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Pacific Legal Foundation
I n early December, several hundred pro-affirmative action demonstrators carrying signs reading “Fight for Equality” gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court to witness an historic occasion. For the first time since the groundbreaking 1954 Brown v. Board of Education when the Supreme Court ruled against separate but equal in America’s public schools, the justices were hearing cases that could test that landmark ruling.
According to the Associated Press, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases testing when race may be used as a basis for assigning students to public schools. “The school policies in contention...are designed to keep schools from segregating along the same lines as neighborhoods,” the AP reported. In Seattle, Washington, “only high school students are affected,” while the Louisville, Kentucky “plan applies system-wide.”
The Seattle Times pointed out that in attendance at the proceedings was the widow of Thurgood Marshall—“the first African-American Supreme Court justice who, as a young lawyer, argued and won the landmark school-integration case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.” Also present were Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), “who co-authored a brief supporting the Seattle and Louisville school districts’ use of race in assigning students to schools,” and John Heyburn II, the U.S. district judge “who ruled in the Louisville case.”
In its brief to the court, the Seattle school district pointed out that, “The plan has prevented the re-segregation that inevitably would result from the community’s segregated housing patterns and that most likely would produce many schools that might be perceived as ‘failing’.”
The Bush administration is siding with “parents who are suing the school districts, much as it intervened on behalf of college and graduate students who challenged affirmative action policies before the Supreme Court in 2003,” the AP reported.
The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a Sacramento, Californiabased anti-affirmative action legal organization, is aiding the Seattle parents hoping to scuttle that city’s school integration plan. PLF is also part of the team fighting Louisville’s school district. “The impact of the decisions in these two cases is going to transcend Louisville and Seattle because there are many school districts around the country, according to studies, that continue to use race in one degree or another in the assigning of kids to schools,” said Harold Johnson, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney. “There isn’t the academic support for these social engineering policies. They may make some people feel good, but we don’t see the evidence that they are raising achievement levels.”
F ounded in 1973, in recent years the PLF has been at the hub of battles against affirmative action. A PLF press release stated: “On March 5, 1973 government regulators found a foe; mainstream Americans found a friend; freedom in America found new meaning. On that day, Pacific Legal Foundation was established turning the voices that wouldn’t be heard into the voices that couldn’t be silenced. Since then, PLF has filled the void and has proven itself as a potent representative in the courts for Americans who have grown weary of overregulation by big government, over-indulgence by the courts, and excessive interference in the American way of life.”
In October 2006, as a way of honoring the accomplishments of Ward Connerly and marking the ten-year anniversary of Proposition 209 (the California initiative prohibiting racial preferences in public education), the PLF sued the Berkeley school district, “alleging its school assignment policy violates” Prop 2. Paul Beard, the lead lawyer for the case, called Connerly, a wealthy African American businessperson who has spearheaded anti-affirmative action initiatives around the country, “the spokesperson for racial equality, in our viewpoint.”
According to ExxonSecrets.org, PLF received initial financial support from members of the California Chamber of Commerce and J. Simon Fluor’s (of the Fluor Corporation) oil, nuclear, and mineral dollars. Since 1998, PLF has received more than $100,000 from ExxonMobil. Between 1985 and 2005, PLF received more than $5 million in grants from right-wing foundations. Unlike most mainstream press reports on the Supreme Court hearing, Jennifer Millman took a closer look at the organization’s funding stream. She found that among the organization’s consistent and largest benefactors were influential and aggressive right-wing foundations: the Scaife Family Foundations, the Castle Rock (Coors) Foundation, the nowdefunct John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
Recently, the PLF was asked by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee, the campaign organization that sponsored Proposal 2—the Michigan anti-affirmative action initiative that was successful in November’s election—to defend the measure against legal challenges. Looking ahead to any potential legal battle over Proposal 2, Alan W. Foutz, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said, “We think that most of the arguments to be hurled at it already have been thoroughly vetted and rejected by the courts.”
Fighting to re-segregate America is not PLF’s only battlefront. “PLF earns its retainer by delivering law suits against such things as Equal Rights, Endangered Species and Clean Air.... When PLF wins a legal battle, the harm occurs almost immediately and may be felt for decades,” Scott Silver, executive director of Wild Wilderness, pointed out in an email exchange.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.