The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) positions itself as the conservative alternative to the “radical, leftist” ACLU. The ACRU “monitors and counters organizations that threaten our Constitutional rights. It files amicus briefs in critical civil rights cases, and defends the Constitution in print and broadcast media and on the internet.”

One of the ACRU’s most prolific writers is Senior Fellow Robert Knight, who surveyed American culture in January of 2014 and concluded, “We are not yet the world’s Great Satan, as our militant Muslim enemies falsely describe us, but we might consider asking our ruling elites in Hollywood, New York and Washington to give the mullahs less evidence for that claim.” The reason, Knight explained while approvingly quoting Vladimir Putin’s opinion on gay rights, is that the “moral meltdown” of American culture has turned the U.S. into a “nuclear-waste dump.”

Another Robert Knight column criticized Hillary Clinton’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, accusing her of endorsing corporations that push “the quasi-religious culture of death… [that] reflects the religious sensibilities of the priests of Baal or the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah.” And in January 2014, Knight suggested that “Evolution is at the core of a left-wing, secular, humanist worldview that has been breathing down everybody’s necks in America for years… That leads to terrible things like socialism and communism and fascism and Nazism…” and suggested that Republicans should run against evolution in the 2014 elections.

It wasn’t the group’s first comparison of liberalism and Nazism. Peter Ferrara, a former Reagan official, is the group’s general counsel. In an amicus brief filed to the Supreme Court, Ferrara compared those who criticize opponents of LGBT-equality to Nazi “Brown Shirts seeking to force their way through thuggery and violent intimidation.”

The ACRU has deep roots in the modern conservative movement – five of the eight members of its leadership team served in the Reagan administration, and the organization was founded by Robert Carleson, who worked for Ronald Reagan in both California and D.C. ACRU focuses on conservative interpretations of a litany of issues central to that conservatism: religious liberty, freedom of association, gun rights, economic liberty, and election integrity. In service to this agenda, ACRU laments “diversity gone berserk,” defends discrimination against LGBT Americans, rallies against an “out of control” EPA, and extolls the virtues of Voter ID laws.

The organization typically receives more than $2 million in grants annually from a variety of conservative donors. The Bradley Foundation, a conservative organization whose donations rival that of the Koch Brothers, is a frequent donor to ACRU.

View Financial Record
Grants In
Grants Out
Total Expenses
12014$1,333,297$2,396,366$2,141,438$50,000$2,290,894View 990
22013$1,075,221$2,860,796$2,516,652$75,000$2,799,546View 990
32012$1,017,912$2,616,229$2,353,635$42,636$2,432,230View 990
42011$767,413$3,034,754$2,782,576$3,000$3,526,959View 990
52010$1,251,263$3,924,973$3,609,324$3,501$4,175,911View 990
62009$144,650$4,985,492$4,796,766$17,633$4,957,431View 990
72008$1,278,919$1,849,191$1,529,989$26,200$2,053,175View 990
82007$1,769,821$3,157,617$2,866,737$0$2,755,956View 990
92006$1,432,357$2,808,926$2,493,725$0$2,371,010View 990
102005$999,987$3,384,321$3,239,986$2,750$2,727,819View 990
112004$479,209$2,366,446$2,276,301$0$2,056,103View 990
122003$169,882$1,216,729$1,165,033$0$1,139,895View 990
132002$93,352$1,134,619$1,121,012$0$1,080,707View 990

13 transactions on record as a donor.

Ordered By: Year (Newer to Older)

Showing record as donor
1American Civil Rights UnionCarleson Center Welfare Reform Fund$50,0002014+
2American Civil Rights UnionCarleson Center for Public Policy$75,0002013+
3American Civil Rights UnionCarleson Center for Public Policy$75,0002013+
4American Civil Rights UnionCarleson Center for Public Policy$41,0742012+
5American Civil Rights UnionCarleson Center for Public Policy$41,0742012+
6American Civil Rights UnionRobert E Carleson Eagle Fund$14,8782009+
7American Civil Rights UnionRobert E Carleson Eagle Fund$14,8782009+
8American Civil Rights UnionSea Explorer Ship$6,2002008+
9American Civil Rights UnionMid-America Boy Scout Council$10,0002008+
10American Civil Rights UnionFree Congress Foundation$10,0002008+
11American Civil Rights UnionSea Explorer Ship$6,2002008+
12American Civil Rights UnionMid-America Boy Scout Council$10,0002008+
13American Civil Rights UnionFree Congress Foundation$10,0002008+
Contributions from private foundations and other nonprofit entities are based on a review of publicly available Forms 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service. For more information about our methodology, visit our about page.