Three years ago, Douglas Kendall had a vision of reclaiming the Constitution for the legal left. Taking a cue from conservatives, he created the Constitutional Accountability Center in 2008, pledging to mobilize legal action and advocacy on behalf of progressive platforms, like marriage equality, immigrant rights and campaign finance reform.
With an influx of money and support from left-leaning foundations and private donors during the past three years, the center’s budget has doubled to $1.2 million and continues to grow at a steady clip. Kendall started with three staff members, and is now about to hire a 10th person.
By 2016, Kendall said, the goal is to have a $3 million budget and staff of 25. “We’ve been involved in most of the biggest cases to go before the Supreme Court over the last three years, and I think that has increased our visibility,” he said.
Akhil Amar, a Yale Law School professor whose work on the Constitution helped inspire Kendall’s idea for the center, said Kendall brought the right mix of ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. “He took an idea and operationalized it. He made it three-dimensional,” Amar said. The center functions as a public interest law firm, think tank and advocacy center, and Kendall said he’s gearing up to expand all three areas.
“We’ve had a big impact on the conversation about the Constitution in the courts,” Kendall said. “Funders that are concerned about the future of the Supreme Court see that and are therefore willing to invest in the future.” — Zoe Tillman