Litigating for Democracy: Who’s Backing the Lawyers Defending U.S. Electoral Institutions?

Inside Philanthropy

More than at perhaps any other time in recent history, the past several years have given rise to fears that fundamental institutions of American democracy are at risk. Safeguarding those institutions is gaining prominence on philanthropy’s agenda. Bolstering the press, for instance, has commanded quite a few grant commitments, lately—including a big one from the Knight Foundation last month. And plenty of funders are backing initiatives to encourage voting and other forms of civic participation.

But with key issues like voting rights, money in politics and gerrymandering, a lot of fights over U.S. democracy boil down to the law. That’s where places like the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) come in. Based in Washington, D.C., CLC describes itself as “democracy’s nonpartisan watchdog,” an optimistic motto in a polarized era when electoral institutions have become yet another arena of political combat. 

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