- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ACLU loses donor

The American Civil Liberties Union sent out a frantic e-mail last week, asking for more contributions because the group’s single largest donor could no longer give money to it.

“Here is the situation,” the e-mail said. “The ACLU was recently notified that our largest individual donor, David Gelbaum, who contributed over $20 million to the organization in 2009, will not be able to continue his support due to a change in his financial circumstances.”

In the past four years, Mr. Gelbaum has given the ACLU $94 million.

“In one fell swoop, we have lost 22% of the entire organization’s budget,” the ACLU said.

A statement from Mr. Gelbaum, who had donated anonymously to the group and is a wealthy California conservationist, said his investments in clean energy put him in a bad economic position.

“For a number of years, your organization has received very substantial charitable contributions from me,” Mr. 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.”

Mr. Gelbaum also gave a detailed account of how much money he had given each group and for what purposes. He said he wanted all of the details public.

“So that everyone understands that the shift in my financial circumstances is the cause of the reduction in giving, and not any disapproval or dissatisfaction with the programs. To the contrary, I hope they will thrive with the generous support of many other donors, large and small.”

Sierra Club, too

The ACLU isn’t the only group left hurting by David Gelbaum’s financial woes.

Mr. Gelbaum also gave significant sums to the conservationist Sierra Club and the Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund (IADIF) that assists military personnel and their families.

He donated roughly $48 million to the Sierra Club and $247 million in the past four years to IADIF.

Mr. Gelbaum was the main supporter of IADIF. A statement posted on its Web site said no more donations would be accepted, either, effectively shuttering the cause.

“In the spring of 2009, all of the IADIF funds were allocated, and further applications for funding are not being accepted,” IADIF said.

Top 10 News

Editors and news directors who participated in the Associated Press’s annual poll of the top 10 news stories of 2009 selected “the economy” as the number one story of the year.

The other nine, in the order of most important to least, were: Barack Obama’s inauguration; health care; the auto industry; the swine flu; Afghanistan; Michael Jackson’s death; the Fort Hood rampage; the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; and pilot Chesley Sullenberger’s miracle emergency landing on the Hudson River.

The war in Iraq did not make the top 10 news subjects. It was voted number 16 by the editors and news directors.

Liar contest

The St. Petersburg Times’ Web site PolitiFact.com ran a story about a different set of top new stories, but with a twist. It focused on the “biggest lie of the year.”

The winner? Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s “death panels.”

“Her assertion - that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care - spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings,” stated PolitiFact’s Angie Drobnic Holan.

Of course, that was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee’s interpretation of what Democratic health care plans may lead to, but, nonetheless, PolitiFact’s fact checkers maintain it was a “lie.”

“Worst lie” runners-up included: Fox News Channel personality Glenn Beck’s claim that President Obama’s “science czar” John Holdren has “proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control the population”; activist lawyer Orly Taitz’s claim that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya; and (irony of ironies), the “You lie!” outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, at Mr. Obama during a speech on health care before the Congress.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com

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