America First Legal Claims Hello Alice Grant Program Racially Discriminates Against Non-Black Business Owners.
Online small business resource company Hello Alice is the subject of a class-action lawsuit claiming its work with Progressive Insurance Company, which offered $25,000 in grants to 10 Black-owned small businesses earlier this year, unlawfully discriminates against business owners based on race. It accuses Progressive Insurance’s Driving Small Business Forward Fund Program of unlawful discrimination because non-Black owned small businesses were not allowed to apply.
The lawsuit lists an Ohio resident who owns a trucking dispatch company as the plaintiff. The resident claims to have received an email from the company offering 10 grants of $25,000 each to Black-owned small business owners to be put toward purchasing a commercial vehicle. The program was a partnership between Progressive and Hello Alice, therefore Progressive Preferred Insurance Company, Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and Circular Board LLC — the company that operates Hello Alice — are listed as defendants.
Hello Alice co-founder Elizabeth Gore, on behalf of herself and executives Carolyn Rodz and Kelsey Rudger defend its efforts to help small minority-owned businesses by stating, “The activists at AFL (America First Legal) are using their lawsuit against Hello Alice to support their efforts to fundraise,” her statement said. “These are the pillars upon which we built Hello Alice and guide our mission to drive capital, connections, and opportunities into the hands of small businesses of all types and backgrounds.”
The complaint is part of a wider campaign by conservative organizations to push back against the recent arc toward diversity and equity measures in corporate decision making, and could wind up as a test case on this lightning-rod topic. The idea behind the fund was to give small business owners better access and a better idea of available resources — such as funding, networks, and grant opportunities.
America First Legal’s Representation
In 2021, the foundation’s board was all white, and all male.
America First Legal vice president and general counsel Gene Hamilton said in a statement on the America First Legal’s website that the grant program is “offensive to the American ideal.” “All Americans deserve to be free from racial discrimination, yet major corporations across the United States inject racial considerations into every aspect of their business operations, employment practices and so much more.” Hamilton continues, “We will fight to vindicate his rights and the rights of all similarly situated Americans.”
America First Legal’s president is Stephen Miller, widely considered the architect of Donald J. Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants when Miller served as senior advisor during Trump’s presidency. The foundation reported contributions and grants of nearly $6.8 million in 2021.
In the past few months, America First Legal has sued the North Face apparel company, alleging one its sponsored athletes falsely accused a competitor of making a racist comment; sued Salesforce Inc. over the company’s racial equity-focused hiring practices; and served the Target Corporation with a formal demand to open its books regarding its “radical LGBT political agenda,” among many other legal actions.
Also representing the plaintiffs is Jonathan F. Mitchell. He’s the creator of Senate Bill 8, a near-total ban on abortion in Texas, and the legal strategist behind similar efforts in other states. Mitchell has also worked to roll back same-sex marriage rights, gut the Affordable Care Act, and ban books dealing with race and LGBTQ issues.
According to the group’s website, The America First Legal Foundation is aligned against “an unholy alliance of corrupt special interests, Big Tech titans, the fake news media, and liberal Washington politicians. With your support, we will oppose the radical left’s anti-jobs, anti-freedom, anti-faith, anti-borders, anti-police, and anti-American crusade,” the webpage continues.
Reporter Phil Barber contributed to this report.