Mr. Connerly has faced accusations of profiteering before, as supporters of affirmative action highlighted his salary in an effort to discredit his cause. But this time, the allegations are more detailed and come from another significant movement figure: Jennifer Gratz, the named plaintiff in a landmark 2003 Supreme Court case that struck down a race-based admissions policy at the University of Michigan.
After she won that case, Mr. Connerly hired Ms. Gratz to conduct research and run campaigns supporting anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives. She resigned last September and, through her lawyer, sent the group’s board a five-page letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.
“For years, Ms. Gratz was aware of the allegations that Mr. Connerly received excessive compensation,” it said. “She presumed that the issue was politically motivated and raised solely by opponents of the organization’s mission. It has come to her attention, however, that there may be some merit to the allegations of financial impropriety.”
Ward Connerly defended himself against the accusations:
Interviewed by phone and e-mail, Mr. Connerly, 72, acknowledged that his group had had financial difficulties, but said its board had not responded to the letter because “90 percent” of it was false. He portrayed Ms. Gratz as a “disgruntled former employee” trying to “besmirch me personally” because she wanted to replace him.
Black Americans and Californian’s especially will remember Connerly as an unapologetic enemy of race-based admissions at state schools and was the chief proponent of California Proposition 209, eliminating race- and gender-based priorities in state hiring.