The Brennan Center for Justice (the Brennan Center) was formed as a way to memorialize and put into action the values of left-of-center former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan , the “father of modern judicial activism,” by Brennan’s former clerks. The organization is hybrid think-tank and activist center housed by New York University Law School.
The Center has devised a “robust toolkit’ of scholarship, legislative drafting, lobbying and legal action” that is merged into “an almost seamless effort aimed at action.” While the group purports to be “nonpartisan,” it has received substantial funding from George Soros-associated organizations, and is mainly funded by left-leaning organizations, having received substantial funding from other liberal groups including the Kohlberg Foundation, Tides Foundation, Proteus Fund, Joyce Foundation, Schumann Media Center, Public Welfare Foundation, and JPB Foundation.
This liberal financing has turned the Center into a cog in the liberal legal movement. The Center pursues a left-wing issue agenda, supporting liberal activist policies on ethnic preferences, restrictions on political campaign speech, and protections for foreign terrorism suspects.
In 1995, a group of former law clerks of U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan created a hybrid think-tank and activist center in his honor. Brennan is often credited as the architect of “living Constitution” jurisprudence favored by liberals. The new group “would actively promote Brennan’s legal agenda.” According to the Brennan Center’s founding executive director, Joshua Rosenkranz, the Center was designed “to create a new breed of public interest Center that had one foot in the world of ideas and one foot in … policy advocacy.” 
The Center was to be located at NYU Law School under dean John Sexton, who had a passion for the idea and envisioned it as an “integrated as part of the law school.” The idea, as the founders saw it, was to combine a potentially powerful interest group with the law school in “a deeply symbiotic way” that took advantage of “a tremendous fluidity between law school faculty and students…and a cadre of powerful public interest lawyers.”
According to the Brennan Center’s leader, Michael Waldman, the Center creates research, drafting policy proposals, publicizing its work through a communications arm, and joining advocacy coalitions. The center is deeply involved in local and state campaign regulation efforts. The Center treats local left-of-center advocacy organizations as “clients” acting as a law firm that doesn’t bill those clients, leaving it “up to the local players who have on-the-ground expertise to make the policy calls.”
The Brennan Center for Justice claims to be nonpartisan for tax reasons. However, critics have pointed out that this “nonpartisan” Center for Justice leaves “unstated” the fact that group “pursues a left-wing agenda,”  which through its efforts “exposes as a charade its assertions that it is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy and equal justice for all.” 
Brennan Center has filed federal court briefs against and subsequently to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v FEC, which protected the First Amendment rights of advocacy groups to comment on election-related matters.
Michael Waldman, the center’s executive director, previously served as a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton.
The Brennan Center also engages in defense of racial and ethnic preferences. It defended a Seattle program, which the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional, that allows Seattle schools to institute plans to “maintain racial diversity.” Observers noted that the Chief Justice said the plan was not narrowly tailored because “race was the only factor” considered in the plans.
The Brennan Center has also supported liberal redistricting priorities and other liberal-backed representation apportionment rules. It also submitted “amicus briefs in several cases on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees” accused of terrorism offenses.
Trump Administration Opposition
After the 2016 elections, the Brennan Center was identified as a center of opposition to the incoming Trump administration. Brennan Center president Michael Waldman noted “the courts are going to be a major avenue for checks and balances” against President Donald Trump. Additionally, the Center has been named as part of a “Resistance Network… a loose network of lawyers and watchdogs… dug in to scrutinize issues involving the Trump Administration.”
The Brennan Center has regularly attacked President Trump. They claimed that he “has given white supremacists plenty of reasons to feel he’s copacetic with their agenda,” that his attempt to study possible voting irregularities was “a tool for enabling voter suppression,” that his firing of FBI director James Comey constituted “an assault on the rule of law,” and that the firing of Comey “comes close to the kind of obstruction of justice that has led to impeachment proceedings for example against Richard Nixon.”
Neil Gorsuch Nomination Process
The Brennan Center was highly critical of the Trump administration’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in 2017. For instance, in March 2017, the Brennan Center’s co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program wrote, “While it is difficult to read too much into Gorsuch’s fairly traditional and vague answers affirming courts’ role in serving as a check on the president and recognizing fundamental guarantees of religious freedom and due process, his work defending the worst of the Bush administration’s excesses raises serious questions about whether he would stand up to President Trump.”
The Brennan Center has faced criticisms of biased and politically motivated research on multiple occasions. The most noteworthy example came in 2003 when Weekly Standard opinion writer David Tell revealed that then-Brennan Center Executive Director Rosenkranz requested that his staff emphasize “the pop and sizzle stuff, not the research.”  Specifically, Tell claimed that “empirical evidence for which Brennan Center ‘research’ is the source, appears to be fraudulent–deliberately faked.” 
Tell argued that Brennan Center political scientist Jonathan Krasno had “made explicit” that a project he was seeking funding for was “principally a hunt for political ammunition” and that the project would only move forward if it was impactful in its objective. In support of this, Tell pointed to Krasnos’ statement in which he said, “[t]he purpose of our acquiring the data set is not simply to advance knowledge for its own sake, but to fuel a continuous multi-faceted campaign to propel campaign reform forward” and “whether we proceed to phase two will depend on the judgment of whether the data provide a sufficiently powerful boost to the reform movement.”
A similar 2011 Brennan Center voter fraud report was critiqued by conservative Hans von Spakovsky as “a myth-driven diatribe” built on “dubious” claims, “faulty assumption[s]” and facts lacking substantiating evidence. Moreover, this critique noted that the report in parts demonstrated the Brennan Center’s “bias,” and overall served as a “successful propaganda effort.”
The Brennan Center in 2017 has “a $16 million annual budget—all of it funded by outside donors.”
The following financials were reported on the Brennan Center’s 2014 annual IRS Disclosure. During the 2014 election year, the Center took an additional $6.4 million, nearly two-times as much revenue as the prior non-election year. 
|2014||2013||Chg. Amt. $||Chg. Amt. %|
The Brennan Center has reported on its tax returns being a six-figure client of controversial New York City left-wing public relations firm BerlinRosen. In the Brennan Center’s 2015 tax year, it paid BerlinRosen $120,345 for public relations services.
Brennan’s clerks, many of whom “had achieved wealth and power in the legal profession,” raised $5 million as seed money to start the Center’s endowment. Thereafter, the Center has been funded by outside grants to ensure its long-term survival.
The Carnegie Corporation, a major liberal grantmaking foundation, provided an initial grant of $25,000 to help the organization get started. This donation got the attention of and brought about “a “lemming kind of opportunity” response from left-of-center benefactors. The Center’s founding director has stated that “the Brennan Center might not even be there had it not been for that initial bet.”
Left-wing mega-donor George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (formerly Open Society Institute) has been the Brennan Center’s largest funder,” giving the Center $7,466,000 from 2000 to 2010 while also giving NYU $2,819,540 during this same time period, a total of $10,285,540.” The Brennan Center has been named a Democracy Alliance approved entity, aligning it with the liberal donor network associated with a number of left-of-center funders.
Philanthropy databases show that the Brennan Center is also funded by an array of left-wing foundations. Between 2002 through 2011, the Tides Foundation contributed at least $2,753,242 and the JEHT Foundation gave at least $1,017,500. From 1998 to 2002, when future President Barack Obama served on the board, the Joyce Foundation of Chicago donated $1,015,000. 
Each year, the Center’s annual fundraising dinner “raises more than a million dollars.”
The Brennan Center is also reportedly supported by major New York City law-firms: Additionally, a report identified Arnold and Porter and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Door as having provided pro-bono legal assistance to the Brennan Center. 
Michael Waldman has served as the Brennan Center’s president since 2005. Prior to his work at the Brennan Center, he served as special assistant to President Bill Clinton for policy coordination and then as director of speechwriting.
John Anthony Butler, currently serves as vice president and chief operating officer, Butler came to the Brennan Center from Legal Services NYC (LS-NYC), “the largest provider of free civil legal services to low-income people in the United States.”
John F. Kowal, currently serves as vice president for programs. From 1997-2008, John worked at George Soros’ Open Society Institute, most recently as Director of Constitutional Democracy Initiatives.”
Board of Directors
The Brennan Center’s current Board of Directors is comprised of 27 individuals. The Board is co-chaired Robert A. Atkins and Patricia Bauman, who is also president of the Bauman Foundation.