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January 18, 2012

Ex-Ally Contends Affirmative-Action Foe Misused Nonprofit Funds

A former colleague of Ward Connerly, one of the nation's leading campaigners against affirmative action, claims he has exploited his nonprofit advocacy group to benefit himself and close associates, says The New York Times.

The allegations are outlined in a letter sent to the institute's board by Jennifer Gratz, whom Mr. Connerly hired after she served as lead plaintiff in a landmark 2003 Supreme Court case that struck down race-based admissions at the University of Michigan. She left the organization in September.

From 2008 to 2010 Mr. Connerly drew annual pay of $1.2-million to $1.5-million, more than half the institute's revenue, according to tax filings. Ms. Gratz's letter, written by her lawyer, contends Mr. Connerly's salary and legal fees that were related to tax investigations of the institute have plunged it into a "financial crisis."

Mr. Connerly, a black businessman and former University of California regent, gained national prominence in 1996 when he supported a successful California ballot initiative barring state institutions from race- or gender-based hiring preferences.

In an interview with The Times, he acknowledged the institute has had financial troubles but said "every penny" of his pay is devoted to the group's mission and that Ms. Gratz was trying to "besmirch me personally" because she wanted to replace him as its leader.