Connerly's Compensation from Non-Profit Organizations Continued Fodder for Controversy
Feature Story by Katherine Scully - 8/16/2006Affirmative action opponent Ward Connerly is at the center of more controversy over questionable business practices.
On August 2, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D. Mich. and Rep. Charles Rangel, D. N.Y., sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) urging investigation into the use of Connerly's two non-profit organizations, the American Civil Rights Institute and the American Civil Rights Coalition, for personal income and salary.
According to the letter, "There are many unanswered questions surrounding information on these organizations' Forms 990s filed with the IRS, including the manner in which Mr. Connerly has received payments."
In 2002, Connerly received a combined $1,138,509 from the two tax-exempt organizations and he received $1,047,988 in 2003. "This compensation package - that well exceeds the national average - raises more than a red flag," said Conyers.
The congressmen allege that Connerly may be in violation of tax code section 4958, which prohibits any salary or compensation to be paid by a non-profit that is not 'reasonable' or 'would ordinarily be paid for like services.'
Conyers further pointed out that Connerly's more than $1 million annual salary was for a "mere" 30 hours of work per week. "The IRS rules could not be clearer that a non-profit's purpose is not to pad the pockets of its executives," Conyers added.
Ward Connerly is best known as the architect of Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in California in 1996. Since its passage, minority enrollment at UCLA has declined 57% and the University of California system recently convened a panel of experts to examine the effects of Proposition 209 on minority enrollment.
This is not the first time that Connerly's business practices have come under scrutiny. In a 2003 campaign funding scandal around an unsuccessful bid to enact Prop. 54 -- a follow-up initiative to Prop. 209 that would have prevented the state of California from collecting data on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin -- Connerly admitted that he failed to comply with election finance law and agreed to pay $95,000 in civil fines.
Since 1996, Connerly has taken his campaign on the road. He was the architect of Washington's Initiative 200, which ended affirmative action in education, employment and contracting in that state, and he has attempted unsuccessfully to roll back affirmative action policy via ballot initiative in Florida and in Houston, Texas.
Currently Connerly and cohorts have introduced a ballot initiative in Michigan, the so-called Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), which will appear on the ballot in November 2006.
In the wake of MCRI's qualification in December 2005, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission released a report confirming allegations that the signatures collected to qualify MCRI were obtained fraudently.
If voters pass it, MCRI would effectively end affirmative action and equal opportunity initiatives in education, employment, and contracting in Michigan.