Civil rights or civil wrongs?
A trail of fraud, deception and suspect motives follow Ward Connerly into Nebraska

by Bryan Cohen -Omaha Weekly Reader

This was supposed to be Ward Connerly’s year.

Following successes in California and Michigan, Connerly announced in March 2007 his “Super Tuesday for Equal Rights” campaign — a push to effectively ban affirmative action policies by amending as many state constitutions as possible in 2008. From a list of 10 states, Connerly narrowed his efforts and petition signature gathering machine to five: Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska.

Connerly is controversial as his campaigns. In interviews he has praised the Klu Klux Klan for supporting his initiatives and questioned the legitimacy of the civil rights landmark decision in Brown v. The Board of Education. His “civil rights” efforts have earned him over $7 million since 1996.

But November 4 is panning out to be less super than he hoped.

Connerly has dropped three campaigns. His petition gathering company, National Ballot Access, has been dogged by lawsuits. In Oklahoma, the state with the shortest petition period at 30 days, the machine failed to get enough valid signatures. In Arizona and Missouri, opponents pressed legal and administrative charges of fraud, over 130,000 signatures were found invalid and his amendment failed to make the ballot.

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The following article originally appeared on THE DAILY VOICE on Sept. 25, 2008.

Staff Reporter

A hard-hitting new TV ad campaign in Colorado and Nebraska accuses anti affirmative action crusader Ward Connerly of profiteering and hypocrisy. The ad says Connerly, who led the successful effort against race-conscious policies in California, received more than $7 million for his opposition to affirmative action and received a $1 million race-based contract much like the ones he said he opposes.

The ad was put out by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which is fighting efforts in several states that are seeking to ban affirmative action.

“Think your family wins when we outlaw equal opportunity?” the announcer asks at the beginning of the ad. “Scratch the surface and you might think differently.” The ad shows a scratch-off lottery game, in which the images underneath the scratch-off sections is a portrait of Connerly.

The ad describes Connerly, who is African American, as a “California political operative” and a “fraud” who used “nonprofit slush funds” to pay himself $7 million. The group also alleges that Connerly used his race to land no-bid contracts worth over million dollars from race-based government programs he says he opposes.”

As the final section is scratched off the card, we see a third image of Connerly, normally an indication of a jackpot. But the announcer intones: “With his plans to outlaw equal opportunity, Connerly wins. We lose.”

Ballot initiatives were proposed in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma that would give voters the chance to decide whether to eliminate affirmative action in government-funded programs and public schools.

Connerly. who heads the American Civil Rights Institute, has said the 37-word initiative would read: “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.”

Supporters of affirmative action argue that the language is deceptively simple and the proposal would actually allow hurt women and people of color who were supposed to be helped by civil rights laws.

As a member of the University of California Board of Regents, Connerly led an effort in 1995 to convince a majority of the Regents to end the use of race as a means for admissions. He led the effort to pass Proposition 209 in California, which passed in 1996 and later led efforts to pass similar bans in Michigan and Washington.

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers



CIVIL RIGHTS

Caving To The Right On Affirmative Action

On ABC News’s This Week yesterday, host George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about how “opponents of affirmative action” in his home state of Arizona are pushing a ballot initiative “that would do away” with the equal opportunity program. “Do you support that?” asked Stephanopoulos. “Yes, I do,” replied McCain, adding that he had “not seen the details of some of these proposals,” but that he’s “always opposed quotas.” Asked again specifically about “the one here in Arizona,” McCain responded, “I support it, yes.” McCain’s support for the current anti-affirmative action initiative is a reversal of the stance he took in 1998 when Arizona previously considered a similar referendum. At the time, McCain said that “rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide every child in America to fulfill their expectations.” Caught off-guard by McCain’s reversal on equal opportunity, his own spokesman Tucker Bounds struggled to explain the contradictory stances to ABC News, saying, “I do not have a firm enough grasp on the historical and relevant context of McCain’s remark in 1998 to give you the pushback that this question deserves.” Later, the McCain campaign “refused to say whether it stands by the candidate’s announcement that he supports the ballot initiative,” instead saying in a statement that McCain “has always been opposed to government-mandated hiring quotas.”

WHAT MCCAIN IS BACKING: In his interview with Stephanopoulos, McCain justified his support for the Arizona initiative by saying, “I do not believe in quotas.” But the effort to dismantle equal opportunity in Arizona has nothing to do with quotas, which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 30 years ago. The proposed amendment to the Arizona’s constitution, which is being pushed by the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, seeks to “prohibit preferential treatment or discrimination” by Arizona governmental entities “based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.” “The initiative is part of a nationwide attempt by Ward Connerly to have governmental affirmative action policies eliminated.” Connerly’s anti-affirmative action initiatives are set to capitalize on the “tensions of race, class, and ethnicity” stirred up by anti-immigrant efforts. Connerly, who successfully outlawed affirmative action in California, is also supporting initiatives in Colorado and Nebraska. On CNN’s Late Edition yesterday, McCain declined to take a position on the Colorado initiative, saying, “I’m not familiar with the referendum.” The language of Connerly’s Colorado amendment is essentially the same as the Arizona amendment McCain endorsed on ABC.

MCCAIN’S RECORD ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: As many news outlets have pointed out, McCain’s embrace of Arizona’s anti-affirmative action ballot initiative stands in opposition to his record on equal opportunity. Not only has McCain previously resisted state-level efforts to dismantle affirmative action, as he did in 1998, but he has also defended such programs on the federal level. In 1998, McCain worked with Democrats to defeat an amendment that would have ended a program that sought “to give 10 percent of all Federally financed highway contracts to companies owned by minorities and women.” In 1999, while speaking at the Unity convention, McCain declared, “I’m in favor of affirmative action and I support it.” He reiterated this support as recently as April 2008, telling reporters in Ohio, “all of us are for affirmative action to try to give assistance to those who need it, whether it be African-American or other groups of Americans that need it.”

BENDING TO RIGHT-WING PRESSURE?: Throughout the election season, conservatives have been pressuring McCain to get behind their efforts to dismantle affirmative action. In June, after McCain’s campaign repeatedly refused to take a position on the initiatives, Connerly told ABC News that it would help McCain politically to support the initiatives. McCain should say, “I believe that our country is at its best when it treats everybody as an equal and I have read these initiatives and they do precisely that,” said Connerly. Other conservatives have been calling for McCain to back Connerly as well. In April, hardline right winger Pat Buchanan published a column wondering “where does McCain stand.” Writing on the National Review’s blog, Center for Equal Opportunity President Roger Clegg asked rhetorically of McCain, “[D]o you favor the ballot initiatives” and “Do you support the anti-preference plank in the 2004 Republican platform?” Reacting to McCain’s ABC interview, Politico’s Jonathan Martin wrote that McCain’s answers on affirmative action and gay adoption are indicative of the fact that he has a “lack of interest in cultural issues,” but that he knows there are positions he is “supposed to take” in order to please the conservative base. With his support of the Arizona referendum, McCain has now pleased one part of this base. Clegg responded by declaring, “Kudos to John McCain.”