- President of the Democracy Alliance
- Former vice president and director of U.S. Programs for George Soros’s Open Society Foundations
- Former associate director of Human Rights Watch
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 subequently 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 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 chief executive officer of the Atlantic Philanthropies (AP), which bestselling author and political columnist Michelle Malkin has described as “a Bermuda-based political front stocked with acolytes of progressive billionaire George Soros.” During his tenure with AP, 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.
As the debate over healthcare reform dominated American politics during 2009-10, LaMarche, on at least two occasions, had lengthy meetings with President Barack Obama‘s closest and most influential advisor, Valerie Jarrett. By November 2009, he had visited the White House on nine separate occasions. LaMarche 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.
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 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists.
In addition to his duties with the Democracy Alliance, LaMarche also serves on the boards of StoryCorps, ProPublica, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. He occasionally writes columns for the Huffington Post and The Nation and is a blogger in his own right. 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 Rights, the National Council of La Raza, and USAction.
Openly hostile to capitalism, LaMarche refers to the economic downturn that began 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, he contends that the Tea Party movement’s preference for “containing and curbing government” offers “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, he condemns the “excessively punitive discipline policies” that “emphasize the long-term exclusion of students who violate school rules.” Such widespread “zero-tolerance policies,” LaMarche complains, 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.”