Following a historic year of growth for the American Civil Liberties Union, the nonprofit advocacy group is eyeing to make a serious impact on the 2018 midterm elections by pouring tens of millions of dollars into bolstering ballot initiatives, fighting the travel ban, promoting voting rights, immigration and reproductive rights, according to a new report.
"It’s clear that a larger portion of the American public is deeply engaged in politics in a way they’ve never been before," Executive Director Anthony Romero told Politico. The civil rights group aims to be the face for liberal issues, and a dominant force in the political arena against President Donald Trump, drawing comparisons to being the antithesis of the National Rifle Association.
2017 was a substantial year of growth for the ACLU, as the organization brought in $93 million in online donations since Trump took office, Politico reported. Last year the group had only reeled in $5.5 million, and has also since seen its membership quadruple. The spending will largely be against Republicans, however, Democrats who remain distanced from the ACLU's causes could also be challenged. Although the group is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, so it will not directly endorse political candidates, nor form a political action committee (PAC).
The ACLU will continue to be active about promoting ballot initiatives as well as issues like "voting rights, the travel ban, disability rights, reproductive rights and immigration," Politico reported.
Since Trump's election the organization has become a strong face for liberals looking to channel political frustration. When Trump initially implemented the travel ban last January, activists poured into the streets and airports in strong opposition to the policy, which was widely deemed as a ban on Muslims entering the United States. The ACLU played a major role in the fight as well, and worked long hours to ensure those detained at airports were safe, and accurately represented.
"We have bodies the likes of which we’ve never had before," Romero said. "We actually have dollars the likes of which we’ve never seen before."
But the organization, founded in 1920, has a long and dedicated history of advocating for civil liberties, especially on issues such as voter's rights and immigration.
The organization has "already committed to spending $5 million to qualify and propel a ballot initiative in Florida to re-enfranchise up to 1.5 million convicted felons," according to Politico. All while the president continues to make erroneous claims of widespread voter fraud. Despite Trump's decision to dissolve his Commission on Election Integrity, his crackdown on voter's rights is not expected to ease up.
"When you look at what Trump and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions have created, the outrage has made voters want to know how they can reverse the tide," political director, Faiz Shakir, told Politico. "It provides you an opportunity to explain some of these down-ballot races."
The ACLU is expected to target the governor's race in Kansas, where conservative Kris Kobach — who helped lead Trump's now-defunct voter commission — is running. Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker's reelection will also be an important race for the group.
Similar to the major Republican backer, the NRA, the ACLU will soon give candidates ratings "by their voting records and public statements," according to Politico.
The civil liberties organization provides a sense of relief for many liberals and progressives alike, who have staunchly opposed the Trump agenda. The GOP will look to grow its slim majority in the Senate, and Trump promised in his press conference on Saturday to continue to promote GOP candidates moving forward.