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Philanthropy Roundtable recently sat down with William Jacobson, president and director of Legal Insurrection Foundation (LIF), to discuss how LIF’s investigative media reporting fights for those at the epicenter of free speech attacks on school campuses, in the corporate world and in government. Legal Insurrection is a leading website for conservative law and politics, and it also publishes CriticalRace.org and EqualProtect.org, which monitor news about education and discrimination, respectively.
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What is the Legal Insurrection Foundation’s mission?
Jacobson: Our mission is to promote and preserve the rights of the individual and core American values by fighting against group-identity ideologies, attacks on free speech and the marginalization of parental rights in schools. We do this through a unique combination of three projects operating under the Legal Insurrection Foundation umbrella: Legal Insurrection’s website, CriticalRace.org and EqualProtect.org.
The Legal Insurrection website, which I founded in October 2008, covers politics and law, with a wide and influential audience of hundreds of thousands of unique readers each month. With almost 30,000 subscribers, our Morning Insurrection newsletter allows us to get out messaging and LIF work to our built-in audience, which distinguishes us from many other nonprofits.
The CriticalRace.org project, launched in February 2021, has a unique and unparalleled set of databases of over 700 institutions covering higher education, medical schools, veterinary schools, elite private K-12 institutions and military service academies, providing parents, students, educators and legislators with fully-sourced information about where and how the teaching of CRT has been adopted. Since its inception, over 600,000 users have performed almost eight million actions on the website, and it has been cited nearly 150 times in the media..CriticalRace.org also provides extensive resources, and has expanded into analysis and content creation, such as a report on who teaches our nation’s teachers and interviews with parents to understand their concerns and needs, to be illustrated in an upcoming Parents’ Guide.
The Equal Protection Project (EqualProtect.org), launched in February 2023, focuses on fighting against racial and ethnic discrimination that has occurred within DEI practices. Our guiding principle is that there is no “good” form of racism, and the remedy for racism never is more racism. In our first six months we have taken dozens of actions, including filing over a dozen civil rights complaints, resulting in several victories.
Q: What prompted the creation of the Legal Insurrection Foundation?
Jacobson: I started the Legal Insurrection website in October 2008. Over time the blog became one of the most influential conservative investigative publications, cited and linked by numerous conservative television and radio personalities. At the LI blog we dug into issues and controversies at a greater depth than almost anyone else, and never chased the news cycle. To take our reporting and investigation to a more impactful level, we decided to restructure into a nonprofit. In 2018, LIF received IRS tax-exempt nonprofit 501(c)(3) status.
Q: What has been the biggest obstacle in conducting your work?
Jacobson: On a personal level, I have been under attack since the day I started the blog. I was subjected to “cancel culture” before anyone used that phrase. By the end of our first month, I was already receiving hate mail and Cornell Law School, where I teach, began receiving complaints about me. Due to threats, during one graduation ceremony the university assigned a detective to accompany me.
In 2020, after I spoke about the Black Lives Matter organization, a group of alumni petitioned to get me fired, 21 of my colleagues and the then-dean denounced me and 15 student groups launched a boycott of my course. I beat the boycott.
At an organizational level, we have faced similar operational obstacles. We are very conscious that big tech service providers are under pressure to shut down conservative groups and have taken steps and incurred significant expenses to try to insulate ourselves.
Q: Where are you seeing some wins in your work?
Jacobson: The media coverage and narrative changes effectuated through the main blog and CriticalRace.org, as discussed above, are wins for us. The most measurable wins are the actions we have taken and are taking at EqualProtect.org. We already have scored major victories and narrative changes, including actions against the Providence School District, Albany Public Library, Missouri State University, University of Minnesota, State University of New York at Albany, State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and New York University. We also have moved beyond higher education and are focusing on discrimination in the corporate world.
Q: What is something surprising you have learned along the way?
Jacobson: Particularly at CriticalRace.org, we document how deeply CRT and DEI and the hyper-focus on race have become embedded throughout education from kindergarten through professional graduate schools. This was a problem created over 30 years, and it cannot be solved in two-three years. While we always are realistic, we try to inspire others and to provide support. We have come to the aid of many professors, parents, teachers and students. We know how important outside support can be.
Q: Where is the Legal Insurrection Foundation headed in the next year?
Jacobson: We are very comfortable with our current structure, where all three of LIF’s projects (the blog, CriticalRace.org and EqualProtect.org) work together in a way that makes the whole of LIF more effective and impactful than the parts. Our goal for 2024 is to amplify and expand our activities within this existing structure, particularly by adding legal staff to EPP, which has operated with part-time staff this year. Each of our three projects has enormous potential for growth, and we need to make that happen.
Q: If money was not an object, what is your vision for LIF?
Jacobson: We do not want growth for growth’s sake. We look at impact, not head count. We do need to expand, and we think we have built the basis for our impact to grow. If money were no object, we would hire at least one full-time attorney for EPP and increase content creation and media outreach on issues promoting equality and equal protection. We would move CriticalRace.org deeper into creating resources for parents, students, educators and legislators beyond the databases. And at the website, we would add a senior editor to oversee an expansion of our reporting. While it’s always hard to predict three to five years out, I envision us as being a lean fighting machine for liberty, equality and the rights of individuals.