President Biden’s judicial gifts to dark-money groups do not end with Ketanji Brown Jackson or other far-left nominees he picked for lower courts. Eleventh Circuit nominee Nancy Abudu made her career in the dark-money realm since 2005, when she joined the American Civil Liberties Union. She worked for several years for the group’s Voting Rights Project, leaving just as another future Biden nominee—Dale Ho—became its director. From there, Abudu assumed the post of legal director of the ACLU of Florida.
In 2019, after over a decade with the ACLU, Abudu joined the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a once admirable group that in recent years has been mired in scandal and recognized as a racket that betrays its stated principles—not least by vilifying those it disagrees with as “hate groups.” A number of liberals have acknowledged this, with Nathan J. Robinson, founder of the left-wing Current Affairs, calling the group’s signature “Hate Map” an “outright fraud.”
Abudu is the group’s director for strategic litigation. A wide-ranging coalition of over 50 organizations and individuals protested her nomination in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley. They stated bluntly: “Ms. Abudu works for a disreputable organization that has no business being a feeder for positions to any judicial office—not even of a traffic court—let alone the second highest court system in the United States. She is a political activist not a jurist and is unfit to serve at the federal appellate level.”
The Family Research Council (FRC) circulated the letter. They have good reason to have sounded the alarm. They know the real danger of being labeled a “hate group” by the SPLC. As their letter to Durbin and Grassley explains:
These destructive accusations have done real harm to many people. In the first conviction under the post-9/11 District of Columbia terrorism statute, the convicted terrorist was shown to have been motivated by the SPLC’s “hate group” designation and related identifying information.
In that case, SPLC materials facilitated a troubled young man’s delusional, and thankfully unsuccessful, plan to commit mass murder. Using the SPLC “hate map,” this native of northern Virginia targeted the Family Research Council (FRC) and two other nearby groups in August 2012 for having beliefs supporting traditional marriage. Fortunately, no one was killed, although he did shoot and critically wound FRC’s unarmed building manager who subdued him while wounded.
To make matters worse, the SPLC’s leadership—Abudu included—apparently haven’t learned their lesson. “[O]ver the past decade the SPLC has targeted an increasing number of policy groups with whom it has policy disagreements. Any group that disagrees with the SPLC about positions it advocates is deemed to be evil and worthy of destruction,” laments the coalition letter.
In addition to its inflammatory designations, the SPLC has amassed a war chest to fund its left-wing activism totaling $570 million as of October 2020. Its holdings are, to put it mildly, highly unusual for an American non-profit company. Among investments listed in its 2020 financial statements are $162 million in non-U.S. equity funds, $23 million in “arbitrage funds,” $89 million in private equity funds, and $7 million in long-short funds. The coalition letter observed, “The SPLC looks more like a hedge fund than a public interest legal and political activist group.”
Amy Sterling Casil, the CEO of the consulting firm Pacific Human Capital, remarked regarding its transfer of millions of dollars to foreign bank accounts that “I’ve never known a US-based nonprofit dealing in human rights or social services to have any foreign bank accounts.” She added, “I know of no legitimate reason for any US-based nonprofit to put money in overseas, unregulated bank accounts” and called the SPLC’s practice “unethical.” The watchdog group CharityWatch gave the SPLC a grade of “F.”
In addition to Abudu’s shady professional associations, she consistently has taken far-left positions in litigation. Perhaps the most prominent were cases Abudu argued while at the ACLU’s Voting Rights Center, for example, making unsuccessful challenges to felon voting provisions in Mississippi, Arizona, and Tennessee. As legal director of the ACLU of Florida, Abudu unsuccessfully challenged the state’s requirement that a felon’s voting rights could be restored only after all fines, fees, and restitution imposed as part of the felon’s sentence had been paid. The Eleventh Circuit, sitting en banc, found no evidence to support Abudu’s claim of intentional racial discrimination. Undeterred, Abudu joined several other groups to submit Florida’s law to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights for review of human rights violations.
Since joining the SPLC, Abudu has maintained her ties with the ACLU of Florida and continued her losing track record in court with an unsuccessful Eighth Amendment claim against Florida’s Department of Corrections for not fully accommodating a transgender inmate’s “social-transitioning” requests.
The Biden administration and congressional Democrats continue to make scurrilous allegations of suppression of voting rights in Republican-led states, cherry-picking them over Democrat-led states with more stringent election rules and brazenly trying to weaponize the courts to do their partisan bidding. And Biden’s Department of Justice has specifically targeted Georgia, where Abudu would sit if confirmed, alleging the state’s recent election law violated the Voting Rights Act and engaged in racial discrimination. If you believe a Judge Abudu would fairly evaluate Georgia’s voting integrity laws according to the rule of law rather than her own agenda, I have a bridge to sell you.