Department, calling on the Civil Rights Division to reject the voter ID law. It also delivered a petition of 120,000 signatures demanding the department deny pre-clearance of Texas’ law.
And on Aug. 27, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley struck down Ohio’s “wrong precinct” law.
“In the lawsuit, brought on the behalf of several labor and community organizations, attorneys from Advancement Project and Service Employees International Union argued that Ohio’s law unconstitutionally penalizes thousands of voters for poll worker errors that disproportionately impacted African Americans,” the Advancement Project stated on its website.
As WND senior staff reporter Aaron Klein recently reported, the Brennan Center for Justice is another major leftist group with a history of biased research that’s behind the national campaign to paint voter ID laws as racist. Klein noted that the voter ID data collected by the group has been called into question by experts and has been contradicted by other credible studies. Yet the center’s information is cited widely by news media and even members of the Obama administration.
Nonetheless, the Advancement Project and the Brennan Center have joined forces to create a “Talking About Voting 2012” toolkit with talking points for people to use against voter ID laws when speaking with potential voters.
Some of those talking points include:
- “Unfair voting laws are being passed by politicians who are trying to manipulate the system for their own benefit – because they don’t like what voters have to say.”
- “It’s wrong to pass laws for political gain that take away the right to vote from millions of eligible citizens, including seniors and veterans.”
- “As the world’s leading democracy, we can’t pass laws that block some eligible Americans from voting, or that deny them the opportunity to participate equally in our democracy.”
- “Emphasize the need for flexibility in ID laws, and that ‘one size doesn’t fit all.'”
The document also instructs its activists to “call out politicians,” stating, “Communications that name politicians as people who are manipulating election laws for their own political gain are also effective.”
In his article posted at the Capital Research Center website, Kevin Mooney explains:
“Tea Party groups and conservative activists who are determined to restore ballot integrity should be mindful of how the Advancement Project operates: well before an election the group burrows in at the local level. Here is how it explains its electioneering efforts:
‘Sustained, consistent pre-election voting rights work enhances our ability to influence registration and election management. We also understand that key decisions are made at the state, county and municipal levels. Many problems and potential problems are best addressed locally, with local leadership.
‘The core strategy of our voter protection efforts is to monitor election administration at the state and local levels, to expose problems early in the election cycle, to address these difficulties and remove obstacles prior to Election Day.
‘Through this Program, we also build the legal and procedural framework necessary to carry out long-range voter protection work. With other voter registration groups, we develop processes for verifying that applicants are indeed placed on the voting rolls as well as means of investigating unsuccessful applications.’
“The Advancement Project argues that ‘multi-racial grassroots organizing’ is an effective way to take down ‘structural racism.’ This ‘theory of change’ enables the group’s lawyers to provide legal support to states, localities, and candidacies. The Advancement Project also operates a communications department to ‘generate public will for progressive and systemic change.'”
Felon voting and ‘racial profiling’
The Advancement Project has also pushed to have voting rights reinstated to convicted felons, claiming “stringent and outdated laws” cause offenders to “permanently lose their right to vote, even after completing their sentences.”
The organization argues that “communities of color” are disproportionately impacted by voter disenfranchisement in Virginia.
The Advancement Project website states, “According to recent estimates, 1 in 5 African Americans are permanently banned from voting and other civil rights in Virginia.”
Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, has also argued that Arizona’s SB 1070, a law allowing authorities to check immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally, leads to racial profiling.
While the Supreme Court struck down three provisions in Arizona’s law, it upheld the provision that allows police to ask for papers from a person who is stopped or detained.
“As African-Americans, we must realize that these anti-immigration laws are not about ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ but intrinsically include us in their broad sweep, as civil rights violations always do,” Dianis wrote. “Black people have always been in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Joining our allies on opposing these discriminatory anti-immigration laws is no exception. …
“While anti-immigration laws like Arizona’s specifically target undocumented immigrants, all people of color are at risk. Racial profiling for some legitimizes racial profiling for all. United States citizens actually comprise the largest group of undocumented people in the country. Millions of Americans, disproportionately African American and Latina, do not have proof of citizenship.
America professes to be the land of the free. But how free is a state that allows its government to intimidate and arrest people based on the color of their skin?”
ACORN ties and Obama contributions
According to the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, the Advancement Project had ACORN listed as one of its “voter protection coalition partners” in Pennsylvania.
The NRCC also notes that the Advancement Project “wrote a legal brief on behalf of ACORN” in the case ACORN v. Blanco, arguing that Louisiana violated the Voting Rights Act when it failed to provide out-of-state satellite voting centers to displaced residents after Hurricane Katrina.
Some Advancement Project staff and board members who have donated to the Obama campaign and/or have ties to the administration include:
- Scott Roberts, former organizer and strategist for the 2008 Obama campaign, is now campaign coordinator for Advancement Project’s Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline program.
- Judith Browne Dianis, a lawyer who has worked for the NAACP and contributed $500 to Obama in 2008, is now co-director of the Advancement Project.
- Scott Melamed, who worked on the Obama presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008, is now a development associate with the Advancement Project.
- Molly Munger, who co-founded the Advancement Project with Stephen English, donated: $5,000 to Obama for America, $61,600 to the DNC and $71,600 to the Obama Victory fund – all in 2011. Munger is a member of the Advancement Project’s board of directors.
- Penda Hair, who is former director of the Washington, D.C., office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, co-founded Advancement Project and serves as co-director. Hair, a Harvard Law School graduate, has spearheaded legal challenges to voter ID laws, and she contributed $2,000 to Obama in 2008.
- Eddie Hailes, former general counsel for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, contributed $1,000 to Obama in 2008. For 10 years, he worked for the NAACP. Hailes is now the Advancement Project’s general counsel and managing director.
- James Freeman, former editor on the Harvard Review, contributed $250 to Obama in 2008. He is now director of the Advancement Project’s Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline project.
- Others include Ana Reyes, who contributed $250 to Obama in 2007, Erica McKnight, who contributed $320 to Obama in 2008 and Elizabeth Westfall, who contributed $2,300 to Obama in 2008.
The group’s board of directors also includes activist and singer Harry Belafonte, SEIU Vice President Gerry Hudson and Bill Lann Lee, former assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration and current co-director of the NAACP office in Los Angeles.
The Advancement Project also appears to have contributed $155,000 to Obama’s inauguration fund. However, that money may have been returned to the organization, as records show a -$155,000 figure under the group’s name. According to OpenSecrets.org, “Obama capped money for his inauguration at $50,000 per person – still, more than 10 times what individuals could give to his campaign. Contributions from corporations, labor unions, political action committees and registered lobbyists were not accepted.”
According to a search of public records, no one at the Advancement Project has contributed to the Republican Party or any of its candidates.
Backed by George Soros and other leftist groups
The Advancement Project is heavily funded by George Soros through at least two of the billionaire’s foundations.
According to the Capital Research Center, Soros’ Open Society Institute has provided grants totaling $3,925,000 since 1999 and Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society has given the organization $552,775 since 2009.
The Center notes that other donors to the Advancement Project include:
- Ford Foundation ($5,266,000 since 2003),
- California Endowment ($2,638,212 since 2001),
- William & Flora Hewlett Foundation ($2,303,500 since 2001),
- Rockefeller Foundation ($2,150,000 since 2001),
- James Irvine Foundation ($1,650,000 since 2002),
- David & Lucile Packard Foundation ($1,230,000 since 2003),
- Tides Foundation ($875,540 since 2007),
- Charles Stewart Mott Foundation ($650,000 since 2001),
- the Carnegie Corp. of New York ($584,000 since 2001)
According to the NRCC, the Advancement Project has also received contributions from:
- the AFL-CIO
- NAACP Voter Fund
On its website, the Advancement Project, which touts its role in various legal battles against voter ID laws, states:
- Florida, Arcia, et al. v. Detzner: In June, Advancement Project and co-counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of several organizational and individual Plaintiffs challenging Florida’s illegal purge of purported non-citizens from its list of eligible voters. …
- Ohio, SEIU v. Husted: In June 2012, Advancement Project filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio raising a federal constitutional challenge to Ohio’s “wrong precinct” law, which results in disqualification of provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct even where poll worker error, not the voter‘s actions or qualifications, results in the wrongly cast ballot. …
- Pennsylvania, Applewhite et al., v. Commonwealth: In May 2012, Advancement Project, along with the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia filed suit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court alleging that Pennsylvania‘s photo ID law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution‘s guarantee of the right to vote. …
- Texas, Texas v. Holder: In May, Advancement Project intervened as defendants in this federal litigation in support of the Department of Justice’s position that Texas’ Photo ID law is racially retrogressive and should be denied preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. …
- Wisconsin, Jones v. Deninger: In February 2012, Advancement Project filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin alleging that Wisconsin’s photo ID law is racially discriminatory in violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Advancement Project’s suit, the first to challenge a photo ID law’s racially discriminatory impact under this provision, argues that Wisconsin Act 23 will disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, who are far less likely to have the requisite ID and face greater hurdles in getting one. …