Tags: ACLU | Struggling | With | Infighting

ACLU Struggling With Infighting

Thursday, 08 December 2005 12:00 AM

A major rift has emerged at the American Civil Liberties Union under the leadership of Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, whom critics charge is more interested in fund-raising than in civil liberties.

Among several issues that have angered board members, Romero has committed to name a new ACLU office building in Washington, D.C., after Peter B. Lewis, an insurance magnate and major contributor, without consulting the board.

"I don't think it's appropriate for us to name anything after anyone other than a founder or leader of the organization," Marjorie Esman, a lawyer who represents the board's Louisiana affiliate, said in an e-mail message.

"We're not for sale, and I don't like to convey the impression that we might be."

Since Romero assumed his position just days before the Sept. 11 attacks, the ACLU's membership has risen 81 percent and its annual revenue is up 34 percent.

But Romero "has also become a lightning rod, with a band of vociferous internal critics saying that civil liberties are not his top concern," the New York Times reports.

Another issue that has stirred up dissent at the organization is Romero's handling of a 2002 inquiry by the New York attorney general over privacy breaches on its Web site.

Romero negotiated a resolution without consulting the executive committee or the board. The agreement required him to disclose the terms to the board within 30 days, but he waited five months, according to the Times.

He also signed a government fund-raising agreement that the organization later renounced.

An unusual number of board members have resigned since Romero took over, and three of them have flatly stated that their resignations were due to Romero's leadership.

Romero succeeded Ira Glasser, a veteran civil rights activist who ran the national organization from 1978 through mid-2001.

"Glasser and the other ACLU stalwarts of his generation were scrappy and combative, jumping to take unpopular stances at the mere hint of a threat to principle," the Times reported.

On the other hand, Romero -– who came from the Ford Foundation –- "conveys the charm of a veteran foundation executive," according to the Times.

"A Hispanic and openly gay man with an up-by-the-bootstraps biography," Romero sees his job as to raise money and add members in support of the organization's principles, "not just to mount crusades," the Times stated.

Attorney Esman said of the rift: "I think there is an ideological difference among board members having to do with pure principle versus the pragmatism of money."

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A major rift has emerged at the American Civil Liberties Union under the leadership of Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, whom critics charge is more interested in fund-raising than in civil liberties. Among several issues that have angered board members, Romero has...
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2005-00-08
Thursday, 08 December 2005 12:00 AM
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