ACLU Targets Heartland, Sets Off CMI's Grinch-o-Meter

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the organization that has taken the “Christ” out of Christmas in town squares across the country, has announced plans to expand into America's heartland.  The Associated Press and United Press International both carried the story but the broadcast networks have not mentioned it. 

The ACLU is well on its way to raising $335 million to spread its liberal worldview to small town America.  The news triggered CMI's Grinch-o-meter, a unique tool developed to measure the “grinchiness” of organizations and individuals who target traditional celebrations of Judeo-Christian holidays in the public square.  The ACLU has made CMI's Grinch list since its inception.

UPI's coverage of the story read like an ACLU press release. 

The American Civil Liberties Union says its $335 million fundraising effort -- its largest ever -- will enhance and secure its advocacy capabilities.

The funds will be used to build the ACLU's infrastructure by raising funds for state affiliates, enhance advocacy abilities and secure the organization's financial future, the ACLU said in a news release.

More than $258 million already has been raised for the "Leading Freedom Forward: The ACLU Campaign for the Future" campaign, the ACLU said.

"Now is an extraordinary moment for the ACLU, a time when we are positioned both to restore constitutional liberties that have been taken away and extend freedoms to those in our society who have been denied rights for far too long," said Nadine Strossen, campaign co-chair who's nearing the end of her 18-year tenure as ACLU president.

One campaign goal is to increase the capacity of its affiliates, particularly in states where civil liberties are challenged often and opportunities for change are most promising, the ACLU said. Smaller affiliates will receive increased resources enabling them to hire full-time attorneys and institute new advocacy programs, among other initiatives.

In contrast, the AP story contains vital information as to what in particular the ACLU is hoping to achieve and where it is hoping to achieve it. 

He (ACLU executive director Anthony Romero) cited issues such as immigrants' rights, gay rights, police brutality and opposition to the death penalty as causes that would be pursued vigorously as the ACLU expanded in heartland states. At present, the ACLU's biggest offices are in the Northeast, the Pacific states and Illinois; targets for expansion include Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico and Tennessee, with even the smallest ACLU affiliates in line to get extra funding to hire new attorneys and launch new advocacy programs.

Romero said the ACLU envisions more than doubling the staffs of its Texas and Florida operations, and its full-time work force nationwide — including its headquarters and state affiliates — would increase from roughly 800 to about 1,000. Numerous new satellite offices would be opened.

"We're going to build these offices into vibrant, muscular civil liberties machines, in places where our issues matter most," he said. "We've done great work in those states, but we've always been the David to the government's Goliath."

AP reporter David Crary also included information about a key funder of the expansion project, billionaire financier George Soros.  Crary did not identify Soros as a far-left liberal or as the power behind  Soros has given the ACLU $12 million, according to the AP story.

Crary also included a Bush-bashing quote from Romero that reveals the motive behind the ACLU's heartland expansion:

"It's patently evident that the best fundraiser for the ACLU has been George Bush and his cadre of cronies," Romero said. "If the Republicans lose control of Congress and the White House, we can be sure the religious right will be much more active on the state level — our work will be critical there."

Unlike the UPI “press release” story, the AP version did include critics of the ACLU.  Crary sought comments from both the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Counsel, two conservative legal organizations that often provide counsel to defendants in ACLU-inspired litigation.

"The most dangerous organization in America is trying to become more dangerous," said Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

Mathew Staver, founder of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, said the ACLU "already has been an antifamily and in some cases anti-religious liberty and anti-life organization."

"Any future expansion would simply increase its destructive presence and be concerning to people of conservative, moral values," Staver said.

One of the ACLU's key strategies is to threaten small towns with litigation.  Elected officials often buckle under such threats because their municipal budgets don't allow for costly litigation.

According to both reports the ACLU is only $77 million shy of its campaign goal.

Kristen Fyfe is Senior Writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.