Born on August 26, 1954 in Westerly, Rhode Island, Gara LaMarche holds a degree in political science from Columbia College. During his freshman year (1972) at Columbia, LaMarche, through the intercession of his former debate coach Phillip Ryan, was hired by the American Civil Liberties Union to serve as a student representative for its Academic Freedom Committee. By his senior year, LaMarche was the recording secretary for the ACLU’s national board meetings and was deeply committed to the organization’s mission. He subsequently served as associate director of the ACLU’s New York branch (1979-84) and executive director of its Texas chapter (1984-88), where he led campaigns aimed at providing effective legal representation for death-row inmates.
From 1988-90, LaMarche directed the Freedom-to-Write program at the PEN American Center, an international literary organization dedicated to protecting the uncensored expression of ideas and opinions. From 1990-96, he was the associate director of Human Rights Watch and the director of its Free Expression Project. And from 1996-2007 he served as vice president and director of U.S. Programs for George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations.
From 2007-11, LaMarche was the president and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies (AP), a $4-billion global charity which bestselling author and political columnist Michelle Malkin once described as “a Bermuda-based political front stocked with acolytes of progressive billionaire George Soros.” During his tenure with AP, says Malkin, LaMarche led a massive grantmaking initiative aimed at promoting the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act of 2010, popularly known as Obamacare. Among those AP grants were some $40 million in donations to the organization Health Care for America Now. In recognition of the support he had provided (through AP) for the effort to pass Obamacare, LaMarche was invited to a celebration of the law’s signing attended by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Malkin further reports that as the debate over healthcare reform dominated American politics during 2009-10, LaMarche, on at least two occasions, had lengthy meetings with President Obama’s closest and most influential advisor, Valerie Jarrett. By November 2009, LaMarche had visited the White House on nine separate occasions. He also donated, through the Atlantic Philanthropies, some $18 million to a Chicago charity headed by Jarrett. And by July 2014, he had made at least 23 visits to the White House.
Openly hostile to capitalism, LaMarche in October 2010 published an article titled “The Road Ahead for Progressives: Back to Basics.” Therein, he characterized the economic downturn that had begun in 2008 as “a period of the manifest failure of free-market dogma,” for which the best remedy would be “a more robust government role.” By contrast, LaMarche stated that the Tea Party movement’s preference for “containing and curbing government” offered “no coherent counternarrative.”
In Lamarche’s view, the United States is a nation plagued by high levels of intransigent white racism that manifests itself in many different forms. Citing, for instance, the fact that black students are considerably more likely to be suspended or expelled from school during the K-12 years, in April 2011 he condemned the “excessively punitive discipline policies” that “emphasize the long-term exclusion of students who violate school rules.” Such widespread “zero-tolerance policies,” LaMarche complained, not only “fail to improve student behavior” in any meaningful way, but also “deny students access to desperately needed services” while “dramatically increasing the likelihood of future involvement with the juvenile-justice system—especially for students of color.”
Following his years with AP, LaMarche served as a senior fellow at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where he taught courses on philanthropy, public policy, and nonprofit leadership. He also worked as an adjunct professor at the New School University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In an article which he wrote in 2014, LaMarche spoke out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform that would offer a path-to-citizenship for illegal aliens residing in the United States. Urging open-borders activists to “make noise and cause trouble” in order to force the passage of such legislation, he quoted, approvingly, immigration activist Frank Sharry‘s call for his allies “to go all LGBT on their [the opposition’s] ass” — i.e., to utilize, in the immigration-reform battle, the same kinds of highly confrontational tactics as those used by LGBT-rights activists.
In a January 2017 article titled “I’m an Angry Old White Guy,” LaMarche, lamenting the allegedly ubiquitous racism in the American criminal-justice system, wrote: “I’m angry because Black Lives Matter is so necessary, given the epidemic of police murders of Black and Brown people trying to go about their lives.”
In addition to his duties with the Democracy Alliance, LaMarche has also served on the boards of StoryCorps, ProPublica, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Over the years, he has received awards from a number of prominent left-wing organizations including the ACLU, the Center for Community Change, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Council of La Raza, and USAction.
Further Reading: Alumni Profile of Gara LaMarche (College.Columbia.edu); “Gara LaMarche” (Bloomberg.com, InfluenceWatch.org); “The Left’s Dark Money Managers: Meet Philip Gara LaMarche” (by Michelle Malkin, 7-23-2014); “The Road Ahead for Progressives: Back to Basics” (by Gara LaMarche, 10-13-2010); “The Time Is Right to End ‘Zero Tolerance’ in Schools” (by Gara LaMarche, 4-11-2011); “The ‘Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy’” (by Matthew Vadum, Capital Research Center, 10-6-2014); “I’m an Angry Old White Guy. Here’s Why” (by Gara LaMarche, 1-29-2017).