Ward Connerly, Affirmative Action Foe, Accused of Mismanagement

The businessman who led the charge against using race as a factor in college admissions is accused of financial improprieties by a former colleague.

Posted: 01/19/2012 11:05 AM EST
Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly, the California political activist who gained a national reputation as a champion of the movement to end affirmative action programs, has been accused of financial mismanagement by a former colleague.

The New York Times further reported that the American Civil Rights Institute, a group founded by Connerly to promote the development of race-neutral policies, is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and by the California state attorney general.

The allegations against Connerly are detailed by a woman who is a former colleague, Jennifer Gratz. She was the plaintiff in a 2003 case that went before the Supreme Court, which struck down an affirmative action program used in admissions at the University of Michigan.

After she had won that landmark case, Gratz was hired by Connerly to undertake research and to oversee various campaigns to fight affirmative action programs and campaign against ballot initiatives that would establish racial preferences.

The Times said it had obtained a letter written by a lawyer representing Gratz, who resigned from the organization last year, in which she detailed her complaints against Connerly.

“For years, Ms. Gratz was aware of the allegations that Mr. Connerly received excessive compensation,” said the letter. “She presumed that the issue was politically motivated and raised solely by opponents of the organization’s mission. It has come to her attention, however, that there may be some merit to the allegations of financial impropriety.”

The 72-year-old Connerly responded by dismissing his former colleague as a “disgruntled former employee” who was attempting to “besmirch me personally” out of a desire to succeed him.

Connerly, who is also a businessman and former University of California regent, became nationally known in the 1990s when he championed a ballot initiative in California that successfully barred public institutions from allowing race or gender to be considered in admissions and hiring. Indeed, affirmative action has been a contentious issue in California ever since. 

Connerly, who is Black, also led similar anti-affirmative action initiatives in the states of Washington, Nebraska and Arizona.

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(Photo: UPI/Terry Schmitt/Landov)