The Center for Individual Rights

1233 20th St. N.W.
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is a conservative public interest law firm with links to the Pioneer Fund. CIR is best known for Hopwood v. Texas, the case that struck down affirmative action in higher education in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Hopwood eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld the lower court ruling against Affirmative Action in 1996. The organization first appeared in the late 1980s taking on anti-environmentalist and anti-media cases. They recently initiated two law suits against affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan.

CIR has gained a reputation as "the legal arm" of the rising anti-PC campaign on campuses. They were introduced to this field of activity in the early 1990s with the help of two Pioneer Fund Grantees - Michael Levin and Linda Gottfredson. CIR subsequently received Pioneer grants for $30,000 (the first was approved as of January 8, 1992). Courtney Leatherman reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education (23 November 1994):

The center has also received $30,000 from the Pioneer Fund, a group that is controversial for its support of studies of possible genetic differences between blacks and whites. You would never know of its gifts by looking at C.I.R.’s financial disclosure statement. They are under the name of the fund’s president, Harry F. Weyher. That is the only gift from a foundation listed that way. [CIR executive director Michael] Greve says the omission of the foundation’s name was an oversight, not an effort to hide anything.

These grants were small in relation to both total Pioneer Fund grants and to CIR’s spending, but the Gottfredson-Levin controversies were important cases in CIR’s emergence as an anti-PC center. Questions about the Pioneer Fund had arisen especially in the Gottfredson case, so one might expect that, whatever the truth of Greve’s claims, CIR knew who they were dealing with when they took the money.

CIR was created around the time of the 1988 elections. Articles of incorporation were filed in D.C. (signed 8 November 1988), which issued a certificate of incorporation on November 10th. The initial registered agent was Michael P. McDonald and the initial registered office was 1400 20th Street, NW, No. 615 (his Dupont Circle Apt).


Officers are listed in CIR’s 1989 annual report to the D.C. government:

President: Michael P. McDonald
Secretary Michael S Greve
Treasurer: M.P. McDonald

Michael P. McDonald:

McDonald is CIR’s president and a member of its board of directors. He was born to working class Democratic Party parents in Washington, D.C. about 1957, graduating from Catholic University of America in 1978 and George Washington University National Law Center in 1982.

He has spent his whole career since 1982 (except for a short time in the U.S. Justice Department) working in conservative D.C. public-interest law firms. Out of law school he took a job with Washington Legal Foundation, which was then a center of the emerging network of right-wing public-interest law firms. He moved to the Justice Department for short while and then became general counsel of the American Legal Foundation, which was founded in December, 1980 by Daniel J. Popeo. ALF’s office was in the Washington Legal Foundation’s row-house at 1705 N St. NW. ALF’s executive director (circa 1982-83) was Michael A. Carvin, the future CIR board member. ALF remained small, employing only two attorneys in 1983. Uniquely among the new conservative public interest law firms, it specialized in media issues and was intended to serve the then-gathering right-wing ideological campaign against the media. While at ALF, McDonald sort of made a name as a plaintiffs' attorney in anti-media libel cases. His policy then was anti-libertarian. In 1986 WLF absorbed the ALF and McDonald rejoined WLF, at one point becoming its president. He left WLF to form CIR.

Michael S. Greve

Michael S Greve is CIR’s executive director. He was born in West Germany about 1957. He holds a degree in political science from Hamburg University (1981) and the same year came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship. Wakefield (1995) says "he was raised as a Social Democrat," but Kornhouser (1991) has him saying he came to the U.S. as "a refugee from the German welfare state." He got an M.A. (1985) and Ph.D. (1987) in government from Cornell, where he was a student of Jeremy Rabkin and a research associate in Rabkin’s Program on Courts and Public Policy. He joined the staff of the Washington Legal Foundation, where he worked with Michael McDonald. He has been at CIR since it was founded. He has also taught at Hunter College and John Jay College and has been a program officer at the Smith Richardson Foundation. Dinesh D’Sousa thanks him for leads and comments in the acknowledgements for The End of Racism (1995).

Board of Directors

CIR’s articles of incorporation list the initial board of directors as:

Michael P. McDonald
Michael A. Carvin (1627 I St. NW, Washington, D.C.)
Jeremy Rabkin (Department of Government, Cornell University)

Michael A. Carvin

Carvin was born September 29, 1956 in Bronxville, NY. He graduated from Tulane (B.A. 1978) and George Washington University Law Center (J.D. 1982), where he was on the law review. He probably met Michael McDonald in law school. He was admitted to the D.C. bar in 1982. Like McDonald, he went to work for American Legal Foundation, where he was executive director. In 1983 he took a job with Wm. Bradford Reynold in the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Justice Department. At Civil Rights he worked with Deputy Assistant Attorney General Charles J. Cooper, one of Reynold’s most visible and controversial assistants. Cooper played an important role in Carvin’s later career and worked with CIR. In 1987, Carvin was appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, which Cooper had headed since 1985. At OLC he worked on Robert Bork’s confirmation hearings. Ethan Bonner wrote in his 1989 book, Battle for Justice (Norton 1989):

Michael Carvin, of the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote a [pro-Bork] op-ed piece for the president that got sent back continually for changes and ultimately was not distributed at all.

Just over 30, a graduate of Tulane and George Washington University Law School, Carvin was one of the Justice Department’s bright young stars. He was Brad Reynolds' protege, having worked as Reynolds' assistant on civil rights for five years. Carvin was big and blond with a penchant for eating cartons of junk food at his desk as he worked late into the evening, his shirt untucked, tie knot yanked six inches below his neck. He had a mordant wit. A New Yorker, Carvin remembered passionate political discussions around his family’s dinner table. He was as devoted to a right-wing judicial agenda as could be imagined and would get enraged over hypocrisy or cowardice.

Asked once about the Supreme Court’s role in protecting groups such as blacks and Hispanics. . .Carvin shot back: "You want to talk about ‘discrete and insular minorities’? You know which ones I would protect? First, fetuses. Second, 19-year-old Italian-Americans in New Jersey who can’t get jobs in their own fire departments because of affirmative action. . . To me, those are discrete and insular minorities."

Toward the end of the Reagan administration, Carvin became a senior associate at the D.C. law firm of McGuire, Woods, Battle and Boothe, where Charles Cooper had become a partner. CIR was founded during this period. Both Carvin and Cooper became partners (c. 1991-93) at Shaw, Potts and Trowbridge. William Bradford Reynolds had been a litigation partner at Shaw, Pittman until 1981.

Carvin continued to work with Cooper after they entered private practice. When Cooper contracted to provide independent legal advice for the Legal Services Corporation in late 1988 and 1989, Carvin worked closely with him. They provided, inter alia, opinions on LSCs independence and constitutionality. (Cooper's fee on this was $200 an hour, Carvin's $130). House Democrats questioned the propriety of this arrangement in LSC's July 1989 reauthorization hearings.

Carvin is also chairman of CIR's Lawyer's Committee and has litigated some its cases. In January 1991 he argued Lamprecht v. FCC in the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit. In October 1993 he argued Harding v. Gray, a reverse discrimination case filed by a white carpenter at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, before the D.C. Circuit Court. He also worked on Henry Painting Co. v. Ohio State University, a minority contracting set-asides case.

Jeremy Rabkin

Jeremy Allen Rabkin received his B.A. from Cornell in 1974 after which he did graduate work in government at Harvard. During the Summer of 1976, he had a grant from the Office of Civil Rights, HEW. While still a graduate student, he worked at the American Enterprise Institute (c. 1978-79), where he was on the staff of its journal, Regulation. After completing his Ph.D. in 1983, he returned to the Cornell government department.