Levin Center at Wayne Law receives $1 million grant from Hewlett Foundation

The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School is the recipient of a three-year, $1 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to continue its work advancing accountability and bipartisanship in U.S. governance.

The grant is the Levin Center’s largest to date from a private foundation. The grant was awarded by the Hewlett Foundation’s U.S. Democracy program, which seeks to strengthen the values and norms of America’s governing institutions.

“The Levin Center is reinvigorating the legislative oversight process at all levels of government through bipartisan training, academic research and action,” said Wayne State University Law School Dean Richard A. Bierschbach. “We are deeply grateful to the Hewlett Foundation for recognizing the critical nature of the Levin Center’s work and for Hewlett’s continued investment in the center’s mission.”

The grant will enable the Levin Center to build on its foundation of promoting fact-based, bipartisan oversight and civil discourse. The center hopes to use the funds to expand its state and local oversight training program, deepen academic research into the role of oversight in policymaking and checks and balances among the branches of government, and educate students and the public about using fact-finding to strengthen governance and accountability. Since its founding in 2015, the center has, in collaboration with the Project on Government Oversight and The Lugar Center, trained more than 250 congressional staff in the techniques of bipartisan, fact-based oversight.

“The Levin Center is honored and inspired by this tremendous support from the Hewlett Foundation which will help it become an even stronger force in reestablishing and expanding bipartisan, fact-based oversight in Congress and across the United States,” said former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, founder and chair of the Levin Center.

“Bipartisan, in-depth legislative oversight was a major part of the work of Senator Carl Levin during his 36 years in the U.S. Senate and his eight years on the Detroit City Council. This grant will allow the Levin Center to carry on that legacy at the national, state, and local level,” said Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made even more apparent the necessity of oversight by the federal government and the states to keep Americans safe from threats to public health and safety.”   

“With the Hewlett Foundation’s generous support, the Levin Center will strengthen the ability of legislators at all levels of government to work in a bipartisan fashion to ask tough questions, get answers that the American people deserve, and ensure that government programs are effective and efficient,” Levin said.

“We have been proud partners of the Levin Center since its inception, and share the center’s goal of elevating bipartisanship in Congress,” said Jean Bordewich, program officer in the U.S. Democracy program. “The center has delivered consistently outstanding results in its focus areas of federal and state oversight, as well as in combining scholarship and practice, all despite limited resources.”

She added, “As the Levin Center enters a new phase with a full-time director, Jim Townsend, and a growing endowment, Hewlett is pleased to make this multi-year grant to help provide the resources to ensure its continued growth and success.”

The Levin Center recently launched oversightcases.org to track how courts are handling oversight information requests by Congress, including a dozen federal cases that will shape the future of congressional oversight. It also joined forces with The Lugar Center to file bipartisan amicus briefs in the Mazars/Deutsche (pdf) cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the McGahn (pdf) case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the right of Congress to obtain information as part of its oversight function. The Levin Center has sponsored oversight research and held national conferences on important oversight issues, including a 2018 panel on the role of inspectors general in ensuring the transparency and integrity of the federal government.




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