Irwin And Joan Jacobs Donate $10 Million To ACLU's "Leading Freedom Forward" Campaign

August 14, 2009 12:00 am

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Philanthropists Provide Leadership Support For Largest Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Fundraising Campaign In American History

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced that philanthropists Irwin and Joan Jacobs, long-time supporters of the ACLU, have donated $10 million to the largest fundraising campaign on behalf of civil rights and liberties in the ACLU’s 89-year history. The $335 million “Leading Freedom Forward: The ACLU Campaign for the Future” is an unprecedented effort to build the organization’s infrastructure by increasing funding to key state affiliates, enhancing advocacy capabilities nationwide and securing the ACLU’s financial future for generations to come.

“This remarkably generous gift by Irwin and Joan Jacobs is an important sign of support for the ‘Leading Freedom Forward’ campaign and its goal of extending the ACLU’s reach into corners of our nation where civil liberties are most imperiled,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “We are very grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Jacobs, not only for this gift, but for their steadfast commitment to our efforts to fight for social justice and preserve Americans’ fundamental rights.”

A major goal of the campaign is to increase the ACLU’s presence and effectiveness from coast to coast by significantly increasing the programmatic and institutional capacity of its affiliates, particularly in those states where civil liberties violations are most egregious and opportunities for change most promising, such as Florida, Texas and Mississippi.

Smaller affiliates located mainly in the South and in the country’s heartland will be bolstered by increased resources that will enable them to hire full-time attorneys, launch new advocacy programs and expand communications and public education initiatives. In recognition of the Jacobs’ campaign commitment, a fund that provides an annual subsidy to the 25 smallest ACLU affiliates will be named in their honor.

The campaign has already raised more than $324 million – over $120 million in cash and pledges and $213 million in planned gifts – highlighted by 28 contributions of $1 million or more from the ACLU’s staunchest supporters and several of the world’s most noted philanthropists. In addition to the Jacobs’ new gift, these include two gifts of $12 million, one from George Soros through his Open Society Institute, and another from the Sandler Foundation. Other leadership contributors include the Leon Levy Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, both of which have donated $5 million.

Dr. Jacobs is the co-founder and member of the board of directors of the San Diego-based wireless communications company Qualcomm Incorporated. He served as chairman until this year and CEO of the company until 2005. Mrs. Jacobs is a prominent figure in the San Diego arts and non-profit communities. Together, they are widely recognized as two of the country’s most generous philanthropists, supporting national and local causes ranging from the arts to education and scientific research, in addition to their ongoing commitment to strengthening civil rights and civil liberties.

“We are very pleased to contribute to the ACLU’s essential work restoring so many of the civil liberties that have been weakened over the years,” said Irwin Jacobs. “We have an invaluable opportunity not only to regain ground that has been lost, but to achieve the levels of equality, justice and fairness for all Americans embedded in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Joan and I are excited to be a part of this effort.”

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