Ralph G. Neas is currently president of People for the American Way. He is a native of Brookline, Massachusetts, and received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. He has taught at Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Chicago Law School, the University of Iowa Law School, and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
In 1996, Neas, a lawyer, teacher and consultant and previously a chief legislative assistant to former senators Dave Durenberger (R-MN) and Edward W. Brooke (R-MA), departed the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights after fourteen years (1981-1995) as the organization's executive director. Neas "built a coalition of 185 civil rights groups ... [and under] Neas's leadership the conference helped win passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, the 1988 Fair Housing Act Amendments, the Japanese American Civil Liberties Act, and the 1982 Voting Rights Act Extension .. [and] in 1987 successfully fought the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court."
"As a white male and a Republican, Neas might seem an unlikely choice to head the conference, but he defies stereotype. He infused the coalition with new strength, bringing gays and lesbians, the disabled, women and the elderly into an organization whose membership had been racially based ... A believer in the power of bipartisanship, Neas has helped craft civil rights legislation that won enough support from both parties to overcome presidential vetoes."
"Neas has also overcome personal obstacles ... While on a business trip in 1979, Neas suffered temporary paralysis from a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. He required months of intensive care. Neas later founded the Guillain-Barre Syndrome Foundation, which now has 15,000 members and 130 chapters worldwide."
In 1998, Neas was a Democratic candidate for Congress from Maryland’s 8th District (Montgomery County).
Neas' Financial and Contributions Profile for 1997-98. Note that the overwhelming majority of campaign funding came from Labor.