A Fifteen Year Report


Written by Jean Hardisty and Peter Snoad

Table of Contents

Mission Statement - From the Director - PRA as a Unique Resource - Making Our Research Count

How we Do Our Research - Outreach, Publications, Online Data, & Public Education - Plans for the Future

What Does "Right Wing" Mean? - Funding - Staff & Associates - Board of Directors - Advisory Board

Mission Statement

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]

From the Director

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.

--Jean Hardisty
Executive Director [Return to Table of Contents]

Political Research Associates: A Unique Resource

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.
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Making Our Research Count

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:

  • Substantially shaped media coverage of the armed citizens' militias following the Oklahoma City bombing in April, 1995. PRA Analyst Chip Berlet is a national specialist on the militias, who had worked intensively on the issue for five months prior to the bombing. Interviewed on all the major broadcast networks and by scores of print media reporters, Chip used this media access to focus attention on the anti-government motivations fueling the militias, their role as the militant wing of a diverse right-wing populist movement, and their links to other sectors of the right. During a three-week period, PRA received 218 media requests for information and interviews -- 130 from print media, 48 from radio, and 40 from television.
  • Has undertaken a project to document and analyze the history of the right's anti-welfare campaign. A research report, detailing how the right has consistently and cynically manipulated the welfare issue for political gain, will be sent to 800 welfare rights activists and advocates nationwide and adapted for publication in academic journals. Congress now seems certain to end the federal entitlement of welfare and replace it with block grants to states to spend as they choose. Our report will provide state-level activists with a timely tool for undermining the right's arguments and credibility on welfare and resisting attempts to victimize and impoverish further the 14 million parents and children now receiving welfare benefits.
  • Provided expert testimony in the legal challenge to Colorado's anti-gay Amendment Two initiative. In her testimony, PRA Director Jean Hardisty traced the role played by a larger national religious and political campaign against equal rights for gays and lesbians. Simultaneously, we produced educational and organizing materials used by national, statewide and local groups.
  • Alerted thousands of people concerned about the natural environment to the hidden agenda and far-right links of the "Wise Use" movement. PRA helped expose this movement -- which purportedly advocates "wise use" of America's trees and minerals -- as a network of loosely allied right-wing grassroots and corporate interest groups dedicated to attacking the environmental movement and promoting unfettered resource exploitation. We worked with a number of national environmental groups which, in turn, got the message out to their own constituencies.
  • Conducted ground-breaking research on Christian Reconstructionism that led to the first in-depth mainstream media coverage of this ultra-fundamentalist wing of the religious right. Christian Reconstructionism is a significant factor behind the increased violence in anti-abortion activism, the nastiest of attacks on gays and lesbians, and an upsurge in conflict over alleged secular humanist influence in the public schools.
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How We Research and Analyze The Right

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.

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Sharing the Wealth: Providing Tools for Organizing and Public Education

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.

  • Information requests: PRA's stock-in-trade is responding to the hundreds of information requests that we receive each year by mail, e-mail, phone and fax. We answer specific questions, provide customized packets of materials, and refer people to other information sources as appropriate.
  • Use of the PRA Library: open daily to the public by appointment, our library is used by activists, researchers, journalists, students and others. It features one of the most complete collections of current and historical material on the contemporary right wing in the country. This catalogued collection, which is continuously updated, includes more than 200 right-wing journals and newsletters, many not available elsewhere. It also contains a non-lending library of books relevant to the study of right-wing extremism, authoritarian trends, racism, anti-Semitism, the history of fascism, and the history of the US right wing.
  • Publishing projects: PRA publishes in five main formats:
  1. The Public Eye: Each issue of this quarterly newsletter features an in-depth article on a subject the staff feels is important, either because it has not been adequately covered by other publications, or because we predict it will soon gain prominence. Recent and upcoming issues focus on the right's anti-immigrant and anti-welfare campaigns, the anti-feminist women's movement, and the eugenics movement.
  2. Topical Reports: these are occasional, lengthy investigative reports. Examples include The Scent of Opportunity: A Survey of the Wise Use/Property Rights Movement in New England and Clouds Blur the Rainbow: The Other Side of the New Alliance Party.
  3. Monographs: we use these booklet-size publications when we want to highlight an issue or publicize a particularly good research paper.
  4. Books: current titles include Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party. and The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism .To maximize distribution, PRA co-publishes books in partnership with South End Press.
  5. Information Packets: these are collections of selected primary and secondary printed material including articles, direct mail letters, and flyers that provide an overview and essential documentation for a specific topic. We have compiled a series of packets on Homophobia, the Armed Militias and Related Movements, and Traditional Values, Racism, & Christian Theocracy. Other topics include Corporate Roots of the Anti-Environmental Movement and Far-Right Theocrats and Anti-Choice Organizing.

For a full list of PRA publications, please complete and return the coupon in this booklet.

  • On-line resources: PRA publishes much of its research material electronically. Our "home page" on the WorldWide Web provides anyone linked to the Web with simple point-and-click access to PRA resources and information as if they were on her or his own computer. Users can read and download issues of The Public Eye and our published reports and search databases of hundreds of right-wing groups as well as groups promoting democracy and diversity. We also post PRA publications on our electronic Bulletin Board, making them freely available to people who cannot afford on-line access fees. Our Bulletin Board is a no-fee, open system that can be reached from anywhere in the world by dialling 617/221-5815 with a modem.

    PRA maintains five public interactive "conferences" on the interlinked PeaceNet network of the San Francisco-based Institute for Global Communications (IGC). PRA also participates in and sponsors private "e-mail" lists where strategic discussions take place among selected activists. This enables PRA, groups we work with, and other organizations and activists dealing with the right to share information and analyses.
  • Speakers' Bureau/Referral Service: One of PRA's most effective forms of public education is direct contact with the public through the staff's many speaking engagements. We provide speakers for conferences, classrooms, in-service trainings, community organizations, and churches, synagogues and other religious institutions. If we cannot meet specific needs for a speaker, we usually know who can. PRA is in touch with a wide network of individual experts in various fields.

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.

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Plans For The Future

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]

What does "right wing" mean?

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]

Funding Support

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

Working Assets

We also gratefully acknowledge the many discretionary grants and donor-advised grants made to PRA through foundations.

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Staff and Associates

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.

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Board of Directors

Rev. Sally Dries
United Church of Christ
Shamokin, PA

Jean Entine
Executive Director
Boston Women's Fund
Boston, MA

Dr. Robin Gillies
Project Director
Center for Health Services and Policy Research
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL

Jean Hardisty
Executive Director
Political Research Associates

Faith Smith
Native American Educational Services (NAES) College
Chicago, IL

Dr. Loretta Williams
Sociologist and activist
Boston, MA

Lucy A. Williams
Northeastern University Law School
Boston, MA

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Advisory Board

Rita Arditti
Union Institute

Ann Baker
National Center for the Pro-Choice Majority

Donna Bivens
Women's Theological Center

Sara Diamond, Ph.D.

Fred Goff
The DataCenter

Beni Ivey
Center for Democratic Renewal

Maya Miller
Carson City, NV

Suzanne Pharr
Arkansas Women's Project

Skipp Porteous and Barbara Simon
Institute for First Amendment Studies

John Roberts
Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts

Mab Segrest
U.S. Urban-Rural Mission
World Council of Churches

Alice Senturia
UNITE! (Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees)

Holly Sklar
Author and activist

Urvashi Vaid

Lucius Walker
Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizing

Leah Wise
Southerners for Economic Justice

Louis Wolf
CovertAction Quarterly

Organizations listed for identification purposes only [Return to Table of Contents]

Political Research Associates
1310 Broadway Street. Suite 202
Somerville, MA 02144

voice: 617.661.9313 - fax: 617.661.0059 - BBS: 617.221.5815
URL: http://www.publiceye.org/

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