ACLU vows to influence 2018 elections with multi-million effort

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Typically silent during national elections, the American Civil Liberties Union plans to change course for the 2018 midterms. According to a new report, the group plans to spend upward of $25 million promoting ballot initiatives and issues in contested races across the country.

The politically-motivated strategy comes after the ACLU raised $93 million in the past year and quadrupled its membership to 1.6 million. This was a windfall for the civil rights group, which raised just $5.5 million in the previous year, Politico reported Saturday.

With all those millions in its coffers, the ACLU now aims to take on Trump and the GOP by funding key races across the country and taking on hot-button political issues, such as their current effort in Florida to allow up to 1.5 million convicted felons to vote.

“It’s clear that a larger portion of the American public is deeply engaged in politics in a way they’ve never been before,” said Executive Director Anthony Romero. He noted that if the proposal succeeds in adding that many voters to the rolls ahead of the 2020 election, the effect will be “felt not just in Florida, but across the country, in terms of a very different view of the political map.”

According to Politico, it’s the ACLU’s goal to rival the National Rifle Association as a force on the left and become a hub of the anti-Trump movement.

A seven-figure investment in a similar ballot initiative in another state is being finalized, Romero told Politico. And the ACLU has begun to zero in on other races:

  • Kansas, where conservative Kris Kobach is running for governor
  • Wisconsin, to stop Scott Walker from winning another term
  • District attorney races in California and Texas

In all, ACLU officials say they expect to get involved in about a dozen races throughout the country.

The explosion in donors and members came in response to the surprise election of Donald J. Trump as President. The ACLU became an outspoken opponent to Trump’s travel ban in the early days of his presidency and experienced a backlash after going to court to defend the right of white nationalists to protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer — a move consistent with its history of defending free speech regardless of the speaker, noted Politico.

“Wading into the midterms is part of a larger recalibration for the 100-year-old civil rights organization, as it taps into the same the anti-Trump grass roots that sprouted a range of new Trump opposition groups. It has been rapidly adding new staff and projects, from joining the coalition that organized against repealing Obamacare to taking action to protect so-called sanctuary cities,” the report notes.

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