The most dangerous organization in the country is about to become more dangerous.
The American Civil Liberties Union announced by far the largest fundraising campaign in its 88-year history Monday, eying a dramatic expansion of its work on social justice issues in relatively conservative states such as Texas and Florida.
The campaign’s goal is $335 million, with $258 million already raised through behind-the-scenes solicitations over the past year, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said.
Major donors include billionaire financier George Soros, who gave $12 million through his Open Society Institute.
“The purpose is to build a civil liberties infrastructure in the middle of the country — where battleground states are often under-resourced and our efforts are most needed,” Romero said.
He cited issues such as immigrants’ rights, gay rights, police brutality and opposition to the death penalty as causes that would be pursued vigorously as the ACLU expanded in heartland states. At present, the ACLU’s biggest offices are in the Northeast, the Pacific states and Illinois; targets for expansion include Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico and Tennessee, with even the smallest ACLU affiliates in line to get extra funding to hire new attorneys and launch new advocacy programs.
Romero said the ACLU envisions more than doubling the staffs of its Texas and Florida operations, and its full-time work force nationwide — including its headquarters and state affiliates — would increase from roughly 800 to about 1,000. Numerous new satellite offices would be opened.