For the first time in its history, the A.C.L.U. is taking an active role in elections. The group has plans to spend more than twenty-five million dollars on races and ballot initiatives by Election Day, in November. Anthony Romero, the group’s executive director, told me, “It used to be that, when I had a referendum I really cared about, I could spend fifty thousand dollars.”
That’s what happens when you’re no longer a civil rights group, but a way for San Francisco tech tycoons to funnel money to their favorite candidates.
In 2013, during the comparative quiet of the late Obama years, Romero had commissioned a study of how the National Rifle Association—another organization built around a specific view of a section of the Bill of Rights—has managed to operate so effectively as a public-advocacy organization. “The big takeaway for me from that study was that they were able to talk about their work not in legalistic policy terms,” Romero said. “On their Web site you won’t find anything about the Second Amendment. It’s all about gun culture.”
Fact check: The ACLU’s research is as sloppy as its principles.
The NRA mentions it on its front page. And all over its site. “Together with our more than five million members, we’re proud defenders of history’s patriots and diligent protectors of the Second Amendment,” is how its mission statement reads. Under About the NRA, it declares, “In response to repeated attacks on the Second Amendment rights, NRA formed the Legislative Affairs Division in 1934. ”
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