2021 was a year of contradictions — tragedy and hope, loss and opportunity. It was a year that began with a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that underscored a deepening polarization and democratic dysfunction, and ended with bipartisan policy reform that showed consensus around evidence-based policy change is still possible. Throughout it all, Arnold Ventures was there, weighing in on some of the most newsworthy moments of the year. Here’s a look back at some of our reactions, reflections, and hot takes on 2021.
2021 U.S. Capitol Attack
On the same day that democracy prevailed in Georgia with the historic elections of the state’s first Black senator, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, and its first Jewish senator, Jon Ossoff, its fragility was laid bare with a violent uprising that terrorized lawmakers, public servants, and journalists for hours at our nation’s Capitol.
The Cost of Police Misconduct Litigation
We sat down with Joanna Schwartz of UCLA Law to discuss her paper on police accountability, and her ideas on improving policing and police misconduct.
The Launch of AV’s Reintegration Portfolio
In February, we launched our Reintegration portfolio, which supports research and policies that will allow people to clear their records and reduce barriers to successful reintegration. We also did a reintegration series to shine a light on the severe consequences people with criminal records face, even after they have been held accountable, and highlight the work of AV grantees to reduce the long-lasting harm caused by contact with the criminal justice system.
Deadly Winter Storm in Texas Sparks Quest for Solutions
In February, Texas experienced one of the most devastating winter storms in recent history, leaving millions of people without basic necessities like power, water, and food in freezing temperatures for days. The extreme weather tragically caused loss of life and billions of dollars in damage and economic loss. In the aftermath, as people sought answers to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, AV’s Vice President Sam Mar offered insights to help state and federal lawmakers better prepare for extreme climate events.
Women’s History Month
AV commemorated Women’s History Month with a month-long campaign recognizing the women who are making history by working to drive policy change in various areas where we work. We featured our President and CEO Kelli Rhee, Topeka K. Sam of The Ladies of Hope Ministries, Añu Manchikanti Gómez of the University of California Berkley School of Social Welfare and the Sexual Health and Reproductive Equity (SHARE) Program, Debbie Cochrane of the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), and Priti Krishtel of I‑MAK.
A Transformative New Organ Donation Rule Goes into Effect Over Objections from Monopolistic Contractors
In an in-depth investigative piece, AV grantee the Project on Government Oversight examined industry efforts to undermine the nation’s transformative organ donation oversight rule, which is projected to save 7,000 lives per year and $1 billion in Medicare funding.
Derek Chauvin is Found Guilty in the Murder of George Floyd
Following the guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd, AV Vice President Walter Katz, an expert on policing reform in the U.S., gave an in-depth interview on what the verdict means for the criminal justice system and the reform movement going forward. Watch his interview here.
Pharma Comes Under Fire by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform
Drug company executives faced intense scrutiny from Congressional members over their business strategies — exposed in committee reports — to profiteer and profit gouge.
The Accelerating Charitable Efforts (ACE) Act is Introduced
In an effort to reform philanthropic giving and get promised funds to our nation’s charities faster, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, introduced the ACE Act in June. This bipartisan legislation would give donors an upfront tax deduction for donor advised funds (DAFs) they distribute within 15 years, or allow them to delay the deduction and have up to 50 years to distribute the funds. The legislation would also close loopholes benefiting private foundations, prohibiting them from counting administrative expenses for family members and certain DAF distributions toward their 5% payout obligation.
Gwen Levi Is Released from Jail, Sparking the #KeepThemHome Movement
Gwen Levi, a 76-year-old cancer survivor, served 16 years in prison for a nonviolent drug charge and was released to home confinement. She was sent back to prison because she didn’t answer her phone during a computer class. She is one of about 4,500 federal prisoners who were released to home confinement amid the pandemic but face returning to overcrowded federal prisons. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) advocated for Levi to be granted a compassionate release. The FAMM Foundation is still urging President Biden to grant clemency to everyone on CARES Act home confinement to ensure families stay together.
The Best Thing We Can Do For the Planet is Pass Durable, Sustainable Bipartisan Climate Policies
The new Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act follows the blueprint of the most effective and sustainable climate policies — it’s bipartisan, and it uses the tax code to spur innovation. The new proposal, from Sens. Mike Crapo (R‑ID) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D‑RI), is a market-driven technology-inclusive tax credit that both incentivizes development of new energy sources and addresses concerns with existing tax credits.
John Arnold Pushes for Charity Reform on CNBC’s “The Exchange”
Arnold Ventures Co-Founder John Arnold talked to Rob Frank about his efforts to reform the industry and make sure donated funds get to the intended community in a timely manner.
Debt Relief Extended for Students Who Attended ITT Tech
The Department of Education announced in August that it would extend more than $1.1 billion in debt relief to an additional 115,000 students who attended the predatory, failed ITT Tech.
Prescription Drug Pricing Reform Overcomes Roadblocks to Press Forward
AV Executive Vice President of Health Care Mark Miller paints a stark portrait of the uphill battle to lower prescription drug prices in the U.S.
Social Media Oops With a Lot of Cuteness
Our Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice Jeremy Travis was trying to email a picture of his beautiful granddaughter to his family, but accidentally tweeted the snapshot instead. The adorable social media flub definitely warmed our hearts and prompted quite a few awwws.
California Passes Landmark Police Accountability Law
California passes SB 2, creating a systemic process for investigating law enforcement officers, reviewing findings, and issuing decisions about licensing.
The EQUAL Act Passes the House
In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, known as the EQUAL Act, which would eliminate the crack-cocaine disparity in federal drug sentencing that has existed for more than three decades. The bill passed the House with broad bipartisan support on a vote of 361 – 66 but still needs to pass the Senate and be signed by President Biden.
AV’s Public Defense Portfolio Goes Public
Why does our public defense system need reform? The numbers speak for themselves: 80% of people accused of crimes in the U.S. rely on a public defender to protect their rights, and 73% of public defender offices exceeded recommended caseload limits. AV believes all individuals in the justice system should have access to quality and independent counsel at every stage of their criminal case.
AV Welcomes New Leader of Public Finance Portfolio
New Executive Vice President of Public Finance George Callas brings to the organization a long track record of tax and budget policy wins, including key roles in crafting some of the nation’s landmark tax reform legislative packages.
AV President and CEO Kelli Rhee Urges Congress to Take Bold Action on Drug Pricing Reform
Kelli Rhee, president and CEO of Arnold Ventures, writes in The Hill that failure to implement prescription drug pricing reform now will be a “political and policy failure on a historic scale.” In October, the Biden administration announced that it would remove evidence-based prescription drug pricing reforms from its Build Back Better framework. The House later added them back in and passed the legislation containing provisions that would allow Medicare to negotiate and require drugmakers to reimburse taxpayers when they hike prices higher than inflation. The Build Back Better Act is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
One Solution to Fixing Polarization? Ranked-Choice Voting.
Our Co-Founder and Co-Chair Laura Arnold released a podcast featuring a conversation with one-time presidential candidate Andrew Yang and leading democracy scholar Larry Diamond. Arnold examined the structural drivers of polarization and chatted with Yang and Diamond about the real-world evidence from RCV elections.