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Stars lend talent to benefit for ACLU

Robin Williams, Paul Simon help group raise more than $300,000
/ Source: The Associated Press

Robin Williams, Paul Simon and a host of other entertainers took the stage at a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union, which forfeited money from a federal fund drive because it refused to screen its employees against a suspected terrorist “watch list.”

Emily Whitfield, a spokeswoman for the ACLU, said the event raised more than $300,000.

The benefit, held at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, was produced by composer Philip Glass and featured about two dozen performers, including Richard Gere, Sarah Jones, Tony Kushner, Jake Gyllenhaal and his sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Simon played “America” and a gospel song, and Lou Reed played “Walk on the Wild Side.” Other performers spoke about U.S. Supreme Court cases that affected civil liberties, some reading passages from the decisions.

The ACLU withdrew from the Combined Federal Campaign, a program that accepts donations from government and military personnel, because rules put in place under the Patriot Act require participating charities to make sure no employees are on a 143-page list of names and aliases of possible terrorists.

The ACLU, which had been projected to receive $500,000 from the program this year, has said the list is riddled with errors and there is no recourse for people mistakenly listed on it.

The Combined Federal Campaign raises as much as $250 million a year for more than 2,000 nonprofit organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Public Radio and the Alzheimer’s Association.