A Fifteen Year Report
Written by Jean Hardisty and Peter Snoad
Political Research Associates is an independent, not-for-profit research center which monitors the organizations, individuals, and activities of the US political right. Our purpose is to serve as an information clearinghouse providing archival information on the right wing, including links among right-wing groups, financing behind right-wing activities, and analysis of right-wing movements, and to serve as an "early warning system" for those who need to know about emerging trends and developments.
PRA is also committed to playing an active role in efforts to resist right-wing programs, primarily through public education and networking.
Our success is measured by the quality and usefulness of our research and organizing.
Donations to Political Research Associates are tax-deductible. [Return to Table of Contents]
Since its founding in 1981 Political Research Associates (PRA) has come to occupy an unusual niche in the the social change movement. As a back-up center for progressive organizing, it is an independent source of opposition research and analysis on the political right wing.
This Anniversary Report is both a review and a guide. It highlights some of our accomplishments over the last 15 years; more importantly perhaps, it will give you a sense of the resources PRA has to offer to help meet the profound challenges to democracy and pluralism that now confront us.
When PRA opened its doors in Chicago, we saw it as a short-term response to the recent emergence of the New Right. We thought the right's resurgence would burn out within a decade. Instead, the right is now far more powerful, dangerous, and organized than it was in 1981.
PRA has watched the right build a series of movements that have pushed the causes of social justice to the margins. We have studied the relationship between the right and the establishment, tracked the money, analyzed the ideology, and attended the conferences of the right. We have understood every step of the path that has led to where we are today.
Yet we find ourselves in a moment when tolerance, pluralism and fairness are under severe attack. The only gratifying thing about this period is the new level of awareness on the part of committed people who thought their hard-fought, humane social changes were safe. This greater awareness has meant that a keener ear is turned to PRA, as more people come to see the danger posed by the right.
The next few years will be critical for the fate of democracy as we know it. If we hope to respond effectively to the scapegoating, reactionary attacks, economic redistribution, and encoded bigotry of the right, these practices must be exposed for what they are. PRA is determined to play an important role in both the response to the right and in rebuilding the social change movement.
I hope that you will join with us at PRA in our ongoing work of providing a principled voice of opposition to the bullying and reactionary message of the right. We are here to answer your questions and your need for information in fighting to stop and reverse the dramatic gains that have been made by the right. Our newsletter, The Public Eye, our other publications, our speakers, our library, and our media appearances are the core of the resources PRA brings to a broad-based response.
I recommend these resources -- the work of the dedicated staff at PRA. Our resources reflect PRA's history of 15 years of hard work, integrity and useful contribution to the progressive movement for social change. And on this anniversary, we thank the many individual and foundation donors who have shown an understanding and appreciation of our mission and purpose.
Political Research Associates (PRA) is an independent, nonprofit research center that researches and monitors the movements and trends of the US political right.
Begun in 1981 in Chicago as Midwest Research, PRA relocated to the Boston area under its current name in 1987. PRA has accumulated an outstanding depth of knowledge and understanding of the right over the last 15 years. This has made it a key national resource for anyone needing accurate information and analysis about the right-wing movement in this country.
While we actively collaborate with many other organizations that oppose the right, PRA is unique in two important ways. First, we monitor the full spectrum of the right, from the right wing of the Republican party to paramilitary organizations such as the armed citizens' militias. Second, we are nationally known for our analysis of the history and composition of the right in the US and the significance of unfolding events as they occur.
PRA is first and foremost a research center. We serve as an information clearinghouse, providing archival information on the right, including links among right-wing groups, financing behind right-wing activities, and analysis of right-wing movements. We serve, too, as an "early warning system" for those who need to know about emerging trends and developments.
But PRA is also an integral part of an activist community. We work
with other progressive organizations and their allies to resist the anti-democratic
and exclusionary agendas of the right and to promote an alternative vision
for our society -- one which is democratic, pluralistic and tolerant.
Based on this commitment, PRA does extensive public education and media
work. And we provide direct support -- in the form of resource materials,
organizing advice, and expert speakers -- to community-based groups seeking
to respond to right-wing campaigns.
PRA sets its research agenda based on what we learn about the right. Over the years we have become adept at not only analyzing the right's various factions and sorting out their underlying political ideology, but also predicting, with remarkable accuracy, the targets of upcoming right-wing attacks.
Thus, when people contact us, we generally have the information they need. Moreover, our forward planning and preparation positions us to make important strategic contributions to organizing and public education efforts that expose and counter right-wing campaigns. For example, PRA:
PRA has earned a reputation for careful and scrupulously accurate research. We are constantly gathering and sifting new information and intelligence on the right, which helps to sharpen our analysis.
We comb right-wing and alternative publications, the mainstream press, and computer bulletin boards where right-wingers -- and those who monitor them -- exchange information and ideas. PRA staff regularly attend conferences to hear first-hand how issues are being framed and tactics discussed within the right. And PRA works with a network of researchers, activists, journalists, and analysts who regularly channel information and material to our office.
Our success is defined both by the quality of our research work and how widely and effectively it is used to educate people about the right and inform organized efforts to defend democracy and pluralism.
To that end, we publish a range of written materials and provide other information services and resources -- all designed to be as user-friendly as possible.
For a full list of PRA publications, please complete and return the coupon in this booklet.
Media outreach: In addition to serving as a vital resource for activists and the general public, we provide hard-to-find information and analysis to a broad spectrum of print and electronic news media. PRA's high media profile reflects its status within the mainstream media as a respected and reliable national authority on the right. Our media contacts range from innumerable local TV and radio programs to the national bureaus of NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and CNN. Chip Berlet has appeared repeatedly on The Today Show, NPR's "All Things Considered, and "NPR's "Fresh Air", and is frequently published in magazines, newspapers and periodicals. Director Jean Hardisty has also written in a wide range of publications, and PRA Board members are frequently cited as sources.
PRA is involved in a joint project with the Institute for Alternative Journalism to improve and expand informed, in-depth coverage of the right by alternative news media, especially weekly alternative newspapers. PRA and the Institute are working to provide a more regular flow of background material on right-wing movements, groups, and ideas to these media via Alternet, the Institute's on-line news service. This is now cross-linked with PRA's text and databases. Reporters from mainstream as well as alternative media outlets can download material posted on Alternet as needed.
The success of the right, in both the electoral sphere, and within far-right paramilitary circles, has increased the need for PRA's services. Looking toward the next several years, we recognize the need to explore new directions in the substance and style of our work. PRA will need to become both more efficient and strategic; prioritizing the work will be crucial. We have identified several considerations that will guide our future direction.
One of the lessons we have learned in our 15 years of monitoring and analyzing the right is that the news media often becomes fixed on a particular story or a particular area of interest within the entire spectrum of the right. So, for instance, the New Right was the focus of coverage in the early 1980's. The focus shifted to the far right in the mid-1980's, and then to the religious right towards the end of the decade. In the mid-1990's, media attention has once more concentrated on the far right, after the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
An important aspect of PRA's work is to continue to map and analyze the sectors of the right that are outside the media limelight. In this way, we maintain scrutiny of the right as a movement (or, more accurately, a series of interactive movements). Thus, while People for the American Way, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and others quite appropriately work to address the gains made by the "new Republicans", PRA plans to stay focused on the broad movement that created them. It is this movement that will persist regardless of the successes and failures of its specific manifestations.
Our priorities, therefore, will be twofold. First, we will step up our continuing role as a resource for progressive organizations and local people and groups who are targeted by the right. Because PRA has provided this service for many years, people know what they can get from us. It is crucial that we continue to provide this assistance. At the same time, we will reach out to new constituencies, primarily those under attack from the right who may not see themselves as part of a progressive or social change movement. Examples include librarians, many scientists, nurses and other caregivers.
Second, PRA has an important role to play in educating journalists about the movement that has built the current success of the right. Because we have worked with newspaper, radio and TV media for many years, PRA has become a prime source. Each year our widening access to journalists allows us greater opportunity to raise and discuss issues we see as important in understanding and tracking the right. Our goal is to create, among a growing number of journalist contacts, a deeper understanding of the significance of the right, as opposed to a story-by-story orientation to daily or monthly events. [Return to Table of Contents]
At PRA, we are often asked how we define the right wing. In the U.S., there is an identifiable right-wing agenda. Its roots lie in the lynchings of Blacks in the South by the Ku Klux Klan, the ideological principles of the John Birch Society, and the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's. Central to the agenda is white supremacism, preservation of individual wealth in a setting of free market capitalism, preservation of rigidly traditional religious and family structures, and defense of US military hegemony.
There is virtually universal agreement that para-military white supremacists or neo-Nazis are right wing. More subtle distinctions are required when right-wing groups operate within mainstream US culture. For example, an organization uses the slogan "The Environment As if People Matter", which sounds innocuous. But the group's vicious attacks on the environmental movement, its revealing financial backing, and its demonstrations timed to coincide with Earth Day, bespeak a hidden agenda -- in this case, the defense of profits and policies now being challenged by the environmental movement.
Hard evidence is required to classify an organization, an individual, or a policy as right wing. PRA exists to collect the information necessary to insure the accuracy of that classification. We believe that without such an intellectual yardstick, it will become more and more difficult to identify anti-democratic forces and expose their (often hidden) agendas. [Return to Table of Contents]
PRA would not be alive and well today without the generous and unswerving financial support of so many friends. Space limitations don't allow us to name them all here. But you know who you are, and we thank you for your trust and your loyalty.
We also want to take this opportunity to recognize with gratitude the following foundations. Each has helped sustain PRA with one or more grants during the last 15 years; some have been multiple-year partners.
The Chicago Resource Center
The Circle Fund
The Nathan Cummings Foundation
The Funding Exchange
The Harris Foundation
Haymarket People's Fund
The HKH Foundation
The Albert A. List Foundation
The Needmor Fund
The New World Foundation
The North Shore Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program
The Poverty and Race Research Action Council
The Public Welfare Foundation
The Sister Fund
The Tides Foundation
The Windom Fund
We also gratefully acknowledge the many discretionary grants and donor-advised grants made to PRA through foundations.
Director: Jean V. Hardisty is a political scientist, with a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and five years' teaching experience. A founder of Midwest Research (which became PRA), she has been involved in political activism, as well as research, for 25 years. Ms. Hardisty is a well-known public speaker and author. She presently serves on the boards of the Center for Women Policy Studies, Grassroots International, and the Women's Community Cancer Project.
Analyst: Chip Berlet is a veteran freelance writer and photographer who specializes in investigating government intelligence abuses, authoritarianism, and right-wing social movements. A PRA staffer since 1982, he has written, edited and co-authored numerous articles on right-wing activity and government repression for publications as varied as the The Boston Globe,, The New York Times, The Progressive,The Nation, CovertAction Information Bulletin, and The St. Louis Journalism Review. Mr. Berlet's forthcoming book, written with Matthew Lyons and entitled Too Close for Comfort, examines the potential for fascism in the US.
Deputy Director: Peter Snoad is a former journalist with 25 years of experience fundraising and writing for nonprofit organizations in the US and UK. He worked for seven years as a staffer and consultant with Grassroots International. As a consultant and activist, Mr. Snoad has helped raise funds for, and provided organizational development assistance to, a wide range of anti-racist, peace, human rights and humanitarian aid organizations. He was a consultant to PRA for one year before joining the staff in 1995.
Associate Analyst: Surina Khan was formerly the editor and publisher of Metroline, a regional biweekly magazine for the gay and lesbian community based in Hartford, CT. She is a widely published freelance writer and a speaker on lesbian and gay issues to high school and college students. Ms. Khan served on the board of the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund and was a commissioner on the City of Hartford's Commission of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues. She joined the PRA staff in 1995.
Researcher/Newsletter Co-Editor: Judith Glaubman, the former editor of geneWATCH, the newsletter of the Council for Responsible Genetics, came to PRA in 1993. She has been an activist and organizer in the local, national and international spheres spanning a period of 20 years. Her commitment to social justice informs her ongoing work in a broad range of issues including immigrants rights, prisoner defense, anti-racism and anti-militarism in Germany, France, England, Canada, and the US.
Information Specialist: Francine Almash joined the staff in 1993 after graduating from the New School for Social Research. She was formerly assistant editor and fundraising director of Teen Voices, an alternative magazine for teen-age girls. She has taught creative writing workshops for young women and girls, and is developing her own writing skills through a Master's Program in Creative Writing at Emerson College in Boston.
Currently, PRA also has four Research Associates -- activists who are doing ongoing research on the right and have an established relationship with PRA:
Deborah Toler, an international development consultant, directs PRA's Program on Black Conservatives. Ms. Toler's work focusses on the impact of Black conservative intellectuals on the contemporary civil rights movement. She is based in San Francisco at Food First, which researches and publishes on hunger-related issues.
Holly Sklar is an activist, author and researcher whose recently published book, Chaos or Community? Seeking Solutions, Not Scapegoats for Bad Economics, analyses statistical information that debunks right-wing theories of the US economy. Her two earlier books, Trilateralism and Washington's War on Nicaragua, made a crucial contribution to US foreign policy analysis.
Sara Diamond is author of many articles on the right wing and the book Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right.Her latest book isRoads to Dominion: Right-wing Movements and Political Power in the US..
Russ Bellant is a Detroit-based journalist who specializes in the Christian Right and citizens' militias. He is the author of two PRA books co-published with South End Press:The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism , and Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party.
Board of Directors
Rev. Sally Dries
Dr. Robin Gillies
Dr. Loretta Williams
Lucy A. Williams
Sara Diamond, Ph.D.
Skipp Porteous and Barbara Simon
Organizations listed for identification purposes only [Return to Table of Contents]
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