American Juris Link

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

American Juris Link (AJL) is a right-wing, Arizona-based 501(c)(3) litigation center that has been tax exempt since 2019.[1] AJL’s founder and president Carrie Ann Donnell describes AJL as “basically like the SPN for litigators.”[2]

AJL advertises on its site that it provides local counsel, organizes amici briefs, and offers personalized services.[3] AJL tracks and supports right-wing legal challenges to upend COVID-19 health restrictions, fight workers’ rights to unionize, and coordinate legal strategies and amici.

AJL was incubated by and is an associate member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a group of right-wing think tanks and other politically-active nonprofits.

News and Controversies

Fighting COVID-19 Public Health Efforts

Since the beginning of the pandemic, AJL has assisted numerous organizations in filing lawsuits to upend public health restrictions put in place in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. It holds a “regularly scheduled COVID Litigation Roundtable” for strategizing and collaborating against COVID orders, and has partnered with Ballotpedia to create a COVID-19 lawsuit tracker of every court case challenging public health orders due to the pandemic, funded by a $41,000 grant from DonorsTrust, the Koch political network’s preferred donor conduit.[2]

AJL also touts that it helped find local counsel for “COVID-related lawsuits.”[2]

Supporting Union Crushing Efforts

In 2020, AJL worked to support SPN’s Ohio affiliate, the Buckeye Institute, in its unsuccessful attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to take an appeal in Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine. The case had attempted to overturn the longstanding practice of allowing democratically elected public-sector unions to exclusively represent employees in negotiations over pay and working conditions. [2]

The group “recruited” the Maine Policy Institute (formerly the Maine Heritage Policy Center) to file a supporting brief and “secured” 12 additional amicus groups, many of which are SPN members, to sign on, according to a March 2020 newsletter. [2]

AJL also helps match groups working to convince union members to drop out of their unions with lawyers aligned with their mission.[2]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation provided American Juris Link with $100,000 "for start-up support" in 2020.[2] Bradley has long emphasized the funding of litigation efforts as part of its larger strategy to weaponize philanthropy to build up a right-wing infrastructure.[4]

Bradley Files

In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.

Find the series here at ExposedbyCMD.org.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

The Charles G. Koch Foundation contributed $20,000 to AJL "for future payment" in 2019.

Ties to the State Policy Network

American Juris Link was incubated by the State Policy Network and is an associate member of SPN. SPN's Executive Vice President, Tony Woodlief is on AJL's board. The organization has also worked together with other SPN Members to oppose COVID-19 public health measures and oppose unions.[2]

SPN President and CEO Tracie Sharp praised the new partnership with AJL as “a durable freedom infrastructure…where you have think tanks…locking arms with litigators to really press forward to be strategic, to be agile.”[2]

“This is how we are going to have state solutions, national impact in both the short term and the long term,” Sharp said.[2]

At SPN's 27th Annual Meeting, AJL sponsored a litigation network reception. The description read, "Celebrate your victories and deliberate over your hardest legal questions while you share a drink with attorneys from some of the 50+ nonprofits litigating for freedom and the rule of law. Catch up with old colleagues, meet new allies, and learn how a new nonprofit network for litigators can offer free services and connect you with other professionals to maximize your impact and efficiency."[5] SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of January 2021, SPN's membership totals 163. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million.[6] Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[7]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[8]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[9]

AJL Collaborators

The Center for Media and Democracy identified the following organizations that have received assistance from AJL through February 2021:[2]

Funding

American Juris Link is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

  • Charles G. Koch Foundation: $20,000 "for future payment" (2019)
  • DonorsTrust: $45,000 (2019); $41,000 funded through the "Growth and Resilience" project for a "COVID-19 Lawsuit Tracker – This project expands Ballotpedia’s COVID lawsuit tracker. Ballotpedia has proven their ability to assemble large amounts of data and they have collected a large selection of COVID lawsuits. Cases are displayed on Ballotpedia’s webpage in a table showing case name, case number, jurisdiction, and relevant links. Because American Juris Link has been hosting recurring COVID Litigation Roundtables for lawyers, they are able to share new information with Ballotpedia in real time, and can direct lawyers to Ballotpedia’s page for legal research. This project will expand Ballotpedia’s tracker by supplementing the current selection to include a comprehensive list of COVID cases, it will classify cases by legal claims and outcomes, and identify and promote interactive search features useful to lawyers."[10] (2020)
  • Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation: $100,000 for "start-up support" (2020).[2]

Core Financials

2019[11]

  • Total Revenue: $145,840
  • Total Expenses: $30,722
  • Net Assets: $115,118

Personnel

Staff

As of February 2021:

  • Carrie Ann Donnell, Founder & President
  • Elliot Engstrom, Legal Director; formerly public interest lawyer at the Civitas Institute and law clerk at the Goldwater Institute[12]
  • Amanda Patterson, Operations Manager

Board of Directors

As of February 2021:[13]

Contact Information

American Juris Link
7000 N 16 St, Suite 120-155
Phoenix, AZ 85020

EIN: 84-2191039
Website: americanjurislink.org
Email: info@americanjurislink.org

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch

IRS Form 990 Filings

2019

References

  1. Guidestar, Litigators for Liberty Network aka American Juris Link, organizational website, accessed February 17, 2021.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ajlda
  3. American Juris Link, What We Do, organizational website, accessed February 17, 2021.
  4. Mary Bottari, Weaponized Philanthropy: Document Trove Details Bradley Foundation’s Efforts to Build Right-Wing “Infrastructure” Nationwide, ExposedbyCMD, May 5, 2017.
  5. SPN, SPN 27th Annual Meeting, SPN, 2019.
  6. David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  7. Rebekah Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  8. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  9. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  10. DonorsTrust, Resilience, organizational website, accessed February 8, 2021.
  11. American Juris Link, 2019 IRS 990 Form, organizational tax filing, February 21, 2020.
  12. American Juris Link, September 2020, American Juris Link, 2020.
  13. American Juris Link, About, organizational website, accessed February 17, 2021.