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Key ACLU Donor Withdraws Annual Gift


The American Civil Liberties Union is facing a 25% cut in its annual operating budget after a previously anonymous donor pulled his annual gift of more than $20 million to the organization.

Following a Wednesday article in The New York Times that identified the donor as philanthropist David Gelbaum, the hedge fund manager and clean energy entrepreneur explained his decision in a statement on the ACLU's website.

"For a number of years, [the ACLU] has received very substantial charitable contributions from me," Gelbaum said. "I am willing to be publicly named now because my investments in alternative, clean energy companies have placed me in a highly illiquid position as a result of the general credit crisis in the American and world financial systems."

Gelbaum asserted that his decision was not the result of any dissatisfaction with the ACLU. "To the contrary, I hope they will thrive with the generous support of many other donors, large and small."

Several major donors, including the Open Society Institute and the Leon Levy Foundation, have increased their giving to the organization -- to the tune of $23 million over the next three years. However, the Times noted, the donations would also be disbursed among state affiliates.

ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero said the group "will need to consider a number of budget reductions as well as the possibility of drawing down from our reserve funds if necessary."

Last year the ACLU cut its staff by 10%, following a decline in charitable giving -- particularly by two foundations rocked by Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

Gelbaum also donated heavily to the Sierra Club and the Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund of the California Community Foundation.

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