Ward Connerly's 'equal rights' con
By Bill Berkowitz
Online Journal Guest Writer
Sep 17, 2007, 01:32
In the aftermath of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling
severely limiting the use of race in K-12 integration plans, Ward
Connerly is feeling his oats.
"I believe that we are now poised for a coup de gr�ce
to say that race preferences in the eyes of the public should not be
used," Connerly, the chairman of the Sacramento, California-based American
Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), said in response to the Supreme Court's
decision. Since 1997 ACRI has received more than $5.7
million from conservative philanthropies for its anti-affirmative action
If Connerly's new Super Tuesday for Equal Rights campaign is
successful, the day after the November 2008 presidential election affirmative
action will be one giant step closer to oblivion. The mastermind behind
anti-affirmative action initiatives in California, Michigan, and Washington,
has set his sights on five new states -- Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska,
and Oklahoma. "This is going to be Super Tuesday for equal rights,"
Connerly said. "I think it's very clear that we are witnessing an end to
In 1997, Connerly along with Thomas
'Dusty' Rhodes, co-founded the American Civil Rights Institute (website), a national non-profit organization
pro-actively opposed to affirmative action. Connerly rocketed into the national
spotlight -- and the hearts of conservatives -- with Proposition 209, the 1996
California ballot initiative that outlawed race and gender preferences in state
hiring and university admissions.
Connerly-sponsored anti-affirmative action initiatives have
Luntz-ian bent to them. Luntz is the GOP political consultant/pollster/Fox
News Channel contributor who has been debasing language for partisan
political purposes for more than a decade. As Diversity Inc.'s
Jennifer Millman pointed out in a late-August report, Connerly "makes an
easy sell to the public by calling for 'equal opportunity' and a 'colorblind
society,' [which is] a distortion of civil-rights language that has duped the
public into banning affirmative action in public education, employment and
Super Tuesday for equal rights
"Super Tuesday for Equal Rights" (website) has brought on board
several longtime conservative-philanthropy supported opponents of affirmative
action. According to Millman, "The initiatives in the five states are
staffed with a who's who of prominent conservative activists, including Linda
Chavez, president and founder of the anti-affirmative-action Center
for Equal Opportunity, who is honorary co-chair of the Colorado
The Washington Post recently reported that Chavez,
"a well-known Latina voice on social issues and President Bush's choice to
lead the Labor Department [before being forced to withdraw because of her
payments to illegal immigrants] and . . . [who has signed] book deals, [writes]
a syndicated column, [and makes] regular appearances on the Fox News
Channel," has had great
"success" raising money for a host of political organizations that
comfortably reside under her personal and familial awning.
According to the Washington Post, "Chavez and her immediate family
members have used phone banks and direct-mail solicitations to raise tens of
millions of dollars, founding several political action committees with bankable
names: the Republican Issues Committee, the Latino Alliance, Stop Union
Political Abuse and the Pro-Life Campaign Committee." Although
"[t]heir solicitations promise direct action in the 'fight to save unborn
lives,' a vigorous struggle against 'big labor bosses' and a crippling of
'liberal politics in the country. . . . [t]hat's not where the bulk of the
money wound up being spent":
Of the $24.5 million raised by the PACs
from January 2003 to December 2006, $242,000 -- or 1 percent -- was passed on
to politicians, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal
election reports. The PACs spent even less -- $151,236 --
on independent political activity, such as mailing pamphlets.
Instead, most of the donations were channeled back into new fundraising
efforts, and some were used to provide a modest but steady source of income for
Chavez and four family members, who served as treasurers and consultants to the
committees. Much of the remaining funds went to pay for expenses such as
furniture, auto repairs and insurance, and rent for the Sterling office the groups
share. Even Chavez's health insurance was paid for a time from political
In Missouri, wealthy Kansas City businessman John
Uhlmann "who," Millman reported, "gave $190,000 to
Connerly's failed efforts to pass a 2003 bill that would have prohibited state
and local government from classifying people on the basis of 'race, ethnicity,
color or national origin' in California, is honorary chair of the MoCRI (website)" [Missouri Civil
Rights Initiative]. Uhlmann was the co-founder of "a politicized media
group that became known for producing and airing controversial radio ads with
'reverse reparations' messages aimed at African-American communities during the
2002 election cycle."
Connerly has run up against a serious roadblock in Missouri;
misleading initiative language that he has long used to deceive voters has been
rewritten by Missouri state officials. The initiative submitted by Connerly
states: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential
treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color,
ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public
education, or public contracting."
Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon, who is also a
Democratic candidate for governor, has proposed the ballot summary read as
follows: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: ban affirmative
action programs designed to eliminate discrimination against; and improve
opportunities for woman and minorities in public contracting, employment and
education; and allow preferential treatment based on race, sex, color,
ethnicity, or national origin to meet federal program funds eligibility
standards as well as preferential treatment for bona fide qualifications based
"Connerly charged that Nixon's 'henchmen' were 'doing
everything they can' to keep the amendment off the ballot," Cybercast
News Service reported. "He noted, for instance, that a lead attorney
in a lawsuit filed by Missouri residents opposed to the initiative is Charles
Hatfield, a former Nixon chief-of-staff and now treasurer for the
Nixon-for-governor campaign committee."
Despite this obstacle, Connerly, a businessman who was a
former University of California Regent, is confident of winning big victories
in November 2008. And the GOP is no doubt hopeful that anti-affirmative action
initiatives will drive base voters to the polls.
All the campaigns are "going extremely well"
Connerly told Cybercast News Service. According to Diverse magazine's Jamal Watson, Connerly
has every reason to be sanguine about his initiatives: While many opposition
groups are demoralized and outgunned, "Connerly's group has raised millions
of dollars and is planning to launch public service announcements in the
battleground states aimed at convincing voters to abandon state-funded
affirmative action programs."
Connerly is also hopeful of getting public backing from
former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the leading Republican Party
contenders for the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination. "Giuliani was
unequivocal in his support for the decisions made by the Roberts Court,"
Connerly told Cybercast News Service in an interview. And while he
hasn't endorsed Giuliani, Connerly allowed that he "was impressed with his
instantaneous response and by the clarity with which he understood the
During a recent interview with Diverse, Theodore M. Shaw, president-director
counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund who is stepping down
February 2008, summed up his feelings about Connerly's campaigns. "There
are a lot of people who may be confused and people who in good faith struggle
with affirmative action, but the people who are leading this fight are not
confused about what they are doing, and many of them are pursuing an old
agenda," Shaw said. "It's old wine in new bottles," he went on.
"The fact that you have someone like Ward Connerly serving that interest
doesn't in any way change or dilute what their agenda is."
"There have always been Black folks unfortunately who
have been willing to serve their master. I think that what is most important
for all Americans to understand is that if our adversaries get their way,
nothing less than all voluntary attempts to address racial inequality would be
illegal. You couldn't have programs aimed at addressing this crisis among Black
boys and Black young men because they are race conscious by definition. You
couldn't have scholarships for minority students. You couldn't have mentoring
programs that are specifically aimed at minority students."
Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement and a frequent
writer for Media Transparency.
He documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of
the American Right.
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