A mistake in an affirmative action case can cost Harvard $15 million

“I’m the low-cost, high-volume producer in the public interest legal space,” Mr. Blum said in an interview. “No bricks, no mortar, no employees.”

“I pay myself $48,000 a year for this mishegoss,” he said, using the Yiddish word for insanity.

Public information about the sources of the money used to fund the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuits is limited, and Mr. Blum would only describe the group’s donors in general terms.

“Most of our funding comes from a dozen wealthy people and probably a dozen conservative foundations,” he said. “We received over 5,000 individual contributions, ranging from $5 to sometimes as high as $1,000. Some foundations have revealed that they have publicly supported these lawsuits. I won’t divulge most of them. »

Mr Blum confirmed reports in tax returns that his group had received $1.5 million in donations from Donors Trust, $500,000 from Searle Freedom Trust and $250,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation. All are supporters of conservative or libertarian causes.

UNC’s litigation costs topped $24 million in July, according to a response to a public records request from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, a nonprofit group that says it is seeking to expand the diversity of ideas taught in universities.

“No state or tuition money is used,” UNC told the center.

Asked by The New York Times for clarification, the university released a cryptic statement: “While all institutions receive state appropriations and tuition fees classified as general funds, they also rely on other sources of funding to support their operations, including grants, contracts, donor funds and ancillary funds.

Legal experts said the universities’ legal costs were both substantial and unsurprising.

“Let’s be real: these are very large numbers,” Professor Baker said. “But in an age when attorneys at top law firms are charging upwards of $1,000 an hour without even batting an eyelid, it doesn’t take much to get those kinds of numbers in a hard-fought case.”