In the more than three years since we founded Democracy Forward, we’ve fought to hold the Trump administration accountable for breaching basic tenets of good government with scores of unlawful and corrupt actions.
This year, a devastating pandemic, a reckoning over systemic racism, and unprecedented attacks on our democratic institutions presented enormous challenges for the country — and, unfortunately, more opportunities for government corruption. But as COVID-19 brought life as we knew it to a standstill, forcing all of us to quickly adapt, we kept up our fight on behalf of people harmed by this administration.
In 2020, we worked with a diverse (and large) coalition of partners to fight for good government and honest policymaking:
We filed 27 new lawsuits against the Trump administration — bringing our total to 139(!)
Suits on behalf of 24 organizations, 12 individuals across the U.S., 6 unions, 2 tribes, and 1 major city.
We notched significant wins for millions of people doing their best to provide a good life for themselves, their families, and their communities:
Asylum seekers, RAICES v. Cuccinelli, USCIS
In a landmark victory — the first to hold that a Trump administration official was unlawfully appointed — we forced the Trump administration to reinstate protections for asylum seekers that Ken Cuccinelli scrapped while unlawfully leading U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Center for Science in the Public Interest, Healthy School Food Maryland v. USDA
We reversed the Trump administration’s rollback of healthier school nutrition standards for a program that helps feed 30 million children nationwide.
Natural Resources Defense Council et al. v. Bernhardt
Our lawsuit led the Department of the Interior to shutter its International Wildlife Conservation Council, which was stacked with trophy hunters and gun advocates ostensibly advising the government on international wildlife conservation.
California Reinvestment Coalition v. CFPB
Because of a lawsuit we brought on behalf of small business owners and community development organizations, the Trump administration finally agreed to stop flouting its legal obligation to collect data to enforce anti-discrimination laws that protect small businesses and businesses owned by women and people of color.
Uncovering Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross’ use of private email for government business
In our lawsuit, a federal court ordered the Commerce Department to search Secretary Wilbur Ross’ private emails after our FOIA investigation revealed he’d used private email to conduct government business with Newt Gingrich, foreign officials, lobbyists, CEOs, and more.
Benjamin Wittes et al. v. Trump
In response to a lawsuit we filed, President Trump released his long-overdue War Powers Transparency Report, which is meant to provide an important, up-to-date overview of the president’s interpretation of when, where, how, why, and against whom he believes he is authorized to use military force.
Demanding investigations into whether Trump political appointees at NOAA unlawfully altered protections for the endangered right whale
In response to our call for an investigation, NOAA’s Scientific Integrity Committee opened a (still ongoing) inquiry into whether Trump political appointees improperly interfered with conservation measures for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale — whose population has dwindled to 400 worldwide.
Western Organization of Resource Councils v. Bernhardt
Following up on our earlier victory barring the Department of the Interior from relying on recommendations from its illegal Royalty Policy Committee, a federal court in Montana granted our request for discovery about whether the Trump administration is violating the court’s order. The court said Interior’s limited environmental analysis for new drilling permits “raises a significant question” about whether it is failing to comply.
Demanding investigation of Interior aide’s potential conflicts connected to Arctic drilling
After we requested an investigation, the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General released a report concluding there was “no doubt” that Trump political appointee Stephen Wackowski had violated his ethics pledge by communicating and meeting with former business associates as part of his efforts to open the Alaskan wilderness up to oil & gas exploration.
We kept a vigilant eye, filed dozens of new suits, exposed government wrongdoing, and generated important oversight — while pushing ahead with ongoing litigation:
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights et al v. Pompeo
On behalf of a coalition of human rights organizations, we sued Secretary Pompeo and the State Department for unlawfully creating and operating the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which has worked behind closed doors to redefine human rights and undercut protections for women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Family Equality, True Colors United, SAGE v. Azar, Department of Health and Human Services
We sued to block the Trump administration from unlawfully abandoning nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans and others in programs funded by HHS’s $500 billion in grant programs.
Columbus et al. v. Trump
A federal court allowed our lawsuit against the Trump administration for sabotaging the Affordable Care Act to move forward.
Oracle v. Department of Labor
We partnered with two major unions and filed a motion to intervene in a dangerous lawsuit brought by Oracle America that sought to axe the federal government’s ability to ensure federal contractors comply with important protections against workplace discrimination.
Seeking investigation of Trump DHS officials for leaking protected personal information to Fox News, Breitbart
After exposing that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security was leaking the immigration status of people accused of crimes to anti-immigrant media outlets to promote the false and racist narrative that immigrants are likely to be criminals, we called for an investigation.
VoteVets v. Department of Veterans Affairs
We took our legal fight to the D.C. Circuit over the Trump administration’s handover of Veterans Affairs policy to the “Mar-a-Lago Council,” three associates of President Trump who unlawfully influenced VA policy on a sweeping range of issues.
National Association of Consumer Associates et al. v. Consumer Finance Protection Bureau
We sued the CFPB for giving the financial services industry illegal influence over consumer protection policy.
Demanding investigation into illegal & secret HUD policy denying FHA home loans to DACA recipients
After we uncovered that Trump’s Dept. of Housing and Urban Development secretly created a policy to deny DACA recipients federal home loans (and gave Congress misleading answers about it!), we called for an investigation. Forty-five members of Congress followed up with the same request.
National Community Reinvestment Coalition, California Reinvestment Coalition v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
When the Trump administration gutted rules designed to combat redlining and ensure that banks meet the financial needs of the communities in which they do business, we filed suit.
National Audubon Society v. Bernhardt et al.
We sued the Trump administration to prevent illegal federally funded sand mining in protected coastal areas that are home to many seabirds and protect communities from storm damage.
New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice v. Department of Labor et al.
After Trump’s Labor Department eliminated protections for immigrant victims of workplace abuse and labor trafficking — discouraging vulnerable workers from reporting crimes and mistreatment — we took it to court.
TPS Beneficiaries, Central American Resource Center v. Cuccinelli, Wolf, DHS
When Ken Cuccinelli unlawfully denied many Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries a means of applying for permanent residence in the U.S., while the Trump administration is, at the same time, working to terminate TPS altogether, we filed suit on behalf of seven TPS beneficiaries and a D.C.-based immigration justice group.
California Tribal Families Coalition, et al. v. Azar
After the administration rolled back rules requiring collection of data on how LGBTQ+ youth and American Indian and Alaska Native Children fare in foster care systems across the U.S., we took the Trump administration to court on behalf of a large and diverse coalition. (Watch our video on it here!)
Western Organization of Resource Councils v. Department of Energy
We sued to halt the work of a secretive coal council stacked with representatives from the fossil fuel industry until it complies with federal transparency requirements.
I.M. v. CBP, Wolf, et al.
On behalf of an unlawfully deported visa recipient, we took the Department of Homeland Security to court for unconstitutionally allowing unappointed border employees to deport immigrants.
Conservation Law Foundation, Surfrider Foundation v. Barr, DOJ, EPA et al.
We sued Trump’s Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency for unlawfully preventing the use of an established enforcement tool where allows polluters pay for real-world projects that benefit the communities they’ve harmed.
And, in 2020, as the administration neglected its responsibility to protect Americans from COVID-19 and the economic crisis it spawned…
We filed lawsuits challenging the federal government’s mismanagement of the pandemic:
- Health Care
Chicago v. Azar et al.
Challenging the Trump administration’s unlawful refusal to open a COVID-19 special enrollment period that would allow uninsured Americans to access affordable, high-quality health insurance during a once-in-a-century pandemic.
Learn more about this lawsuit
Cole v. Mnuchin and DeVos
Class action against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for illegally seizing student borrowers’ federal tax refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, in violation of the CARES Act.
Learn more about this lawsuit
Now, as the Trump administration heads for the exit, it is working to finalize a flurry of policies that will impact millions of Americans’ lives. We’re staying vigilant.
In the new year, we’ll be pushing ahead with the dozens of lawsuits we’ve filed and continuing to bring new challenges to whatever unlawful policymaking the Trump administration pushes in its final weeks. The impacts of this administration’s policies will be felt long after it has left power, so we’ll keep fighting to move Democracy Forward.
It’s been a tough year. But we’re deeply grateful to have been able to keep up the fight in such trying times and, as always, to have had your support along the way.
Of course, 2020 wasn’t all bad!
Here are a few of the things that sparked joy for our team at Democracy Forward during the last many months while working from home:
From all of us at Democracy Forward, here’s to a happy new year!