Ward Connerly’s Lucrative Charade

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center has unveiled a new ad highlighting the fact that between 1997 and 2006, anti-affirmative action gadfly Ward Connerly has “lined his own pockets with over $7.6 million from his two tax exempt non-profit organizations; American Civil Rights Institute and the American Civil Rights Coalition.”

The BISC points to this recent article on Connerly from The American Conservative that sums up his career by explaining that while “his activism is not entirely cynical” he has somehow managed to acquire “wealth and fame for accomplishing nothing”:

But don’t spend too much sympathy on Ward Connerly. The Right’s point man on affirmative action doesn’t need political successes to be a success. While his plans sputter and his former achievements are overturned, Connerly is still being handsomely rewarded. Once he received favored status from the conservative movement, his future was guaranteed. As an activist, Connerly has made millions opposing affirmative action. As a businessman and consultant, he has also made hundreds of thousands in large part because of it.

Between 1999 and 2005, Connerly’s nonprofits, the American Civil Rights Institute and the American Civil Rights Coalition, didn’t challenge a single affirmative-action law. Yet donations climbed to almost $2 million per year. The share that Connerly paid to himself, or to his private for-profit consulting firm, Connerly and Associates, also dramatically increased. In 1998, 22 percent of his nonprofits’ revenue was paid to Connerly in salary or to his firm. By 2001, Connerly’s salary and the fees charged by Connerly and Associates ate up 49 percent of the nonprofits’ combined revenue. Most of the money paid to the firm was listed on tax forms as “speaking fees.” In 2006, when Connerly took up a concrete goal in political activism—ending Michigan’s affirmative-action policies—the cut of nonprofit revenue paid to him and his firm rose to 66 percent of total receipts, nearly $1.6 million.

Connerly’s nonprofits employ him for 30 hours a week and two others full time. The nonprofits then hire him from Connerly and Associates to make speeches. In 2003, ACRI and ACRC paid him $314,079 while he managed two people. By comparison, that year the National Action Network, which receives about $1 million in public funds, only paid Al Sharpton about $4,000. The Claremont Institute, a neoconservative think tank in California, paid its top executive $132,000, and its staff is 9 times the size of Connerly’s. The Heritage Foundation paid its president $292,000 to manage a staff of over 180. The primary financial responsibility that Ward Connerly had at his nonprofits that year was paying his firm over $400,000 for Ward Connerly the consultant, Ward Connerly the speaker, Ward Connerly the political maven—and occasionally a security detail to guard him.