For Ward Connerly, Affirmative Action Pays

Ward Connerly is an outspoken critic of affirmative in education. Wikipedia provides a history of his activism in this area:

In 1995, he became the chairman of the California Civil Rights Initiative Campaign and helped get the initiative on the California ballot as Proposition 209. The Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations, the ACLU, and the California Teachers Association opposed the measure. It passed by a 54% majority.

Connerly, in 1997, formed the American Civil Rights Institute. Connerly and the ACRI supported a similar ballot measure in Washington which would later pass by 58%. Connerly and his group worked to get a measure on the ballot in the 2000 Florida election. The Florida Supreme Court put restrictions on the petition language, and Governor Jeb Bush later implemented, through a program called “One Florida,” key portions of Connerly’s proposal, helping to keep it off the ballot by accomplishing some of its key objectives through legislation.

In 2003, Connerly helped place on the California ballot a measure that would prohibit the state government from classifying any person by race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, with some exceptions such as the case it is needed for medical research. Critics were concerned that such a measure would make it difficult to track housing discrimination and racial profiling activities. The measure was also criticized by newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times, that claimed it would hamper legitimate medical and scientific purposes. The measure was not passed by the voters.

Following the 2003 Supreme Court rulings in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, Connerly was invited to Michigan by Jennifer Gratz to support a measure similar to the 1996 California amendment. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative appeared on the November 2006 Michigan ballot and passed.

I’ve never agreed with Connerly’s stands on issues, but I’ve always respected his right to fight for what he believes.

But I am very troubled by some reporting about Connerly in the latest issue of Good magazine. An article about him notes:

Connerly is also paid handsomely for his crusade—a factor his critics think is his true motivation. He makes no apologies for his salary. When he’s asked if reports that he makes as much as $400,000 per year are accurate, he flashes a quick smile and says ambiguously, “I hope it’s more than that.”

As it turns out, it’s much more. In 2003, he earned more than $1 million in compensation—the same year he was fined $95,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for not disclosing who funded a proposed California ballot initiative.

In his defense, the Heritage Foundation’s Becky Norton Dunlop has said, “Most people who donate to causes such as this, that are controversial, recognize that talented and effective leaders must be compensated or they’ll find other ways to make a living. Connerly’s … willingness to speak out on the issue has had national impact.” In other words, he’s invaluable to the cause.

I have no problem at all with activists being paid for their work. But I find it morally dubious that a person who claims that blacks are being unfairly enriched by affirmatively action… is being so enriched for his efforts, apparently because his backers need a black face to champion the cause.

Connerly’s activism continues. The Good magazine article notes that

…(Connerly has) embarked on his most ambitious campaign to date: Super Tuesday for Equal Rights, a well-organized, well-funded drive to end sex- and race-based preferences in public universities, hiring, and contracting in five states—Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona. If all those initiatives were to pass into law, it would be a precedent-setting assault on the nationwide effort to preserve affirmative action.

Whatever else can be said about Connerly, this is undeniable: when it comes to fighting affirmative action, there is no better investment for conservative money.

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