Political Research Associates (PRA) is a left-wing nonprofit organization which attempts to discredit mainstream center-right views by tarring them as extremist and bigoted. It has an annual budget of less than $1 million, a staff of eleven, and receives funding from a number of major left-of-center foundations.
PRA defines its area of mission as providing skeptical coverage of the “U.S. Right,” which in practice means a disingenuously broad spectrum that can range from a report regarding the peaceful mainstream policy work of the libertarian Cato Institute to an analysis of the connections between the white nationalist movement, misogyny, and mass murder. Examining the reasons voters support Republican candidates, PRA writers have cited factors such as “white supremacy” and breathing in “casual, normative racism like air, never thinking to question what is all around them.”
PRA’s quarterly journal, The Public Eye, is its most prominent work product, containing multiple long-form reports per issue authored by PRA staff and outside contributors. PRA also produces research reports and somewhat frequent blog posts. Outside contributors and staff are regularly cited by left-wing media outlets.
Created in 1981, PRA presents itself as an investigative think tank that examines “the entire spectrum of the U.S. Right.” In practice, this means skeptical coverage and criticism of everything from mainstream conservatism, libertarians, and the Republican Party, sometimes intermixing and correlating them with far-right extremists.
A quarterly journal—The Public Eye—is PRA’s defining work product. It began as a print journal in the late 1970s, moving under the PRA umbrella in 1992. The Public Eye is now available online as well as print, and reported 1,400 print subscribers as of 2004. Each issue contains several long-form reports representing the most in-depth work PRA produces. Journal content is provided by PRA staff and outside authors (who are often higher education instructors) with extensive footnoting provided for research work.
In addition to the journal, PRA’s website contains research reports and blog posts. PRA staff and outside authors are somewhat regularly cited by outside media, most frequently in other left-wing media outlets such as Salon, AlterNet, and ThinkProgress.
Coverage of Extremists
A regular feature of PRA’s content is reports and analysis of misogynist, bigoted and sometimes violent organizations and individuals. Representative examples include:
The Incel Rebellion: Movement Misogyny Delivers Another Massacre, from the Spring 2018 edition of The Public Eye. This is an analysis of the connections between murders committed over several decades by men motivated by a hatred of women, the “incel” (involuntarily celibate) misogynist movement, and white supremacy.
Disunite the Right: The Growing Divides in the Pepe Coalition, from the Fall 2017 edition of The Public Eye. The report covers disputes, divisions and rivalries taking place within the alt-right and racist white supremacist organizations during the summer of 2017.
White Supremacy’s Old Gods: The Far Right and Neopaganism, from the Winter 2018 edition of The Public Eye. This is a description of the non-Christian religious motivations adhered to by some racist organizations and individuals.
Smears of the Center-Right
PRA’s reports regarding mainstream conservatives and libertarians sometimes imply ideological connections and interrelated motivations between them and the bigoted extremists PRA also covers. Some examples include:
Trump, the Republican Party, and Westmoreland County, from the Summer 2018 edition of The Public Eye. The author returns to a blue-collar Pennsylvania coal-country county where she grew up t0 explain its shift from voting strongly for Democrats to strongly Republican over the course of her lifetime. She concludes that the “significant factors” in the transformation are “White supremacy” and the “conservative social values” that were taught to her as a child and are “being brandished by a dismayingly large number of people in the area.”
Before the Alt Right: Anita Hill and the Growth of Misogynist Ideology, from the Summer 2018 edition of The Public Eye. The writer asserted that the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing testimony of law professor Anita Hill, in which Hill apparently falsely alleged she was sexually harassed by then-high court nominee Clarence Thomas, caused a “misogynist backlash to the infringement on male entitlement” and “virulent hostility toward women.” In the author’s historical progression, five murderers motivated by hostility toward women and the rise of several mainstream right-of-center individuals and publications, including those with a “prior reputation for more respectful engagement,” most notably the late public television show host and National Review founder William F. Buckley, came from the same supposed “misogynist backlash.”
The Transformation of a Goldwater Girl: Why it Matters in the Time of Trump, from the Fall 2016 edition of The Public Eye. The essay traces the author’s journey to leftist ideology after being a teenage supporter of conservative Republican U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign for the White House. Writing just before the election of President Donald Trump, she asserts the path she took away from conservatism can be replicated with many Trump supporters who “aren’t reflexively prone to racist violence or White supremacist fanaticism” but instead “just breathe in casual, normative racism like air, never thinking to question what is all around them.” Regarding the mainstream center-right, she writes that the conservative movement and the Republican Party have been deliberately stoking racism and xenophobia for decades.
PRA receives significant funding from several philanthropic foundations with a history of giving to left-wing causes and advocacy organizations. For example, from 2011-2015 it received grants totaling $900,000 from the Ford Foundation.
According to IRS tax filings PRA took in $1,058,224 in revenue for 2015, spent $855,373, and had net assets of $466,485. The majority of expenses – $628,768 – went to employee salaries and benefits. The president and executive director, Tarso Luis Ramos, was paid a salary of $76,726. As of 2018 the PRA website shows a staff of eleven.