Ward Connerly Under Fire

I used to blog for Ward Connerly's American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), an organization created to eradicate racial preferences and discrimination in government. On a Friday evening earlier this month, I was told via e-mail that my services no longer were required, effective immediately — a disappointing way to end a three-year professional relationship.

A couple of weeks before I received the pink slip, I learned from the New York Times, along with everyone else, that the IRS and California's attorney general are investigating Connerly, and former employee Jennifer Gratz alleges that he mismanaged donations for personal gain. Lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Gratz v. Bollinger (2003), Gratz resigned last September, a fact I didn't know until early January 2012.

In a five-page letter (PDF) through her lawyer, Gratz said Connerly's organizations -- ACRI, the American Civil Rights Coalition, and the American Civil Rights Foundation -- have been in financial crisis since March 2010. Recent tax documents show Connerly's annual salary (over $1 million) totaled more than half ACRI's revenue. His handling of donor funds "raised questions about whether the organization's mission has been subordinated to Mr. Connerly's personal interests."

According to Gratz, the organizations "ceased almost entirely" doing projects related to their mission "in part because of Mr. Connerly's salary and legal fees related to the tax investigations." ACRI also had problems making payroll. Gratz believes if Connerly had reduced his salary "on a level commensurate with the organizations' current revenue" when problems began, the employees would have received their checks on time.

Gratz accused Connerly of displaying "erratic behavior" and making threats, and discouraged her and other employees from revealing financial irregularities. Connerly denied the allegations, although he acknowledged ACRI was having financial problems. He told the New York Times that Gratz was just a "disgruntled former employee" who wanted to replace him as head of the organization. The allegations are disappointing to those who supported ACRI.

I became acquainted with Connerly after I reviewed his book, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences, for Townhall.com in 2003. He sent an e-mail thanking me for it, and I set out on a mission to publicly oppose a practice that had prompted the civil rights movement: government-mandated racial discrimination. Racial preferences go a step further in lowering standards for certain minorities. Connerly was vilified for opposing a practice that is demeaning and condescending to black Americans. People couldn't understand why a black man wanted to get rid of a policy that "helped" blacks. They called him a "con man" and a "lawn jockey."