January 7, 2018; Salon
President Trump’s election may have awakened a sleeping giant, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) prepares to spend the millions it raised last year to take on his administration and political allies in 2018.
Salon reports that the ACLU plans to invest heavily in the 2018 midterm elections, pouring up to $25 million into ballot initiatives, fighting the travel ban, and promoting voting, immigration and reproductive rights. They see it as a leverage activity.
“It’s clear that a larger portion of the American public is deeply engaged in politics in a way they’ve never been before,” Salon quotes executive director Anthony Romero telling Politico, explaining how the group plans to be the “face for liberal issues, and a dominant force in the political arena against President Donald Trump,” standing as an opposite number to the National Rifle Association.
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The ACLU saw substantial revenue and membership growth in 2017. Its fundraising efforts have brought in $93 million in online donations since Trump took office, more than 15 times the haul of $5.5 million the year before, and its membership has quadrupled. Although its efforts will primarily target Republicans, it will not directly endorse or oppose political candidates nor form a political action committee but instead will work to mobilize its members to be active on the issues in which the ACLU has an interest.
When Trump initially imposed his anti-Muslim travel ban last January, activists poured into the streets and airports in strong opposition. The ACLU played a major role in the fight, deploying legal experts like first responders to help those being detained at airports.
“We have bodies the likes of which we’ve never had before,” Romero told Politico. “We actually have dollars the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”
The ACLU told the website that it plans to qualify and promote a ballot initiative in Florida to re-enfranchise convicted felons, and will target the governor’s race in Kansas, where a conservative who led Trump’s now-defunct voter commission is running. Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker, running for reelection, will also be targeted indirectly. The group will soon give politicians ratings based on their voting records and public statements, similar to those done by other advocacy organizations.—Larry Kaplan