Oct. 19, 2004 – The American Civil Liberties Union turned down grants of $1.5 million from Rockefeller and Ford foundations because of ambiguous language they say could be considered a threat to civil liberties. The contracts, according to Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, were written in broad language that could be left open to an interpretation that would impede advocacy work and free speech not only at the ACLU but other nonprofits as well. In the last year, according to the New York Times, foundations like Rockefeller and Ford have changed the language in their contracts to ensure their money is not used for ill purposes, including terrorism.
Romero told the Times: "What do they mean by 'terrorism'? What constitutes support for terrorism? We need to know precisely what those words mean. It is certainly appropriate for Ford and Rockefeller to require grantees to comply with existing federal law, but in a climate of fear and intimidation, vague language that goes beyond the legal requirements is regrettable and ill advised."