Brennan Center for Justice



Introduction


The Brennan Center for Justice (Brennan Center) is an American non-profit legal advocacy group. Describing itself as “part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group,” the Brennan Center operates out of the New York University School of Law.[1] The Brennan Center primarily works on voting rights, national security and creating a “living constitution.” Much of the Brennan Center’s work focuses on elections and voting rights. A staunch opponent of voter integrity measures, the Brennan Center has received millions of dollars from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

Critics charge that the Brennan Center is wrought with liberal bias and that many of its reports are flawed.


History / Mission


The Brennan Center describes itself as “a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on the fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to campaign finance reform, from racial justice in criminal law to Constitutional protection in the fight against terrorism.”[2]

Named after the late Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, a noted liberal, the Brennan Center employs dozens of attorneys, researchers and media staff to carry out its mission. The Brennan Center was founded in 1995.[3]


Democracy Program


According to the Brennan Center website, “[t]he Democracy Program seeks to change the ways in which citizens participate in their government by fixing the systems that discourage voting, hinder competition and promote the interests of the few over the rights of the many.”[4]


Voting Rights & Elections


Perhaps the Brennan Center’s most visible work relates to American elections.[5] The Brennan Center is a staunch opponent of voter integrity measures and a harsh critic of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United decision. The Brennan Center website has a dedicated section regarding the 2012 elections, where it claims, “[t]his year’s election is beset by challenges to the integrity of our democracy. Millions of eligible Americans may find it harder to vote because of new restrictions. Simultaneously, super PACs are spending tens of millions of dollars to influence the candidates — and the outcome of elections. The Brennan Center is fighting these threats.”[6]

In November 2006, the Brennan Center issued “Citizens Without Proof.”[7] This widely-cited report reached the conclusion that voter ID measures disfranchise millions of minority, elderly and low-income voters since those voting blocs are less likely to possess a government-issued photo identification.[8] The report is often cited by voter ID opponents and mainstream media outlets who seek to denigrate voter integrity measures.

In its major report on voter ID measures, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) relied heavily on Brennan Center work and specifically its “Citizens Without Proof Report.”[9] And in July 2012, Politifact – a far-left group of fact checkers – used the Brennan Center’s 2006 report to verify Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement that 25 percent of African-Americans lack government-issued photo ID.[10] Despite widespread media reliance on this Brennan Center study, it has come under fire for questionable methodology and motivations.

In August 2011, Hans A. von Spakovsky and Alex Ingram of the Heritage Foundation critiqued “Citizens Without Proof,” saying it is “both dubious in its methodology and results and suspect in its sweeping conclusions.”[11] Spakovsky and Ingram pointed out that the Brennan Center used biased questioning to obtain their desired result - thus overestimating the number of eligible voters without proper identification. According to the Heritage Foundation scholars, “the authors of the Brennan Center study appear to have pursued results that advance a particular political agenda rather than the truth about voter identification.”[12]

The Brennan Center has also presented the notion that voter fraud is so infrequent that the public should not be concerned with it. In November 2007, the Brennan Center published a report called “The Truth About Voter Fraud.”[13] The report’s author, Justin Levitt, claims that “[a]llegations of widespread voter fraud, however, often prove greatly exaggerated … on closer examination, many of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire. The allegations simply do not pan out.”[14] This report was also criticized for its liberal bias and shoddy work.

Calling the Brennan Center “[o]ne of the most dishonest and aggressive voter fraud deniers,” former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams noted that five months before the Brennan Center report came out, he prosecuted a massive voter fraud case in Mississippi. The Brennan Center “ignored the detailed court ruling because the avalanche of voter fraud did not fit their thesis.”[15]

Christian Schneider, a senior fellow with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, also evaluated the Brennan Center’s “The Truth about Voter Fraud” report and found that it “doesn’t even withstand even the most cursory scrutiny,” pointing out that “mere statistics are a terrible way to determine whether vote fraud is occurring.”[16]

Critics have also suggested that the Brennan Center has ignored other studies that have found little or no issue with voter ID laws. Maya Noronha explained on the Republican Lawyer Blog that the Brennan Center’s work on voter ID does not deserve merit since “[a]ll other studies, even those done by nonpartisan groups and even liberals, have found no problems with voter ID laws. A study by University of Delaware’s Jason Mycoff and David C. Wilson and University of Nebraska’s Michael W. Wagner found that voter ID laws had no impact on turnout. A study conducted by the University of Missouri’s Jeffrey Milyo even discovered that after voter ID, turnout increased in Democrat-majority districts. An American University survey found that 99% have photo ID in states with voter ID laws. That study was done by Dr. Robert Pastor, who was a senior advisor to Democratic President Jimmy Carter.”[17]


Justice Program


According to the Brennan Center website, its Justice Program “fights to secure our nation’s promise of ‘equal justice for all,’” because “[t]he American justice system is broken. Our courts are the province of the wealthy.”[18]


Racial Justice


As part of this program, the Brennan Center works to “End Racial profiling.”[19] However, this statement runs counter to one of the Brennan Center’s legal positions. In 2006, the Brennan Center wrote an amicus brief in the Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 case supporting Seattle’s program that racially profiled students for high school enrollment purposes.[20] The Supreme Court disagreed with the Brennan Center and held that the school district’s affirmative action program was unconstitutional.[21] Rejecting the Brennan Center’s calls for discrimination, Chief Justice John Roberts explained in his majority opinion that “the way ‘to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,’ is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”[22]


Liberty & National Security


The Brennan Center website explains that its Liberty & National Security Program “fights to preserve constitutional values in the post-9/11 world and to set meaningful limits on the exercise of executive power.”[23]


Media Echo Chamber


The mainstream media often presents Brennan Center conclusions as facts. Often these media outlets ignore the Brennan Center’s liberal bias, its George Soros funding and its history of sloppy work.

For example, on July 17, 2012 the Brennan Center issued a report titled “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification.”[24] The report posited that ten states with voter ID laws are placing poll taxes on its citizenry by requiring a photo ID – even though the Brennan Center concedes that these states provide free IDs to low-income residents.[25] The very next day, July 18, 2012, the Washington Post,[26] National Public Radio[27] and Rachel Maddow’s blog for MSNBC[28] all heralded the report in “news” articles. None of the articles mentioned the Brennan Center’s bias or its connection to George Soros.

Likewise, after the Brennan Center’s 2007 report “The Truth About Voter Fraud” was published, former Justice Department official J. Christian Adams wrote, “[h]ere is the tragedy – the media take this flimsy report seriously. Dishonest hacks like Ryan Reilly regularly use the flimsy report to attack efforts to combat voter fraud, and by doing so provide a smokescreen to criminal behavior. Even outlets with a whiff of credibility use the report.”[29]

In October 2011, the Brennan Center published “Voting Law Changes in 2012,” that was widely circulated in the mainstream media.[30] According to Iris Somberg of NewsBusters, the “Soros-funded Brennan Center for Justice released a report opposed to new laws needed to combat voter fraud. This story was in turn promoted by Soros-funded progressive news sites that brought it to the national stage.”[31] Somberg reported that “[t]he story first showed up in a preview by The New York Times on Oct. 2. The findings then made the rounds on liberal blogs and were written up by other outlets. This Soros-funded report was then promoted by the Soros-funded lefty media, which reaches more than 300 million people every month. Members of the Media Consortium, which received $425,000 from the Open Society Foundations, pushed the story when it first broke.”[32]

Some journalists have even claimed that the Brennan Center is “non-partisan.” Filling in for MSNBC opinion-host Rachel Maddow in June 2012, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein cited the “non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice” for the proposition that 180 “bills to restrict voting rights” were introduced in states legislatures since 2011.[33]

Writing for the National Review, the Heritage Foundation’s Hans A. von Spakovsky criticized both the Brennan Center report “Voting Law Changes in 2012” and the liberal media that heralded its findings. He wrote, “[t]o judge from the number of reports citing its conclusions, the Brennan Center report is certainly a successful propaganda effort. However, neither the editorials of the Washington Post and the New York Times nor the Brennan Center report are empirically driven. Rather, they are myth-driven diatribes against common-sense election reform that the vast majority of the American people agree with, no matter what their race or political background.”[34]

Despite the Brennan Center’s best efforts, and the mainstream media’s constant drumbeat claiming that voter ID measures are really efforts to disfranchise voters, the American public largely supports voter ID. In June 2011, Rasmussen reported that 75 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Democrats said they support voter ID.[35] And in 2012, a Rasmussen Report poll found that 73 percent of Americans do not consider voter ID discriminatory.[36] According to Rasmussen, “[m]ost voters consider voter fraud a problem in America today and continue to overwhelmingly support laws requiring people to show photo identification before being allowed to vote.”[37]



Funding


In 2009, the Brennan Center had total revenues of $7,161,004.[38]

According to Jack Coleman of NewsBusters, “[t]he [George] Soros-funded Open Society Foundations donated $7.4 million to the Brennan Center from 2000 to 2010.”[39]

According to Discover the Networks, the Brennan Center has also received funding from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Joyce Foundation.[40]


Leadership (as of July 2012)


Michael Waldman, President (2009 Salary, $241,846)
Patricia Bauman, Co-Chair of the Board of Directors
Lawrence B. Pedowitz, Co-Chair of the Board
John Anthony Butler, Chief Operating Officer
John F. Kowal, Vice President for Programs
Frederick A.O. Schwartz, Jr., Chief Counsel


Contact Information


Brennan Center for Justice‎
161 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10013


Phone: (646) 292-8310
Website: brennancenter.org‎


The National Center For Public Policy Research publishes GroupSnoop. The National Center is a non-profit communications and research foundation that supports free-market and pro-Constitution approaches to today’s policy problems. The National Center is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, receiving less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!

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  1. ^ “About Us,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/pages/about/ as of July 19, 2012.
  2. ^ “About Us,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/pages/about/ as of July 19, 2012.
  3. ^ “The Brennan Center for Justice: A Bipartisan Champion of Democracy Comes of Age,” Carnegie Results, Summer 2008, available at http://carnegie.org/fileadmin/Media/Publications/PDF/carnegie_results_sum08.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  4. ^ “Democracy,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/democracy/ as of July 19, 2012.
  5. ^ “Voting Rights & Elections,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/voting_rights_elections/ as of July 19, 2012.
  6. ^ “Election 2012,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/election2012 as of July 19, 2012.
  7. ^ “Citizens Without Proof,” Brennan Center for Justice,” available at http://www.brennancenter.org/page/-/d/download_file_39242.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  8. ^ “Citizens Without Proof,” Brennan Center for Justice,” available at http://www.brennancenter.org/page/-/d/download_file_39242.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  9. ^ “Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America,” National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, available at http://naacp.3cdn.net/37b93ce11c8f26ace7_mlbrsyxvb.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  10. ^ “Eric Holder Says Recent Studies Show 25 Percent of African Americans, 8 Percent of Whites Lack Government-Issued Photo IDs,” Politifact Texas, July 10, 2012, available at http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2012/jul/11/eric-holder/eric-holder-says-recent-studies-show-25-percent-af/ as of July 19, 2012.
  11. ^ Hans A. von Spakovsky and Alex Ingram, “Without Proof: The Unpersuasive Case Against Voter Identification,” Heritage Foundation – Legal Memorandum #72, August 24, 2011, available at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/08/without-proof-the-unpersuasive-case-against-voter-identification as of July 19, 2012.
  12. ^ Hans A. von Spakovsky and Alex Ingram, “Without Proof: The Unpersuasive Case Against Voter Identification,” Heritage Foundation – Legal Memorandum #72, August 24, 2011, available at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/08/without-proof-the-unpersuasive-case-against-voter-identification as of July 19, 2012.
  13. ^ Justin Levitt, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, November 9, 2007, available at http://www.truthaboutfraud.org/pdf/TruthAboutVoterFraud.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  14. ^ Justin Levitt, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, November 9, 2007, available at http://www.truthaboutfraud.org/pdf/TruthAboutVoterFraud.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  15. ^ J. Christian Adams, “Soros Funded Newspaper Praises Soros Funded Brennan Center,” PJ Media, December 31, 2011, available at http://pjmedia.com/jchristianadams/2011/12/31/soros-funded-newspaper-praises-soros-funded-brennan-center/ as of July 17, 2012.
  16. ^ Christian Schneider, “If a Fraudulent Vote Falls in the Woods …,” National Review Online – The Corner, December 14, 2011, available at http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/285771/if-fraudulent-vote-falls-woods-christian-schneider as of July 19, 2012.
  17. ^ Maya Noronha, “Don’t Believe the Brennan Center’s Study on Voter ID,” Republican National Lawyers Association, November 8, 2011, available at http://rnla.org/blogs/blogs/public/archive/2011/11/08/don-t-believe-the-brennan-center-s-study-on-voter-id.aspx as of July 19, 2012.
  18. ^ “Justice,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/justice/ as of July 19, 2012.
  19. ^ “Racial Justice,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/racial_justice/ as of July 19, 2012.
  20. ^ “Brief Amici Curiae of Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Constitutional Rights, Demos, National Voting Rights Institute, and Puerto Rican Defense and Education Fund in Support of Respondents,” Brennan Center for Justice, October 10, 2006, available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/e68c2e3cf45af77573_y6m6ivy6a.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  21. ^ Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007), available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/b6ea27d617b97d9316_ynm6bwjzz.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  22. ^ Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007) (internal citations omitted), available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/b6ea27d617b97d9316_ynm6bwjzz.pdf as of July 19, 2012.
  23. ^ “Liberty & National Security,” Brennan Center for Justice, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/liberty_national_security/ as of July 19, 2012.
  24. ^ Keesha Gaskins and Sundeep Iyer, “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,” Brennan Center for Justice, July 17, 2012, available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/2232d41548789ffdf6_9km6b4d67.pdf as of July 18, 2012.
  25. ^ Keesha Gaskins and Sundeep Iyer, “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,” Brennan Center for Justice, July 17, 2012, available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/2232d41548789ffdf6_9km6b4d67.pdf as of July 18, 2012.
  26. ^ Krissah Thompson, “Study Finds Costs Associated With Voter IDs,” Washington Post, July 18, 2012, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/study-finds-costs-associated-with-voter-ids/2012/07/17/gJQAlrcXsW_story.html as of July 18, 2012.
  27. ^ Pam Fessler, “Study: Many Could Face Obstacles In Voter ID Laws,” National Public Radio, July 18, 2012, available at http://www.npr.org/2012/07/18/156935624/study-many-could-face-obstacles-in-voter-id-laws as of July 18, 2012.
  28. ^ Steve Benen, “The Costs of Voter-ID Laws,” The Maddow Blog – MSNBC, July 18, 2012, available at http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/18/12810793-the-costs-of-voter-id-laws?lite as of July 18, 2012.
  29. ^ J. Christian Adams, “Soros Funded Newspaper Praises Soros Funded Brennan Center,” PJ Media, December 31, 2011, available at http://pjmedia.com/jchristianadams/2011/12/31/soros-funded-newspaper-praises-soros-funded-brennan-center/ as of July 17, 2012.
  30. ^ Wendy R. Weiser and Lawrence Norden, “Voting Law Changes in 2012,” October 3, 2011, available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/voting_law_changes_in_2012 as of July 18, 2012.
  31. ^ Iris Somberg, “Soros-Backed Voting Study Promoted By Soros Funded Media,” NewsBusters, October 6, 2011, available at http://newsbusters.org/print/50852 as of July 18, 2012.
  32. ^ Iris Somberg, “Soros-Backed Voting Study Promoted By Soros Funded Media,” NewsBusters, October 6, 2011, available at http://newsbusters.org/print/50852 as of July 18, 2012.
  33. ^ Jack Coleman, “Ezra Klein Describes Soros-Funded Brennan Center as Non-Partisan, June 15, 2012, available at http://m.newsbusters.org/blogs/jack-coleman/2012/06/15/ezra-klein-describes-soros-funded-brennan-center-non-partisan as of July 18, 2012.
  34. ^ Hans A. von Spakovsky, “New Myths on Voter ID,” National Review Online – The Corner, October 13, 2011, available at http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/279991/new-myths-voter-id-hans-von-spakovsky as of July 19, 2012.
  35. ^ “75% Support Showing Photo ID At The Polls,” Rasmussen Reports, June 9, 2011, available at http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/june_2011/75_support_showing_photo_id_at_the_polls as of July 19, 2012 (subscription needed to access full article).
  36. ^ “73 Percent Think Photo ID Requirement Before Voting Does Not Discriminate,” Rasmussen Reports, April 16, 2012, available at http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2012/73_think_photo_id_requirement_before_voting_does_not_discriminate as of July 19, 2012 (subscription required to access full article).
  37. ^ “73 Percent Think Photo ID Requirement Before Voting Does Not Discriminate,” Rasmussen Reports, April 16, 2012, available at http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2012/73_think_photo_id_requirement_before_voting_does_not_discriminate as of July 19, 2012 (subscription required to access full article).
  38. ^ Information retrieved from Guidestar.org on July 19, 2012.
  39. ^ Jack Coleman, “Ezra Klein Describes Soros-Funded Brennan Center as ‘Non Partisan’,” NewsBusters, June 15, 2012, available at http://m.newsbusters.org/blogs/jack-coleman/2012/06/15/ezra-klein-describes-soros-funded-brennan-center-non-partisan as of July 16, 2012.
  40. ^ Richard Poe, “The Brennan Center for Justice: Agendas and Activities,” Discover the Networks, 2004, available at http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/brennancenteragenda.html as of July 23, 2012.