Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Illegal During Watergate, Unlimited Campaign Contributions Now Fair Game.” By Peter Overby. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. November 16, 2011. The 2012 presidential campaign is already being shaped by new rules for political money. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling allows corporations to jump into the presidential contest, as lower-court rulings and the Federal Election Commission provide new avenues through which corporate money can flow. The likely result: Corporate involvement in presidential politics on a scale not seen since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. The critical difference: This time, it’s legal. There are super PACs for all of the major presidential contenders. One is Make Us Great Again, which is backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry. It’s currently running ads in South Carolina announcing that Perry can deliver “conservative leadership that works.” MUGA, as it’s known, is not officially connected to Perry’s presidential operation. But as an example of how thin the line is between official and de facto ties, MUGA’s founders include Perry’s former chief of staff. “The contribution limits are pretty meaningless,” says Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center, which supports stronger campaign finance laws. She says, “You can give the money you want to the candidate directly, and then you can give unlimited amounts to the super PAC.” As fundraising conduits, super PACs do have a flaw. They have to disclose corporate contributions. But the new rules have a way around that too. Donors can give to a so-called issue group that is connected to the super PAC. The super PAC discloses its donors; the issue group does not, even while running what seem like campaign ads.

Decamping to an Office on Wall Street.” By Sophia Hollander. Wall Street Journal. November 17, 2011. Zuccotti Park may be the public face of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its spiritual heart. But many of its decisions, rallies and demonstrations have been planned in the airy atrium of 60 Wall St., a privately owned public space operated by Deutsche Bank that features soaring ceilings, glittering columns and a series of palm trees—not to mention free Wi-Fi. “It’s actually become a really important space for the movement,” said Shira Moss, a 30-year-old protester who was at 60 Wall St. on Wednesday afternoon to visit with a local school group and help plan an event for Sunday. Zuccotti Park and 60 Wall St. emerged to fill different needs, she said. For many, Zuccotti Park is “their home, it’s their community. That’s really, really different from the ‘office,’” she said. “You need both.” A spokesman for Deutsche Bank said there were no plans to stop the activists’ daily meetings. “The atrium is a public space open during the day to everyone who abides by the rules,” said spokesman Duncan King in a statement. Those rules include not sitting on the floor or being too “boisterous.” As a result, in contrast to the drums, chants and blaring signs that have characterized Zuccotti Park, a different, more ordered community has emerged at 60 Wall St., where protesters hold continuous, quiet meetings alongside workers in business suits eating their lunch, people playing chess and backgammon, and the stray tourist seeking a warm space to relax.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 7-13, 2011)

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Abortion, birth control access at issue in dispute over denial of grant to Catholic group.” By Jerry Markon. Washington Post. November 11, 2011. Republican lawmakers are objecting to the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to deny an anti-human-trafficking grant to a Catholic group , a dispute that reflects deep divisions over access to abortion and birth control. In late September, HHS ended funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of trafficking, or modern-day slavery. The church group had overseen nationwide services to victims since 2006 but was denied a new grant in favor of three other groups. The bishops organization, in keeping with the church’s teachings, had refused to refer trafficking victims for contraceptives or abortion. HHS officials have said they made a policy decision to award the grants to agencies that would refer women for those services. In recent letters to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, more than 30 Republican lawmakers said the decision was unfair to the Catholic group and might violate federal laws banning discrimination based on religion. Two of the letters are seeking internal HHS documents relating to the decision and one, sent Monday by Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), said his investigative committee may issue subpoenas if HHS doesn’t comply. “We’re talking about a Catholic group with a superior track record that was pushed aside to promote the abortion agenda,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith (N.J.), who wrote the 2000 law that triggered the U.S. government’s war on human trafficking. HHS officials said Friday that they will respond to the letters from Congress but not through the media. Richard Sorian, the agency’s assistant secretary for public affairs, said HHS is “fully confident that the organizations best suited to provide comprehensive case management to victims of trafficking were awarded the grants for these services.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 17-23, 2011)

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

He Made It on Wall St. and Used It to Help Start the Protests.” By J. David Goodman. New York Times. October 17, 2011. Robert S. Halper, a retired Wall Street trader, spends time each day in Zuccotti Park talking to protesters about politics and their thoughts on reforming the banking system. But Mr. Halper, a 52-year-old Brooklyn native, never reveals two facts about himself: he is a former vice chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and the largest single donor to the nonprofit magazine that ignited the Occupy Wall Street movement. “The whole thing is very surreal to me — the fact that I spent my whole career right across the street,” he said in an interview last week on a marble bench near the park. “It makes me a little anxious, to tell you the truth. It could go anywhere. I just pray that it ends peaceful.” Mr. Halper said he first heard about the plan for protests in June when he visited Kalle Lasn, the editor in chief of Adbusters, a Canadian anticorporate magazine, in Vancouver. Over a steak dinner, the two longtime friends discussed Mr. Lasn’s project, a plan to fill Wall Street with protesters as a way to galvanize anger on the political left into a revolutionary movement resembling the Arab Spring. “I rolled my eyes,” he said. “I was more interested in talking about health care.” But Mr. Halper, who lives on the Upper West Side, had long been a supporter of the magazine, donating by his estimate $50,000 to $75,000 over the last 20 years since he was first attracted by the magazine’s spoofs on corporate logos and advertisements. So he wrote a check for $20,000 and returned to his life in New York. A month later, the magazine sent an e-mail blitz to 90,000 readers and advocates calling for the occupation of Wall Street and setting the date for the first protesters to camp in downtown Manhattan. “We sparked it,” said Mr. Lasn, 69, but “what they’ve done up until now — with a leaderless movement that is all-inclusive — that’s given them a kind of mystique that has launched a national conversation.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 9-16, 2011)

Monday, October 10th, 2011

ADVOCACY

State’s major LGBT group loses executive director.” By Wyatt Buchanan. San Francisco Chronicle. October 11, 2011. The recently hired executive director of Equality California, the state’s major lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organization, has resigned and will leave as of Friday, the group said Monday night. The news comes amid a deep cut in staff that the organization had not previously announced. The evening e-mail statement came as opponents of SB48 face a Wednesday deadline to qualify a referendum to repeal that law, approved by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year. That law mandates the teaching of the historical accomplishments of LGBT people and people with disabilities. Equality California appeared to be ready to defend it, though that is now in question. In the e-mail, the organization’s Board of Directors said Roland Palencia “will step down as of Friday.” It also stated that the organization would release a “transition plan” by the end of this week. Reached by phone, Palencia said, “I literally made a personal decision that I wanted to move on. There’s really nothing more to it.” He said he was not forced out by the board. About the group’s financial situation, he said, “Right now a lot of nonprofits are having problems,” but he maintained that the organization has “a lot of support.” Cathy Schwamberger, Equality California Institute board chairwoman, said its members were grateful for Palencia’s service “and wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.”The organization appears to be in turmoil. Its recently laid-off Capitol office manager said staff has been cut drastically.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Koch-Funded Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy Gives Congress Big Freebies.” No by-line. Huffington Post. September 20, 2011. A recently-formed judicial “academy” funded by industry groups and conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is offering members of Congress and their staff free meals and trips in order to “educate” the lawmakers on controversial pro-business reforms. The group is the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy (CCJCA), launched earlier this year by the Law and Economics Center (LEC) at George Mason University’s School of Law. Despite being part of the university, the right-leaning LEC depends entirely on specially-designated donations which come from a core group of about 50 corporations and foundations, including The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Merck, Exxon, Eli Lilly, Altria, Wal-Mart, and the conservative Bradley Foundation. Unlike similar LEC programs for judges and attorneys, however, the CCJC academy is connected to Congress via the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus. The two groups share the same goals, but are separate entities. Formed in February of this year, the caucus is made up of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats committed to promoting “a civil justice system that … advances job creation and economic growth.” For co-chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), that means a justice system wiped clean of “excessive and frivolous litigation” and “inefficient rules.” Goodlatte’s caucus co-chair is retiring Democrat Dan Boren (Okla.), who is joined by Republican House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (Texas) as well as GOP Reps. Randy Forbes (Va.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) and Lee Terry (Neb.). On the Democratic side are Utah’s Jim Matheson, Minnesota’s Colin Peterson, Nick Rayhall of West Virginia and Loretta Sanchez of California. According to promotional materials, the caucus academy aims to provide “rigorous and balanced education programs on a range of civil justice issues for the benefit of the general public and members of the U.S. Congress and their staff.”

Perry has close ties to conservative foundation.” By Jackie Kucinich. USA Today. September 23, 2011. An Austin-based policy foundation controlled by conservative Texas businessmen and political supporters of Gov. Rick Perry has helped shape Perry’s policies in office and provided much of the intellectual foundation during his rise to the top of Republican politics. Perry’s connections to the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) are extensive. Its board of directors and staff read like a who’s who of Perry appointees to various Texas boards and agencies. Royalties from Perry’s 2010 book, Fed Up!, go to the foundation’s Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. He uses two pages of the book to praise TPPF, which holds the book’s copyright. “In its 21 years, the Foundation has helped make Texas stronger while defending the Constitution and demonstrating the harm caused by the excesses of Washington,” Perry wrote. Foundation officials participated in the book’s publicity tour, according to a 2010 edition of Veritas, the group’s quarterly newsletter. A page feature about the book, which includes a website address where the book can be purchased, describes a “whirlwind book tour” across the state with Perry “to help roll out” Fed Up! The book has sold 25,000 copies since its release in November 2010 – 12,000 this year, according to Nielsen Bookscan. The book sold 1,000 copies last week. The foundation, Perry spokesman Robert Black said, is “like the Heritage Foundation in Texas” and “always supports the governor and conservative lawmakers in general.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 29-September 4, 2011)

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

SuperPACs, Explained (By Stephen Colbert’s Lawyer).” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. September 3, 2011. Trevor Potter is a Washington lawyer with the firm Caplin and Drysdale. He also served as chair of the Federal Election Commission. And he says Stephen Colbert is not joking. At least when it comes to the comedian’s superPAC, a political action committee authorized by the FEC to make “unlimited independent expenditures.” Colbert’s is called Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Colbert didn’t get it without help. He hired Potter to submit the paperwork and coach him on his FEC hearing. “It’s not a joke,” Potter tells NPR’s Laura Sullivan, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered. “Because, as he has put it, he wanted to bring people in behind the curtain so they could see [superPACs] actually worked and what they actually did.” The primary purpose of superPACs and other independent groups, Potter explains, is to spend a lot of money. Mostly on TV ads. Why they can do that has to do with last year’s Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. This election cycle, two specific types of groups have been doing just that. The first type, your basic superPAC, is registered with the FEC and required to disclose its donors. “That sounds good,” Potter says, “except its donors can include the X, Y, Z Corporation. Well, who is the X, Y, Z Corporation? Who knows?” The other type includes groups that are registered as non-profits with the IRS. They aren’t required to disclose any information about where their money comes from. “It could be the car industry,” Potter says. “It could be the coal industry. It could be all sorts of groups that have an ax to grind — but you won’t know it.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Our view: Presidential race not the place for secret donors.” Editorial. USA Today. August 22, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

AFL-CIO to form super PAC.” By MacKenzie Weinger. Politico.com. August 22, 2011. The AFL-CIO is getting ready to pump even more money into elections by forming a super PAC and targeting developments in the states, the Associated Press reported Monday. The super PAC — which officials discussed at an executive meeting earlier this month and plan to seek final approval for in the next few weeks — would help the labor group direct funds to state battles where legislative efforts aimed at limiting collective bargaining and cutting union benefits are being considered. “As far as our ability to hold folks accountable for next year’s state legislative battles, we hope this will make a difference and that’s why we’re pursuing this,” AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer told the AP. The plan is part of labor leaders’ focus on gathering donations and support beyond the federation’s traditional union base as it creates a year-round political machine. Super PACs, a result of the 2010 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision that removed many spending and contribution limits, can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals. These PACs cannot operate in connection with a political campaign.

The Influence Industry: ‘Candidate super PACs’ surge ahead in the 2012 money race.” By Dan Eggen. Washington Post. August 24, 2011. Until this month, Steven C. Roche was one of Mitt Romney’s most trusted advisers, helping the former Massachusetts governor raise tens of millions of dollars in his long quest for the White House. Now Roche has jumped ship to Restore Our Future, a “super PAC” dedicated to helping Romney win the presidency by raising unlimited funds from wealthy donors and corporations. The move, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, illustrates the rise of yet another money-raising vehicle for the 2012 elections: “candidate super PACs,” which are emerging as de facto subsidiaries of the traditional presidential campaigns. Super PACs are technically independent of candidates and parties, and are supposed to abide by Federal Election Commission rules prohibiting coordination with campaigns. But many campaign-finance experts complain that the line is fast blurring into a distinction without a difference, in part because the FEC itself has loosened its regulations to allow much closer ties between campaigns and outside groups. The trend has accelerated since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, experts said. “The candidate super PAC, which is new to 2012, is the most dangerous vehicle operating in American politics,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, who has led the push for campaign-finance regulations since the scandals of the Nixon era. “It is a way, in essence, for candidates to raise and spend unlimited money from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions for the benefit of their campaign. That takes you very close to unlimited contribution limits.”

Newt Gingrich’s former group, American Solutions, shutters its doors.” By Karen Tumulty. Washington Post. August 26, 2011. The vast advocacy and fundraising operation that former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) built after leaving Capitol Hill more than a decade ago has ceased to exist — a casualty of Gingrich’s decision to run for president in 2012. According to an Aug. 1 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, American Solutions for Winning the Future raised more than $2.4 million during the first six months of the year, but it spent almost $3 million. “It closed down” in July, said longtime Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord, who had taken over the organization after Gingrich’s departure. “There’s nothing to say. We had difficulty raising money after Newt left. .?.?. We didn’t want to run the organization into deep, deep, deep debt. So we closed it down.” The closure of the organization was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News. In its heyday, the group raised more money than any other such organization, collecting more than $52 million in its first four years. Nearly two-thirds of that, however, went toward fundraising, which made it an unusually expensive operation. The group’s donor base included more than 300,000 contributors who gave $200 or less, although it also had a number of wealthy benefactors, including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who provided $6 million.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 8-14, 2011)

Monday, August 15th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Governor Rick Perry: Big On Prayer, Not So Big On Charity.” By Jason Cherkis. Huffington Post. August 11, 2011. Texas Governor Rick Perry sounded a humble note during his speech at his national prayer event last Saturday. In front of some 30,000 people, he pivoted away from the Tea Party rhetoric that had so typified — and electrified — his audiences during the past year. Instead, Perry opted for a vague plea for charity. After introductory remarks, Perry gushed: “Like all of you, I love this country deeply. … Indeed the only thing that you love more is the living Christ. But our hearts do break for those who suffer, those afflicted by the loss of loved ones, the pain of addiction, the strife that they may find at home, those who have lost jobs, who have lost their homes, people who have lost hope.” Benevolent charity has long been a cornerstone of conservative social policy, whether in the form of a religious group organizing large-scale relief programs or a quiet donor giving a helping hand to an individual man or woman. But how well conservative politicians might practice what they preach varies dramatically. Rick Perry has had steady work as a politician since the mid-1980s, and his income increased dramatically when he became governor of Texas in 2000. Between 2000 and 2009, he has earned $2.68 million, according to the Houston Chronicle. That’s a lot of means and opportunity to give back to all those who have lost their jobs, suffered through a harrowing addiction or endured a housing foreclosure. And Texas has plenty of people in need, whether it’s the chronically unemployed in the Rio Grande Valley or the men and women huddled in Austin’s crowded shelters. Yet Perry’s money hasn’t answered many prayers. A review of his tax records from the mid-1990s through 2009 show the governor has contributed very little to charity. When he has, Perry has given mainly to charities connected to his family, and even then, his donations have sometimes been slight. An analysis by the San Antonio Express-News in mid-June reported that of his $2.68 million, Perry “gave half a percent to churches and religious organizations, or $14,243.” The Express-News goes on to note: “By comparison, Americans averaged gifts of nearly 1.2 percent of their incomes to churches and religious groups from 2004 to 2008, according to Empty Tomb Inc., an Illinois-based research firm specializing in U.S.-church giving trends.”

D.C. Council members use nonprofit to secure money for favored projects.” By Isaac Arnsdorf. Washington Post. August 11, 2011. D.C. Council members have used an independent nonprofit organization to steer millions of taxpayer dollars to favored charities, often with ties to friends or campaign donors, a Washington Post review shows. The organization, the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., was created by the council to decide independently which local charities best address problems facing city youths. But The Post’s review found that council members often influence those decisions, sometimes without public bids and despite a council ban on earmarks. The trust was the go-between used by council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who recently settled a city lawsuit that had alleged he used trust grants for a luxury sport-utility vehicle and personal travel. Although there is no indication that other council members have financially benefited, some critics say the council members have used the trust in ways the council did not intend when it created the trust in 1999. Several private donors have become so disenchanted with the trust that they have stopped participating in it. The trust’s board members are appointed by city officials, and it uses a combination of city funds and private donations, with most coming from taxpayers. City officials directed more than $15 million in the past four years to the trust through earmarks or designated grants. The earmarks, which were standard practice until last year, specified a group without bidding. Under the ban on earmarks, designated grants specified only a purpose that required bidding, but some officials helped choose the recipients.

Super PAC Corporate Donations: Not All Contributions Are Equal.” By Paul Blumenthal. Huffington Post. August 11, 2011. “Corporations are people, my friend,” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney responded to hecklers at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday, as the candidate was questioned over his position on not raising taxes on individuals and corporations. The quote has drawn condemnation from the Democratic Party, painting Romney as an out-of-touch candidate. Romney’s comment raises another issue that has been dogging his campaign recently. You see, my friend, corporations are campaign donors, too. Corporate donations are an increasingly big part of electoral politics since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and subsequent court rulings, freed corporations and unions to spend money on independent campaigns. According to a HuffPost analysis, corporations have given $16.8 million to Super PACs, political committees that can receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions and that are required to report their donors. The amount of corporate money donated to political nonprofits is unknown, as these committees can raise unlimited corporate money without disclosing it to the public. The majority of that $16.8 million has gone to two Super PACs, the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads, with $8 million in corporate donations, and the pro-Romney Restore Our Future PAC, with $3.5 million in contributions from corporations. Corporate donations account for more than a quarter of the total contributions to each of these committees. “We are just seeing the beginning of what could turn out to be an onslaught of corporate money being injected into our congressional and presidential campaigns,” Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer told The Huffington Post. “The Citizens United decision has opened up Pandora’s Box here.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (JUNE 6-12, 2011)

Monday, June 13th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Plessy and Ferguson: Descendants of a divisive Supreme Court decision unite.” By Robert Barnes. Washington Post. June 5, 2011. When Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson decided to start a new civil rights education organization that would bear their famous names, they sealed the deal in a fitting local spot: Cafe Reconcile. They represent the opposing principals in one of the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions, Plessy v. Ferguson , which upheld the constitutionality of Jim Crow laws mandating segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine. It stood from 1896 until the court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. The descendent of the man who tested Louisiana’s law requiring separate railroad cars for whites and blacks and the great-great-granddaughter of the judge who upheld it met in 2004. The truth is, no reconciliation was required. So the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation was born, and on Tuesday it will celebrate another anniversary of Homer Adolph Plessy’s decision to buy a railroad ticket for the June 7, 1892, train trip from New Orleans to Covington, on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. The organization seeks to highlight the historic moments in New Orleans’s struggle for racial equality and hopes to remind the public of the story behind the famous case. It was, Plessy and Ferguson said, a forerunner of the legal strategies and civil disobedience that took root in the civil rights struggles of the 20th century.

Patrick Kennedy’s new cause: the brain.” By Bella English. Boston Globe. June 7, 2011. Patrick Kennedy walks, beaming, into the John F. Kennedy Library for a gala luncheon. At his side is his fiancee, Amy Petitgout. In his arms is her 3-year-old daughter, Harper. On his mind is another new passion of his: the brain. On his way to the podium, Kennedy shakes hands, slaps backs, and poses for pictures. When he begins to speak, the crowd gives him a standing ovation. It’s a big change from the days when Kennedy, who represented Rhode Island in Congress for eight terms, made headlines for various shenanigans, including an early morning crash in 2006 outside the Capitol and subsequent treatment for addiction to prescription medication. As he prepared to retire from Congress in January, he turned his attention both inward — courting Petitgout — and outward, launching a nonprofit to advance brain research. When his father, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, lay dying from a brain tumor in 2009, he told Patrick that he didn’t have to stay in Congress, that he could find other ways to serve the public. Using his family name and his extensive list of contacts, Kennedy, 43, has cofounded an initiative with California businessman and philanthropist Garen Staglin, who has raised millions of dollars for brain research since his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 30-June 5, 2010)

Monday, June 6th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

A Candle in the Darkness – Amnesty Turns 50.” By Portia Crowe. Interpress Service (ips.net). May 31, 2011. Thousands of people worldwide raised glasses in a toast to freedom over the weekend to celebrate Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary. The symbolic salute paid tribute to two Portuguese students who, 50 years ago, were imprisoned for toasting to liberty, and whose story inspired Peter Benenson to found the global human rights watchdog and demand justice for Prisoners of Conscience around the world. Anniversary celebrations took place in nearly 60 countries, from Argentina to Ghana to Turkey to New Zealand, and in London’s Trafalgar Square, Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty gave a public address. The world’s largest human rights organisation, Amnesty International was kickstarted in 1961 when Benenson published ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’ in The Observer newspaper and launched a global campaign called ‘Appeal for Amnesty 1961′. He opened a small office in London and held an international meeting to establish a permanent movement in defence of freedom of opinion and religion. By 1964 the organisation had gained consultative status at the United Nations, and in 1977 it received the Nobel Peace Prize for “having contributed to securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world”. Today, Amnesty International, or AI, has grown to have more than three million members and 500 staff working in over 150 countries worldwide. It works closely with the United Nations and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.