The Brennan Center for Justice: Agendas and Activities
By Richard Poe
The Brennan Center is a think tank and legal activist group affiliated with New York University Law School and closely aligned with the Shadow Party of George Soros. It pursues a wide range of goals drawn from the radical agenda of Sixties activism as well as from the program of George Soros’ Open Society Institute. The Center generates “scholarly” studies, mounts media campaigns, files amicus briefs, gives pro bono support to activists and litigates test cases in pursuit of radical “change.”
The Center’s stated mission is to carry on the work of its namesake, former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. (1906 - 1997). Brennan pioneered the modern practice of “legislating from the bench.” He promoted the idea that judges need not respect the “orginal intent” of the Constitution’s Framers. Indeed, when Ronald Reagan argued that the federal government had taken on powers vastly greater than those envisioned by the Framers, Justice Brennan rebuked him in an oft-quoted October 12, 1985 speech at Georgetown University, in which Brennan said, “The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it may have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and present needs.”
With these words, Brennan gave birth to the doctrine of the “living” or “evolving” Constitution, which has now acquired canonical status on the Left. Democrats today regularly resist the appointment of any judge to the federal bench who defers to the Framers’ “original intent.”
Justice Brennan served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 34 years, from 1952 until his retirement in 1990. He died in 1997.
The Brennan Center today champions the “living wage” movement, the “voting rights” movement and other mass-mobilization efforts whose origin lies in the so-called “Cloward-Piven Strategy” of the Sixties – a technique used to force political change by overloading the system with impossible demands, thus pushing society over the brink into chaos and collapse.
The Center’s efforts are presently concentrated in five major areas: (1) pressing state governments to pass minimum wage laws which greatly exceed the federal minimum wage; (2) giving convicted felons the right to vote; (3) placing the criminal justice system under the “democratic” control of community activists; (4) expanding the reach, power and complexity of current campaign finance regulations; (5) de-regulating the Legal Services Corporation.
As of this writing (November 2004), the Center employs 35 full-time staff, including attorneys, social scientists, researchers and publicists.
The Center unveiled its first project in September 1995 – the Democracy Program, dedicated to promoting campaign finance reform. The Center subsequently added a Poverty Program in 1997 and a Criminal Justice Program in the fall of 2000. A National Security and Liberty Project is currently in the works. It will combat alleged violations of civil liberties in the War on Terror. For details on these programs, see the “Events, Projects and Initiatives” section below.
The McCain-Feingold Scandal
Major media routinely promote the Brennan Center as an exemplar of “non-partisan” objectivity, yet heavy-handed political bias corrupts every project it has undertaken.
Bias charges against the Center erupted into open scandal following passage of the Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) – commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act – in March 2002. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld McCain-Feingold in a controversial 5-4 decision on December 10, 2003, after more than a year of legal challenges, led by the National Rifle Association. The victorious attorneys defending McCain-Feingold had based key portions of their case on research provided by the Brennan Center – research that turned out to have been “deliberately faked,” in the words of Weekly Standard editor David Tell.
The bogus research sought to defend McCain-Feingold’s regulation of political advertising – an aspect of the bill which four out of five Supreme Court justices later condemned as an infringement of free speech. The portion of the bill in question was the so-called Snowe-Jeffords Amendment – now in force – which prohibits corporations, unions and most non-profits from using unregulated political contributions to buy political ads on radio or TV 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.
The practical effect of this rule is to make political advertising difficult and legally risky for grassroots organizations of ordinary citizens, but easy for wealthy individuals such as George Soros – who just happens to have been the primary financial backer of the McCain-Feingold Act.
During the court challenges, Brennan Center analysts argued that the Snowe-Jeffords Amendment would place no undue restrictions on legitimate political speech, but would affect mainly “sham-issue ads.” A “sham-issue ad” is one that attempts to persuade viewers to vote for a particular candidate without overtly pronouncing any of the prohibited “magic words,” such as “Vote for Joe Schmoe” or “Vote against Joe Schmoe.” An ad that uses the magic words is guilty of “express advocacy.” By law, “express advocacy” ads can be purchased only with “hard money” – that is, political contributions that are reported to the FEC and subject to FEC limits and regulation.
Political operatives who have raised large quantities of unregulated money – that is, political contributions that are not reported to the FEC and are not subject to FEC limits – therefore find themselves in a quandary. They cannot use their unregulated money to buy “express advocacy”ads. So they do the next best thing. They buy TV ads that avoid the “magic words” but nevertheless hold forth on political issues in such a way as to encourage people to vote one way or the other in a particular race.
These are called “sham-issue ads.” Common sense seems to dictate that “sham-issue ads” are just as legitimate as any other sort of political ad, and entitled to the same First Amendment protection. However, ceaseless lobbying by Soros-funded “public interest” advocates has succeeded in convincing many jurists and journalists that “sham-issue ads” are inherently odious.
Operating on the assumption that “sham-issue ads” are evil and therefore unworthy of First Amendment protection, the Brennan Center embarked on an effort to prove, through “scientific” research, that the Snow-Jeffords Amendment would suppress only small numbers of “true” or “legitimate” issue ads, while greatly impeding the dissemination of evil “sham-issue” ads.
“‘Issue Advocacy: Amassing the Case for Reform,’ dated February 19, 1999, explained that `[t]he purpose of our acquiring the data set is not simply to advance knowledge for its own sake, but to fuel a continuous multi-faceted campaign to propel campaign reform forward.’ Dispassionate academic inquiry was so alien to the spirit of the thing that Brennan promised to suspend its work midstream, pre-publication, if the numbers turned out wrong. `Whether we proceed to phase two will depend on the judgment of whether the data provide a sufficiently powerful boost to the reform movement.’”
Tell charged that Brennan researchers “deliberately faked” their results, systematically fudging, massaging, altering and jiggering the data to meet their needs. The raw data showed that between 38.5 to 40 percent of the ads barred by McCain-Feingold would be “true” or “legitimate” issue ads. Nevertheless, researchers somehow managed to whittle this figure down to 7 percent in their final report.
Brennan’s defenders argue that the inaccuracies in the Center’s “Buying Time ‘98” study were pointed out and corrected before they could affect any court decisions on McCain-Feingold. However, the mass media failed to give wide exposure to Brennan’s scandalous conduct, and the glow of academic respectability Brennan lent to the campaign finance reform movement plainly contributed to the passage of BCRA.
Big Media colluded with Brennan once more during the 2004 election cycle. In July 2004, the Center issued a study called The New York State Legislative Process: An Evaluation and Blueprint for Reform. The so-called “The Brennan Report” diagnosed the New York State government as the most “dysfunctional”in the USA. Many of its criticisms seemed valid, yet a pervasive pattern in the case studies it presented hinted that the Center’s chief objection to the New York State legislature was that it was too slow to embrace radical legislation that would break the state budget, raise taxes and drive business from the state.
Major media ignored the report’s hidden message. But from the moment the Brennan Center issued its report, reporters throughout New York State rushed to interrogate candidates for state office, to solicit their opinions on the proposed “reforms.” The New York Times announced that it would refuse to endorse any candidate who did not agree to the full range of proposals stipulated in the Brennan Report.
The Brennan Report provided much-needed academic support for the “Fix Albany” campaign which an obscure Long Island politician named Thomas Suozzi had announced several months earlier. Suozzi’s name is unfamiliar to most New Yorkers, but he is well-known to the Clinton machine and to George Soros’s Shadow Party. Suozzi’s father Joseph A. Suozzi was a founding partner of the Mineola, Long Island law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein – notorious for the long list of violent, mob-run unions it has represented. Harold Ickes was a director in that firm for 14 years, before taking a leave of absence to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House from 1994 to 1997. Ickes rejoined Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein in 1998. He now moonlights as director of the firm’s labor practice while also serving as de facto chief executive of George Soros’ Shadow Party.
Not surprisingly, considering its origins, Thomas Suozzi’s “Fix Albany” campaign turned out to be a perfect vehicle for George Soros’ ongoing efforts to stack the New York State legislature with Soros-friendly candidates. For more information on Soros’ intervention in New York State politics, see the entries for “Working Families Party” and “Thomas Suozzi.”
The Brennan Center serves as legal counsel to the “Living Wage Movement” – a nationwide initiative led by Wade Rathke and his radical cult ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
In the 2004 election, Brennan Center attorneys collaborated with ACORN and one of its front groups, Floridians for All, in successfully campaigning for a ballot initiative that would add a “living wage” amendment to the Florida constitution. Authorities in Florida have accused the “living wage” campaigners of a widespread pattern of fraudulent petitioning and other voting irregularities.
Former ACORN Miami-Dade field director Mac Stuart is one of several ACORN whistleblowers who have come forward to reveal illegal practices in the “Living Wage Movement.” According to Stuart, ACORN canvassers were instructed to gather signatures for Florida’s minimum wage initiative by any means necessary, legal or otherwise.
“ACORN employees routinely accepted signatures for the minimum wage ballot initiative from individuals who were not currently registered to vote—a requirement under Florida law,” notes a report by the Employment Policies Institute. “ACORN employees also backdated registration cards in order to gather these signatures.”
Tom Gerety Executive Director
Professor Burt Neuborne Legal Director
Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr. Senior Counsel
Kirsten D. Levingston Director, Criminal Justice Program
Deborah Goldberg Director, Democracy Program
David S. Udell Director, Poverty Program
Serrin Turner Associate Counsel, National Security and Liberty Project
Scott Schell Director, Public Affairs
Melinda Davis Director, Development
Meg Barnette Director, Management & Planning
Arnold Sperling Director, Finance & Technology
Events, Projects and Initiatives
Campaign Finance Reform Project: Seeks to expand, strengthen and further complicate campaign finance laws above and beyond the McCain-Feingold restrictions.
Fair Courts Project: Works toward a more racially diverse judiciary; a more leftwing judiciary; and lobbies for legislation that would protect what it calls the “judicial independence” of leftwing judges from the moderating effects of judicial elections, judicial impeachments and any other forces that might tend to inhibit their activism.
Voting and Representation Project: Works to grant voting rights to felons and other “disenfranchised” groups; seeks redistricting and other systemic changes that would primarily benefit Democrats and other parties to the left of the Democrats; promotes electoral reforms whose practical effect would be to make voter fraud easier.
Free Expression Policy Project: Promotes selective censorship, in the sense of fighting the cutback of state funding for avant-garde artists while pushing for government intervention to stifle politically conservative voices on the air waves.
Access to Justice Project: Lobbies for a constitutional “right to counsel” for would-be plaintiffs in civil lawsuits; seeks to transform the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) into a permanent mechanism to provide legal manpower and limitless funding for the explosion of frivolous lawsuits that would result from the establishment of such a right.
Economic Justice Project: Promotes massive government intervention in the economy to ensure a “living wage” to all Americans, whether or not they work.
Grants to Brennan
Center from George
Soros’ Open Society
Institute Since 1999 Year Purpose
$225.000.00 1999 Program on Law & Society:
To support responses to ongoing
and invidious attacks on the independence of the judiciary.
$216.218.00 2000 The Gideon Project: To
support the creation of the
Brennan Center for
Community Justice Institute.
$300,000.00 2000 Program on Law & Society:
To support research, public
education and litigation on
federal restrictions on legal
services to low-income people.
$100,000.00 2001 Governance and Public Policy
Program: To address defects
in American democracy by
promoting electoral reform on
$150,000.00 2001 The Gideon Project: To
provide continued support.
Foundations Giving Total Grants Received
to the Brennan Center 2000 – 2003
Courtesy the Foundation Center