Written by John Perazzo
The American Constitution Society's annual budget comprises several million dollars, a portion of which is used to publish a journal and to produce white papers on contemporary legal issues. Several foundations have contributed large sums of money to ACS, most notably the Streisand Foundation, the Deer Creek Foundation, the Ford Foundation, George Soros' Open Society Institute, the Overbrook Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation - all major funders of left-wing causes. This support is a harbinger of ACS's platform and agenda.
ACS aggressively recruits and indoctrinates young law students, with the ultimate objective bringing them into the Legal Left. ACS conventions typically feature high-profile guest speakers like Eric Holder, Ralph Nader, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy, John Edwards, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Rosa DeLauro, Jesse Jackson Jr., John Lewis, Jan Schakowsky, Al Gore, Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Barney Frank, former Attorney General Janet Reno, former Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee, Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, and communist icon Angela Davis.
When addressing ACS audiences, these speakers commonly engage in inflammatory rhetoric aimed at stoking the passions of the left. At an ACS event on June 24, 2004, for instance, Al Gore likened President Bush to the Roman dictator Julius Caesar and accused Republicans of monitoring the Internet with "digital Brown Shirts" prepared to ambush any journalist who dared to criticize America's war effort in Iraq. He accused President Bush of authorizing "what plainly amounts to the torture of prisoners" and labeling "any law or treaty" which "attempts to constrain his treatment of prisoners in time of war" as "a violation of the Constitution." Gore further accused the President of asserting "that he has the inherent power...to launch an invasion of any nation on earth, at any time he chooses, for any reason he wishes, even if that nation poses no imminent threat to the United States." And he said that Bush had declared himself "no longer subject to the rule of law so long as he is acting in his role as Commander in Chief."
In its Mission Statement, ACS laments that "[i]n recent years, an activist conservative legal movement has gained influence-eroding [the] enduring values" of "individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, access to justice, democracy and the rule of law." While condemning what it calls "judicial activism" by conservative judges, ACS encourages judicial activism by the left. To cultivate such a spirit, the organization has initiated a working group under the heading "Constitutional Interpretation and Change," which seeks to "debunk" the "neutral-sounding theories of...originalism and strict construction" that "ideological conservatives" purportedly have used to smear "judges with whom they disagree as judicial activists who make up law instead of interpreting it." This working group falls under the heading of "The Constitution in the 21st Century" and seeks "to promote positive, much-needed change in our legal and policy landscape," "to formulate and advance a progressive vision of our Constitution and laws," and "to popularize progressive ideas through papers, conferences and media outreach."
ACS also administers a number of additional working groups. One of these is "Access to Justice," which condemns "efforts to...insulate wrongdoers from suit, limit remedies and deprive legal aid services of resources." This initiative is co-chaired by three individuals with impeccable leftist credentials: Lucas Guttentag, a national director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, which seeks to expand the rights and liberties of illegal aliens; Marianne Lado, a former staff attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and Bill Lann Lee, the Clinton administration's top civil rights prosecutor from 1997 to 2001.
ACS's "Criminal Justice" working group produces and disseminates reports founded on the premise that "racial inequality permeates the [justice] system from arrest through sentencing." A noteworthy co-chair of this project is Professor David Cole, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who has defended such abetters of Islamic terrorism as the radical attorney Lynne Stewart and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian. CCR initiated a wave of lawsuits on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees, seeking to grant jihadists Constitutional rights. It is a pro-Castro organization that consistently condemns American foreign policy, calls for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, characterizes the U.S. criminal-justice system as racist and in need of an overhaul, and seeks to cripple most American anti-terrorism efforts.
The aims of ACS's "Democracy and Voting" (D&V) working group are broadly consistent with those of ACORN, the pro-Obama organization whose infamous voter-registration efforts on behalf of Democrats in recent election cycles have been marred by massive levels of fraud. Specifically, D&V "identifies barriers to political participation that stem from race, redistricting, the partisan and incompetent administration of elections, registration difficulties, [and] felon disenfranchisement." One ACS Board member, Georgetown law professor Spencer Overton, contends that instituting a photo ID requirement for voters would disenfranchise "political groups whose members are less likely to bring ID to the polls." The D&V project is co-chaired by Julie Fernandes, who served as Special Assistant to President Clinton at the White House Domestic Policy Council; Sam Hirsch, who has longstanding ties to the Democratic National Committee; Pamela Karlan, a former attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and Nina Perales, who has served as Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, both of which favor expanded rights for illegal aliens.
ACS's "Equality and Liberty" working group is devoted to "combating inequality resulting from race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age and other factors." The project's co-chairs include Paul Wolfson, who currently represents the Texas chapter of the NAACP; Nina Pillard, a former fellow at the ACLU who also worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and for President Clinton's Office of the Solicitor General; and Alan Jenkins, who has had close ties to the Ford Foundation (one of the world's leading funders of the left), the Clinton Justice Department, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU, and the Center for Community Change (which favors expanded rights for illegal aliens in the U.S.).
The "Separation of Powers and Federalism" working group was established by ACS to "promote the ability of government at all levels to pursue progressive policies," and to counter what it describes as the Bush administration's efforts to "increase...executive power at the expense of the other branches of the federal government." This project is co-chaired by three people who worked for the Clinton Justice Department-Preeta Bansal, Neil J. Kinkopf, and Christopher Schroeder-as well as by Simon Lazarus, who served on President Jimmy Carter's White House Domestic Policy Staff.
Through its "International Law and the Constitution" working group, ACS disparages American law as antiquated and inequitable, and calls on judges to make American jurisprudence subservient to United Nations treaties and European Court of Human Rights decisions. Co-chairing this group are Jamil Dakwar, a former Human Rights Watch staffer who currently directs the ACLU's Human Rights Program; Catherine Powell, a Board member of Human Rights Watch; and Cindy Soohoo, Director of the Center for Reproductive Rights' Domestic Legal Program.
With an eye toward cultivating a new generation of leftists, ACS has developed a "Constitution in the Classroom" program whereby volunteers, under the ostensibly noble banner of "education," indoctrinate young students across the United States.
A number of major ACS figures already have secured positions in the forthcoming Obama administration. Executive Director Lisa Brown, for instance, will be Obama's White House Staff Secretary. In the 1990s, Brown served as an Attorney Advisor in the Clinton Justice Department and as Counsel to Vice President Al Gore.
ACS Board of Directors member Goodwin Liu, who also sits on the Board of the ACLU's Northern California chapter, is a member of the Obama-Biden transition team.
Joining Liu on the transition team is another ACS Board of Directors member, Dawn Johnsen, who spent five years in the Clinton Justice Department, five years as Legal Director of the abortion-rights group NARAL, and one year as a Staff Counsel Fellow for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
Former ACS staffer Melody Barnes will direct the Obama administration's Domestic Policy Council. Barnes previously served as Executive Vice President for Policy at the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress (a think tank dominated by Hillary Clinton and former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta), and as Chief Counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Former ACS Board member Ronald Klain will be chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden. In 1993, Klain directed the judicial selection process that resulted in the confirmation of the Supreme Court's most radical justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the high court. The following year, Klain became chief of staff and Counselor to Attorney General Janet Reno, and in 1995 he became Assistant to President Bill Clinton and chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore.
Current ACS Board of Directors member Teresa Wynn Roseborough is believed to be in the running for the post of Solicitor General in the Obama administration.
ACS's Board of Directors also includes a large roster of additional leftist luminaries who may be in line for roles in the Obama administration. Among these are:
ACS's Board of Advisors is similarly populated with a host of leftists, including: