Another Sort of Affirmative Action Fight

In 1996 Ward Connerly, longtime Affirmative Action opponent and University of California Regent, was instrumental in securing the passage of Proposition 209, which effectively ended race-based preferences in California state jobs and educational institutions. He subsequently led efforts to remove Affirmative Actions preferences across the country through an organization he established, the American Civil Rights Institute.

In 1997 Jennifer Gratz sued the University of Michigan, arguing that she had been rejected from Michigan’s flagship university because she was white. In 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case in Gratz’s favor, and struck down the institution’s racial preferences.

It was too late for Gratz, who had already graduated from another, less selective, institution but she went on to work for Connerly. It seemed like the perfect intellectual match, but apparently a hatred for racial preferences is not enough to build a satisfying workplace.

Gratz is now fighting Connerly. According to an article by Charlie Savage in the New York Times:

Ms. Gratz’s letter [to the ACRI board of directors] alleges a series of financial irregularities, starting with Mr. Connerly’s pay.

Late last summer, the institute belatedly filed disclosure forms for tax years ending in June 2008, 2009, and 2010. (The I.R.S. that summer had revoked the tax-exempt status of its related advocacy group for failing to file such forms.) They showed that his annual pay was between $1.2 million and $1.5 million each year — more than half its revenue.

According to Roger Clegg, the head of anther group opposed to racial preferences, Connerly’s salary makes sense because “few people who can do or would do what he does.” According to the article, Clegg also indicated that “it is hard to set a salary on a job that requires enduring racially charged name-calling from fellow blacks.”

It might be hard, yes. But it’s probably possible to set a salary at something well under $1 million. Clegg, for example, earns about $144,000 a year.

Connerly characterized Gratz as “disgruntled former employee” who was attempting to “besmirch me personally.”

These things are definitely true. They also have nothing to do with Connerly’s guilt or innocence.

I.R.S. rules prohibit employees from receiving “excessive compensation.” There is, however, no official definition for excessive compensation.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer