Below are articles that provide insight into the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The following are excerpts from the article Southern Poverty Law Center: Wellspring of Manufactured Hate
By Capital Research Center (September 25, 2012)
The Southern Poverty Law Center began with an admirable purpose [but] it’s become more of a threat to free speech and civil debate than a defender of the weak or a foe of violent extremism. It has also taken in millions from the Picower Foundation, whose own funds came largely from founder Jeffry Picower’s “investing” in his old friend Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme...
Attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. founded the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 1971. It bills itself as “a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” People familiar with the SPLC may describe it differently. (For a previous CRC profile of the Center, see “The Southern Poverty Law Center: A Twisted Definition of ‘Hate,’” Organization Trends, November 2006.)
Early on it made a name for itself fighting genuinely extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and breaking down barriers of discrimination in the South. But today it is primarily a leftist attack machine. It devotes most of its sizeable resources to a systematic smear campaign against respected organizations and opinion leaders whose legitimate policy differences put them to the right of the SPLC..
Following a speech at a New York college in 2009, a student asked former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) about a quotation attributed to him in a textbook. It said, “illegal immigrants were ‘coming to kill you and kill me and our families.’” Taken aback, Tancredo subsequently called the publisher to learn where the fake quotation had come from. “The Southern Poverty Law Center,” was the reply.
This is a familiar pattern. In 2007, SPLC labeled the Federation for American Immigration Reform a “Hate Group” as part of an effort to smear opponents of open borders and illegal immigration. In this effort, SPLC had no qualms associating itself with the National Council of La Raza (in Spanish, “the Race”), one of whose subordinate groups, the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan, is notorious for the motto, For La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada (“For The Race everything. Outside The Race, nothing”)...
SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok doesn’t mince words about illegal-immigration opponents: “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on … I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.…” (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnTz2ylJo_8&feature=relmfu.)...
In the “Hate and Extremism” section of the SPLC website, the group lists 1,274 “Patriot Groups.” This category includes nonviolent conservative organizations like the Oath Keepers, the Constitution Party, Tea Party Patriots...
In addition to fomenting hatred for groups with which it disagrees, the SPLC is the author of dangerous provocations...
SPLC’s co-founder, Morris Dees, has been harshly criticized by former SPLC employees, a former business partner, and many liberal critics...
Though trained as a lawyer, Dees is best known for his fundraising ability...
With over $238 million in net assets, the SPLC is one of the wealthiest nonprofit organizations in the United States. Despite this massive endowment, the Center devotes almost 20 percent of its $34.5 million operating expenses – $6.5 million in 2011 – to fundraising. This includes $1 million for fundraising services and $5.5 million in fundraising staff salaries and administrative expenses.
Meanwhile, the group spent only $11 million on its supposed primary mission: “providing legal services to victims of civil rights injustices and hate crimes.”...
SPLC received $36 million in contributions in 2011... Each year the SPLC is able to add tens of millions of dollars to its endowment. Despite being a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, supposedly with nothing to hide, some of SPLC’s assets are squirreled away in untraceable Bermuda and Cayman Island accounts...
SPLC’s leaders are among the highest paid in the nonprofit field. As Chief Trial Counsel, Morris Dees receives $343,676. Richard Cohen, the Center’s president, is paid $339,764.
SPLC boasts many high-dollar donors. The top 10 for recent years are: Picower Foundation ($3,813,112, 1999 – 2008); Cisco Systems Foundation ($1,620,000, 2001 – 2004); Grousbeck Family Foundation ($1,600,000, 2007 – 2011); Grove Foundation ( $875,000, 2001 – 2011); Rice Family Foundation ($535,000 , 1999 – 2010); Rockefeller Philanthropy ($510,000, 2008 – 2010); Unbound Philanthropy ($500,000, 2006 – 2010); Public Welfare Foundation ($500,000, 2008 – 2010); Vanguard Charitable Endowment ($469,120, 2006 – 2011); Rocking Moon Foundation ($350,000, 2006 – 2010); and the Jewish Community Fund ($347,274, 1999 – 2010).
Space constraints prevent inclusion of the many more foundations and small family funds... Do these donors realize they are merely contributing to a quarter-billion-dollar investment fund?
SPLC’s biggest benefactor, the Picower Foundation, made the most of its money from the Bernie Madoff scam. Founder Jeffry Picower, who was friends with Madoff for 30 years, profited by $5 billion from his “investments” with his friend...
Dees’ first business partner was Millard Fuller, who later went on to found Habitat for Humanity. In an article in The Progressive, he described...
Morris and I, from the first day of our partnership, shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money. We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich. During the eight years we worked together, we never wavered in that resolve. (See http://www.secondclassjustice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Egerton-Pov....)
...Harper’s also published a letter from Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, to the University of Alabama, declining an invitation to a “Morris Dees Justice Award” presentation. Bright called Dees “a con man and fraud,” and added:
The positive contributions Dees has made to justice—most undertaken based upon calculations as to their publicity and fundraising potential—are far overshadowed by what Harper’s described as his “flagrantly misleading” solicitations for money. He has raised millions upon millions of dollars with various schemes, never mentioning that he does not need the money because he has $175 million and two “poverty palace” buildings in Montgomery...
SPLC’s first president was Julian Bond, a socialist who has supported and participated in socialist, communist, and other radical leftist organizations and activities his entire life. As a rising star in the Left he received the early endorsement and support of the Communist Party USA... according to DiscoverTheNetworks.org...
Along with radical activists such as Ella Baker, Bond co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. SNCC was later led by black separatists Stokeley Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, who openly advocated guerrilla warfare in U.S. cities. In 1967 Bond served as co-chair of the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP), described by the late Sen. James Eastland as a group “working hand-in-glove with the Communist Party” to foment “revolution in the United States.”
Bond’s most significant contact as co-chair of the NCNP was fellow NCNP member Herbert Marcuse. A Marxist who fled Nazi Germany in 1933, Marcuse ultimately took up residence in... the University of California, San Diego, where he mentored the black communist, Angela Davis...
Bond visited Castro’s Cuba in 1959 and was “enchanted by the revolution.” Following a repeat visit in 2006 he said that it “simply reinforced my admiration for the Cuban people and the society they are building.” (See http://www.medicc.org/cubahealthreports/chr-article.php?&a=1027.) Bond remains on SPLC’s board to this day.
SPLC’s board of directors also includes James Rucker, who co-founded Color of Change in 2005 with self-described communist Van Jones. Before that, Rucker was grassroots organizing director at the Soros-funded activist group MoveOn.
Another board member, Patricia Clark, spent time as National Criminal Justice Representative of the American Friends Service Committee. This nominally Quaker organization was created by socialist Quakers in 1917 and began colluding with Communists in the 1920s, when it worked with Soviet agents Jessica Smith, Harold Ware, and John Abt. (See http://keywiki.org/index.php/American_Friends_Service_Committee.)
Gabrielle Lyon, an SPLC research fellow, has spoken glowingly of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Ayers is famous for his Weather Underground years and has yet to be tried, along with his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, for the murder of San Francisco police Sgt. Brian McDonnell in 1970. Larry Grathwohl, the only FBI informant to ever successfully penetrate the Weathermen, has testified under oath that Ayers told him of their complicity in the bombing that killed McDonnell. This case is still open. (See http://www.usasurvival.org/docs/Grathwohl_names_Dohrn.pdf.)
More recently, an editorial written by SPLC’s Mark Potok was published in the Communist Party USA newspaper, People’s World...
Radical leftists are extremely adept at the use of language and propaganda... The Soviet Union’s first leader, Vladimir Lenin, explained, “We can and must write in a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, and scorn toward those who disagree with us.”
The entire leftist movement has adopted this technique. Thus, any person who opposes illegal immigration becomes a “xenophobe.”... Any person who opposes affirmative action is a “racist.”..
Straw man arguments, misinformation, and other forms of sophistry, coupled with vitriolic smears of opponents can easily intimidate average citizens, who haven’t the time or inclination to look deeper and are naturally anxious about being tarred with the same brush. With sufficient media promotion, this fraudulent narrative becomes accepted as the “truth,”...
Critics are isolated and polarized, and despite the Left’s phony characterization of a deep-pocketed Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, the Left’s critics are usually independent voices of little or no means, not necessarily even conservative, with scant resources to defend themselves against defamation campaigns and frivolous lawsuits, which are favored tactics of the well-heeled SPLC and other leftist groups. Far-left agitator Neal Rauhauser even admitted as much when he advocated for a policy of “lawfare” against political opponents:
We’re dealing with people who have likely had no interaction with the court system beyond a traffic ticket; the potential for a pro se litigant to force them into expensive, long distance, lengthy, discovery laden litigation doesn’t seem to cross their minds. The reality of travel, or frightful expenses, or summary judgments needs to be made real. We probably need to make a very visible example of at least one of them before the rest understand. (See http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/middle-class-guy/2012/jun/28/who-neal-rauhauser/.)
This kind of sophistry also has roots in the teachings of Julian Bond’s friend and leftist icon Herbert Marcuse. He was an influential member of the Marxist Institute for Social Research that was founded in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923 and modeled after Moscow’s Marx-Engels Institute. It came to be known simply as “the Frankfurt School.” Marcuse and other scholars affiliated with the Institute reestablished it in the U.S. following their exodus from Germany, and developed philosophical studies specifically dedicated to subverting American culture.
Marcuse was often called the Father of the New Left, and he helped pioneer the ideas of political correctness and hate crimes. In a 1965 tract called “Repressive Tolerance,” Marcuse declared:
This essay examines the idea of tolerance in our advanced industrial society. The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed….
As he explained, the way to fix the “repressive tolerance” that Americans suffer because of the First Amendment is to suppress all voices except those from the Left:
Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left... Not ‘equal’ but more representation of the Left would be equalization of the prevailing inequality.
Today you can see this tactic in operation every day when left-wing professors, journalists, and politicians ridicule, misrepresent, ignore, or threaten anyone they disagree with. The Southern Poverty Law Center assists in this effort.
Even more ominously, but in line with Marcuse’s call to arms, the SPLC is a consultant to both the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, and the latter has labeled conservatives potential “domestic terrorists.” The SPLC has not been identifying enemies of America. It has been identifying enemies of the Left...
By cataloging the statements and writings of individuals and groups with whom they disagree, the SPLC is also creating a paper trail to use if and when hate crimes laws are strengthened sufficiently to provide pretexts for lawsuits or other legal action. This is a not-so-subtle threat. That sort of attack has begun to happen in Canada, Britain, and Sweden.
The SPLC’s interaction with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI carries another threat. By deliberately mischaracterizing conservatives and tea partiers as “extremists,” the SPLC implies they have a potential for violence and thus offers a justification for the government to keep tabs on these potential “domestic terrorists.”
The Left, on the other hand, has a firmly established record of militancy, violence, and treasonous, unscrupulous and disgusting anti-social behavior...
Why are none of these groups listed in the SPLC’s “Intelligence” files? ...
Despite a mountainous record of violence from left-wing individuals and groups, there have never been any left-wing groups identified on the SPLC’s “hate groups” list.
Come to think of it, why isn’t the SPLC listed?
After a bombing attempt on May Day this year by five Occupy Cleveland activists was thwarted, a reporter for National Review asked the SPLC if it planned to put Occupy Wall Street on its “hate group” list? SPLC’s stunning answer: “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a wealthy, well-connected, organized attack machine of the extreme political Left. It shares strategies, goals, and tactics with other similar organizations and colludes with them in campaigns of defamation, disinformation and legal threats to silence and/or criminalize political opponents.
The SPLC has unjustifiably secured itself a position of influence within our government and society. Its very presence threatens our freedoms and First Amendment rights. It abuses our system of justice, while hiding behind a Constitution for which it has little respect.
See the original article
The following are excerpts from the article King of Fearmongers - Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center, scaring donors since 1971, by Charlotte Allen, Weekly Standard, April 15, 2013.
Last August a 28-year-old gay-rights volunteer named Floyd Corkins entered the office lobby of the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian traditional-values group headquartered in Washington that condemns homosexual conduct and opposes same-sex marriage. Corkins took a gun from his backpack and fired three shots at building manager Leo Johnson, one of them wounding the unarmed Johnson in the arm before he wrested the gun from Corkins. On February 6 Corkins pleaded guilty to three felonies: committing an act of terrorism while armed, interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition (he had bought the weapon in Virginia), and assault with intent to kill while armed. He faces a sentencing hearing on April 29 that could include up to 70 years in prison. According to federal prosecutors’ statements in court documents, Corkins told investigators that he had intended to kill Johnson and numerous other FRC employees. His backpack contained 15 sandwiches from the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, whose founder, S. Truett Cathy, contributed through his family foundation to several organizations opposed to gay marriage, including the FRC. According to prosecutors, Corkins said he had planned to smear the faces of the dead FRC employees with the sandwiches once his shooting spree ended.
Corkins found out about the FRC from the ever-expanding (at least in recent years) list of “hate groups” tracked on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil-rights behemoth bursting with donor cash headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama. Cofounded in 1971 by Morris S. Dees Jr. and Joseph Levin Jr. (who is now general counsel), the SPLC started out fighting legal battles against lingering segregation in the South. More recently—and more lucratively, its critics say—it has transformed itself into an all-purpose antihate crusader, labeling 1,007 different organizations across America at last count as “anti-gay,” “white nationalist,” “anti-Muslim,” “anti-immigrant,” or just plain hateful (one SPLC category is “general hate”). The SPLC put the FRC on its list of “anti-gay” organizations in 2010, and the SPLC’s “Hate Map” page, whose banner displays men in Nazi-style helmets giving Sieg Heil salutes, lists the FRC among 14 hate groups headquartered in the District of Columbia. The Hate Map doesn’t include the groups’ street addresses, but those typically take only a few seconds to find with Google. Besides the chicken sandwiches and some 50 rounds of ammunition found on Corkins’s person was the address of the Traditional Values Coalition, another D.C.-based “anti-gay” group listed on the SPLC’s Hate Map.
At the time of the shooting, FRC president Tony Perkins lost no time doing a sort of reverse Sarah Palin on the SPLC. Liberal columnists and bloggers had blamed Palin—“blood is on [her] hands,” wrote one—for the near-fatal shooting of former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords near Tucson in 2011 because Palin had earlier placed Giffords on a “target list” of House Democrats to be defeated for reelection. (The Tucson gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people in the crowd at Giffords’s event, turned out to be a schizophrenic whose politics, insofar as they could be determined, leaned left.) “The Southern Poverty Law Center is dangerous,” Perkins declared on his nightly radio show on February 6. “They are inciting hatred, and in this case a clear connection to violence. They need to be held accountable, and they need to be stopped before people are killed because of their reckless labeling and advocacy for homosexuality and their anti-Christian stance.”
Of course, it was as ridiculous to blame the SPLC for Corkins’s rampage as it had been to blame Palin for Loughner’s. Still, there was a delicious irony to savor: The “anti-hate” SPLC had unwittingly revved up someone who carried out an act that was unequivocally a hate crime: a potentially murderous vendetta against a group of people predicated solely on the religious and political views that they happened to hold.
Irony turns out to be what the SPLC is all about. Thanks to the generosity of four decades’ worth of donors, many of whom—as SPLC president Richard Cohen himself noted in a telephone interview with me—are aging Northern-state “1960s liberals” who continue to associate “Southern” and “poverty” with lynchings, white-hooded Klansmen, and sitting at the back of the bus, and thanks also to what can only be described as the sheer genius at direct-mail marketing of Dees, the SPLC’s 76-year-old lawyer-founder, who was already a multimillionaire by the late 1960s from the direct-mail sales of everything from doormats to cookbooks, the SPLC is probably the richest poverty organization in the history of the world. From its very beginning the SPLC, thanks to Dees’s talent for crafting multi-page alarmist fundraising letters, has not only continuously operated in the black, but has steadily accumulated a mountain of surpluses augmented by a shrewdly managed investment portfolio. Today the SPLC’s net assets total more than $256 million (that figure appears on the SPLC’s 2011 tax return, the latest posted on the organization’s website). That represented a more-than-doubling of the $120 million in net assets that the SPLC reported in 2000, which was itself more than a doubling of the $52 million in net assets that the SPLC reported during the mid-1990s.
So impressed was the Direct Marketing Association in 1998 with Dees’s superb fundraising talents that it inducted him into its Hall of Fame, where he shares honors with Benjamin Franklin, first postmaster general, and catalogue retailer L. L. Bean. The SPLC’s sprawling two-story concrete-and-glass headquarters in downtown Montgomery bore the nickname “Poverty Palace” among locals—until the mid-2000s, when the center, whose staff had grown to more than 200 (including 34 lawyers), moved into a fortress-like six-story office building that it had commissioned. The new SPLC building, a postmodernist parallelepiped faced in steel and black glass, has been variously described by its critics as a “small-scale Death Star” and a “highrise trailer.”
The SPLC turned the original Poverty Palace into a museum that complements another of its Montgomery monuments, the Civil Rights Memorial, where an imposing granite circle designed by Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, records the names of such iconic martyrs to the civil rights cause as Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr., neither of whom was ever a client of the SPLC. In 2010 the Montgomery Advertiser published a 60-photo online slideshow of Morris Dees’s lavishly appointed neo-Mediterranean home, whose eclectic architectural and interior-decor influences seemingly included the Alhambra, David Hockney’s swimming-pool paintings, the Etsy home page, and a 1970s shag-rug revival. In one slide Dees’s fourth wife, artist and weaver Susan Starr, modeled a floor-length evening coat that she had stitched out of transparent vinyl sheeting and fake fur.
This leads to yet another SPLC irony: Its severest critics aren’t on the conservative right (although the Federation for American Immigration Reform, another “hate group” on the SPLC’s list, has done its fair share of complaining), but on the progressive left. It may come as a surprise to learn that one of the most vituperative of all the critics was the recently deceased Alexander Cockburn, columnist for the Nation and the leftist webzine CounterPunch. In a 2009 article for CounterPunch titled “King of the Hate Business,” Cockburn castigated Dees and the SPLC for using the 2008 election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president as yet another wringer for squeezing out direct-mail donations from “trembling liberals” by painting an apocalyptic picture of “millions of [anti-Obama] extremists primed to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampf tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.” Cockburn continued: “Ever since 1971 U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with Dees’ fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC.”
Cockburn was following on the heels of Ken Silverstein, who in 2000 wrote an article for the reliably liberal Harper’s magazine titled “The Church of Morris Dees.” Silverstein accused the SPLC of manufacturing connections between the “hate groups” that it highlighted in its numerous mailings—back then the groups on the SPLC list tended to be mostly fringe militia organizations—and the Columbine-style school shootings and a wave of black-church arsons during the 1990s that were a staple of the SPLC’s direct-mail panic pleas. “Horrifying as such incidents are, hate groups commit almost no violence,” Silverstein wrote. “More than 95 percent of all ‘hate crimes,’ including most of the incidents SPLC letters cite (bombings, church burnings, school shootings), are perpetrated by ‘lone wolves.’ Even Timothy McVeigh [perpetrator of the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people], subject of one of the most extensive investigations in the FBI’s history—and one of the most extensive direct-mail campaigns in the SPLC’s—was never credibly linked to any militia organization.”
Silverstein followed up with more of the same in a 2007 blog post for Harper’s: “What [the SPLC] does best . . . is to raise obscene amounts of money by hyping fears about the power of [right-wing fringe] groups; hence the SPLC has become the nation’s richest ‘civil rights’ organization.” In 2001 JoAnn Wypijewski wrote in the Nation: “Why the [SPLC] continues to keep ‘Poverty’ (or even ‘Law’) in its name can be ascribed only to nostalgia or a cynical understanding of the marketing possibilities in class guilt.” Silverstein had already noted in his 2000 Harper’s article that “most SPLC donors are white.”
What has infuriated the SPLC’s liberal critics is their suspicion that Morris Dees has used the SPLC primarily as a fundraising machine fueled by his direct-mail talents that generates a nice living for himself (the SPLC’s 2010 tax filing lists a compensation package of $345,000 for him as the organization’s chief trial counsel and highest-paid employee) and a handful of other high ranking SPLC officials plus luxurious offices and perks, but that does relatively little in the way of providing the legal services to poor people that its name implies.
CharityWatch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy), an independent organization that monitors and rates leading nonprofits for their fundraising efficiency, has consistently given the SPLC its lowest grade of “F” (i.e., “poor”) for its stockpiling of assets far beyond what CharityWatch deems a reasonable reserve (three years’ worth of operating expenses) to tide it over during donation-lean years. But even if the SPLC weren’t sitting on an unspent $256 million, according to CharityWatch, it would still be a mediocre (“C+”) performer among nonprofits. The SPLC’s 2011 tax filing reveals that the organization raised a total of $38.5 million from its donors that year but spent only $24.9 million on “program services,” with the rest going to salaries, overhead, and fundraising. And even that 67 percent figure is somewhat inflated, according to CharityWatch, which notes that the SPLC takes advantage of an accounting rule that permits nonprofits to count some of their fundraising expenses as “public education” if, for example, a mailer contains an informational component. CharityWatch, ignoring that accounting rule, maintains that only 60 percent—about $19 million—went to program services during the year in question. The SPLC’s 2011 tax return reveals that the organization spent $1.6 million (aside from salaries) on litigation-related costs that year, in contrast to the $7.8 million it spent on “professional fundraising services,” “postage and shipping cost,” “printing & lettershop,” and “other development cost.”
Furthermore, the SPLC spends a relatively high $26 on fundraising (according to CharityWatch, $18 according to the SPLC) for every $100 that it manages to raise. Compare that with the “B+” rated American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where 78 percent of the budget goes to program services and $20 is spent for every $100 raised or to the “A-” rated ACLU Foundation (79 percent going to program services and only $11 spent to raise $100). True, the ACLU has net assets comparable to those of the SPLC, $254 million according to a fiscal 2012 financial statement, but it spends a full $111 million a year on program services. People who want to support a litigation-minded liberal organization and see a higher percentage of their donations actually spent on the causes they support might be better off giving to the ACLU—or to some shoestring civil rights nonprofit that actually needs the donor’s money.
In 1995, when the SPLC had amassed $52 million in net assets, the Montgomery Advertiser published a Pulitzer-nominated investigative series about the organization, titled “Charity of Riches.” At that time the Advertiser concluded that the SPLC was spending only 31 percent of its revenue on program services and was essentially under the control of and subject to the fundraising whims of Dees. During the 1970s the SPLC had pursued several significant lawsuits enforcing the civil rights of African Americans. One suit had resulted in the racial integration of Alabama’s state police troopers, and another had led to a state redistricting that allowed black candidates to win seats in the state legislature for the first time in generations. But during the mid-1980s Dees decided to focus instead on suing the Ku Klux Klan and similar white-supremacist organizations. By then the Klan was moribund, with a membership that had declined from a peak of 4 million during the 1920s to about 5,000 members in 1980. But few of the Northern liberals who formed the bulk of Dees’s donor base seemed to know that. (Dees had used his letter-writing skills to raise $24 million as a volunteer for George McGovern’s Democratic presidential race in 1971-72, and he had received McGovern’s campaign mailing list as a reward. He had also worked briefly on Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign and on Ted Kennedy’s run for president in 1980.) The Klan made for hair-raising copy in Dees’s mailings. One of his fundraising letters, quoted by the Advertiser, alluded to “armed Klan paramilitary forces [that] freely roam our wooded hills from Texas to North Carolina practicing with military-like weapons to ‘kill niggers and Jews in a race war they are planning.’ ”
Letters such as this one generated tens of millions of dollars for the SPLC—but they also generated resentment among the lawyers who worked with Dees and complained that his fixation on donor money had crowded out the SPLC’s traditional civil rights work. Early on, for example, the SPLC stopped handling death-penalty cases, even though opposition to capital punishment had been one of its early causes. (In 1975 Dees was one of the lawyers—and a major fundraiser—for Joan Little, a black inmate in North Carolina who had fatally stabbed a white jailer she said had been trying to rape her. Little’s case became a progressive cause célèbre, and she was eventually acquitted of murder charges. During the trial Dees was removed from the courtroom and briefly charged with suborning the perjury of one of the witnesses; although the charges were dropped, the trial judge refused to allow Dees back on the case.) In 1977, however, Dees abruptly pulled the SPLC out of another high-profile capital case, that of the “Dawson Five,” black men accused of murdering a store customer during a robbery in rural Georgia. Millard Farmer, a veteran death penalty lawyer in Atlanta who got the charges dropped, said in a telephone interview that Dees had told him that fighting the death penalty wasn’t making any money for the SPLC. “He said, ‘We’re going to cut the money off,’ ” Farmer recalled. “He said, ‘We’ll give the case to a public defender.’ ” By Farmer’s account, when he balked, Dees promptly sued him in federal court for improperly spending SPLC funds. Dees backed off after Farmer mounted an aggressive defense detailing where the SPLC funds had gone, and Dees eventually paid Farmer approximately $50,000 in a settlement. (The SPLC declined to make Dees available for an interview with me, but in a 1988 interview with the Progressive’s John Egerton, Dees called Farmer a “fool.”)
Dees further alienated opponents of the death penalty—and Southern liberals in general—by successfully lobbying the Senate in 1992 to confirm George H. W. Bush’s nomination of Edward Carnes, head of the capital-punishment unit of the Alabama attorney general’s office and a leading death-penalty advocate, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. “He was up in Washington staying at the Four Seasons Hotel [in Georgetown] and lobbying Congress every day,” recalls Stephen B. Bright, a Yale law professor and president of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, a criminal-justice public-interest law firm that opposed the Carnes nomination. “He was the great Morris Dees, so he gave cover to the Democrats in Congress to vote to confirm Carnes,” said Bright in a telephone interview. Bright’s Southern Center has a $2 million annual budget, with nine staff lawyers pulling down relatively modest salaries. “Their annual budget is $30 million,” said Bright of the SPLC, “and we accomplish more than they do with a lot less.” Bright called Dees “a shyster if there ever was one—Morris is a con man.”
Bright’s words to me were nearly identical to those he had written in a 2007 letter to Kenneth C. Randall, dean of the University of Alabama’s law school, Dees’s alma mater, turning down an invitation to a presentation of the school’s annual “Morris Dees Justice Award,” jointly sponsored by Dees and the prestigious law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. In that letter Bright called Dees “a con man and fraud.” He wrote of Dees: “He has taken advantage of naïve, well-meaning people—some of moderate or low incomes—who believe his pitches and give to his [then] $175 million operation. He has spent most of what they have sent him to raise still more millions, pay high salaries, and promote himself.” (The Morris Dees Justice Award is currently defunct, and both Randall and Skadden Arps turned down my requests for interviews.)
During the 1970s and 1980s Dees is said to have briefly flirted with other liberal causes for the SPLC—abortion rights and gun control, for example—before shutting them down. But he hit the jackpot with the Ku Klux Klan, helped along by Klansmen’s regular denunciations of him as a Communist, an attempted firebombing of the SPLC office in 1983, and the occasional threat to his life. In 1981 Dees formed Klanwatch as an educational and publications unit of the SPLC. It was the beginning of the SPLC’s focus on “hate groups.” Fundraising letters flew out from Montgomery signed by such liberal celebrities as McGovern, Ethel Kennedy, and novelist Toni Morrison. A 1985 letter bearing the signature of a Montgomery rabbi “asked for funds to protect the Center and its staff, ‘who are suffering under a siege of Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi terrorism unparalleled in this decade,’ ” Egerton reported in the Progressive. The letter with its hints of anti-Semitism run amok, reportedly mailed to zip codes on the East and West Coasts populated by wealthy Jews, referred to Dees as “Morris Seligman Dees.” Dees was raised Baptist but received a rarely used Jewish-sounding middle name from his father, who had himself been named in honor of a “prominent Jewish Alabamian,” Egerton noted in his article. At one point in 1986 the SPLC’s entire cadre of staff attorneys quit en masse, dismayed by Dees’s obsession with the Klan at the expense of what they perceived to be more pressing civil rights issues such as employment and housing discrimination.
Nonetheless the Klan and its white-supremacist spin-offs proved to be ideal litigation targets for the civil damage suits that the SPLC routinely filed on behalf of victims and their families: scattered, underfunded, and wounded by decades of infighting. The economically and socially marginal Klansmen, whose units typically consisted of a handful of down-market youths clustered around a kitchen table, could seldom afford either decent lawyers or the cost of mounting an effective defense (in civil cases, in contrast to criminal cases, the government is not obliged to supply defendants with free lawyers). Besides, what the groups were charged with having done—assaults and homicides—was appalling. The SPLC has won a handful of multimillion-dollar judgments against supremacist organizations, the latest one in 2008 against the Imperial Klans of America over the beating of a Panamanian-American. Nonetheless the judgments have mostly proved to be uncollectible, because the tiny groups have typically owned few if any assets that can be sold to satisfy a judgment.
The SPLC’s most striking legal victory in the South was a $7 million judgment in 1987 against the United Klans of America, notorious for the violent acts committed by its members during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. The SPLC had filed the suit on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, a black woman whose son Michael was lynched by two Klansmen in Mobile, Alabama, in 1981. Donald received only a tiny fraction of that amount, however, since the United Klans’ sole asset by then was its national headquarters, a rundown warehouse in Tuscaloosa whose forced sale netted only $51,875. Meanwhile, according to the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC’s fundraising mailings highlighting the case, one of which featured a photo of Michael Donald’s corpse, brought the center $9 million in donations. The SPLC continues to this day to tout the $7 million judgment in its promotional materials and to take credit for putting the United Klans out of business, although some of its members simply joined other Klan groups after the United Klans dissolved.
Similarly, a $12.5 million judgment that the SPLC won in Oregon in 1990 against Tom Metzger, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon who later led a group called the White Aryan Resistance, over the beating death of an Ethiopian immigrant by three skinheads in 1988, remains largely a paper victory. Furthermore, even some civil libertarians were troubled by the SPLC’s legal strategy, which was predicated on the theory that Metzger and his son were responsible for the homicide because they had made incendiary racist statements that inspired the skinheads to commit the crime. The ACLU, for example, filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the Metzgers’ statements were protected by the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantees and that the father and son should have been held liable only if it could be proved that they had intentionally provoked the skinheads’ violence.
During the 1990s, when Timothy McVeigh became another name with which to launch a thousand direct-mail pitches, the SPLC branched out and began tracking, besides hate groups, a category it calls “patriot groups.” Patriot groups can be full-fledged paramilitary militias—or they can simply be loose organizations of people who believe, say, that the Obama administration will soon be confiscating citizens’ guns (actually a not-unfounded belief, given the recent disclosure of a Justice Department memo arguing that gun regulation is meaningless without mandatory federal weapons buybacks), or that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is building secret concentration camps in anticipation of a declaration of martial law. One group on the SPLC’s latest patriot list, for example, calls itself the Granny Warriors: gray-haired ladies in North Carolina who trade canning tips and other food-stockpiling advice on a survivalist website of vintage 1990s design. Without entirely jettisoning its cash-generating Klan-centrism (an SPLC web page features a Birth of a Nation-style black-and-white photo of hooded men making a sinister circle around a flaming three-story cross), the SPLC changed the name of its quarterly magazine Klanwatch to Intelligence Report. The Report features alarmed articles, often written by Mark Potok, a former reporter for USA Today who now serves as the SPLC’s press spokesman and also as the editor of Intelligence Report and the organization’s Hatewatch blog. The articles in Intelligence Report and Hatewatch bear such scary-sounding titles as “Rage on the Right,” “The ‘Patriot Movement’ Explodes,” “For the Radical Right, Obama Victory Brings Fury and Fear,” and “Strange Bedfellows Snuggle Under White Sheets.” A 2010 post on Hatewatch didn’t quite go so far as to characterize the Tea Party as a hate group, but it came close, citing the grassroots movement’s attraction for “antigovernment extremists.” On a web page titled “Misogyny: The Sites,” the SPLC skirts self-parody, branding the “manosphere” blogs of pickup artists and other dispensers of seduction techniques as hate-promoting because their posts bear such titles as “Even Nice Girls Are Sluts” and “More Proof That Feminism is a Social Cancer.” The SPLC is currently spotlighting the prison gang Aryan Brotherhood of Texas as a hate group because of its rumored, although as yet unproven, connection to the murders of two prosecutors in Kaufman County, Texas.
One of the SPLC’s leitmotifs is that there is an ever-spiraling amount of hate in America, and sure enough, its state-by-state list of hate and patriot groups has grown steadily over the years, especially during the presidency of Obama, a godsend to the SPLC’s fundraisers because of his race and his pro-gun control and pro-gay marriage stances. In the SPLC’s latest hate report, issued on March 5, it counted a record 1,360 patriot groups alone during 2012, up 6.75 percent since 2011 and up by almost a factor of 10 from the mere 149 such organizations that the SPLC had counted just before Obama was elected in 2008. (The conservative George W. Bush years had apparently marked a kind of hate vacation for America’s right-wingers, after they supposedly went militia-crazy during Bill Clinton’s presidency.) Cohen, the SPLC’s president, promptly shot off a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano urging the pair to establish “an interagency task force to assess the adequacy of resources devoted to responding to the growing threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism.” (The SPLC ignores Muslim-linked terrorist activity on the theory that it is foreign-based.)
Critics have charged that the way the SPLC counts hate groups renders its impressive tallies essentially meaningless. One of the most vocal critics is Laird Wilcox, a self-described political liberal in Olathe, Kansas, who has been tracking radical-fringe organizations on both the left and the right for five decades, amassing an enormous documentary archive that is now housed at the library of the University of Kansas. According to Wilcox, many of the organizations on the SPLC’s expansive list “may be two guys and a post-office box,” while others might not exist at all. “Their lists of hate groups never have addresses that can be checked,” Wilcox said in a telephone interview. “I’ve had police departments across the country calling me and saying we can’t find this group [on the SPLC’s list]. All they can find is a post-office box, so I have to tell them that I don’t know whether they even exist.” In a self-published book, The Watchdogs, he criticized the SPLC for having “misleadingly padded” its list of white-supremacy organizations. In particular, Wilcox faulted the SPLC for maintaining that three men accused of killing a police officer in Cortez, Colorado, in 1998 had belonged to a supposedly racist and anti-Semitic militia group called the Four Corners Patriots for whose existence no evidence ever emerged. “People have tried to track down these groups, but they couldn’t find them,” Wilcox said.
Contacted by telephone, SPLC spokesman Potok responded, “We really try to separate out real groups from a man and his dog and a computer—and yes, many of the groups are small. The reason we count groups is that it’s incredibly hard to count people. Certainly counting groups isn’t a perfect method, and there’s a valid question of whether one group of four people is better than two groups of two people.”
A perhaps more serious objection to the SPLC’s hate list is the loosey-goosey criteria by which the center decides which organizations qualify as hate groups. The Family Research Council that was the target of Floyd Corkins’s planned rampage is a perfect example. Potok insists that the SPLC has a policy of not attaching the hate label to an organization simply because it interprets the Bible as forbidding homosexual activity: “We are not going to list groups on the basis of what they say Scripture says. But this is a group that is consciously promoting falsehoods and demonizing an entire group of people. It’s fact-free demonization. The reason we listed them was on the basis of their known falsehoods and their baseless, repetitive name-calling. They push the idea that gay men molest children at substantially higher rates than heterosexuals. The science is settled that this is not the case.”
A look at an FRC web page titled “Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse” reveals, however, that the issue of whether gay men are disproportionately represented among child-molesters is more a battle of the experts than settled science. The FRC cites two peer-reviewed studies published in respectable scholarly journals finding that up to one-third of incidents of child sexual abuse are male-on-male, in contrast to the reportedly 3 percent or so of the population who are homosexual (nearly all pedophiles are men). For its part the SPLC cites on its website a statement by the American Psychological Association (APA) that homosexual men are no more likely than heterosexual men to abuse children sexually and a meta-study by Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, reaching a similar conclusion. While it may be that Herek’s findings and the APA’s conclusions bear more scholarly weight than those of the researchers cited by the FRC, it seems a stretch to accuse the FRC of deliberately promoting falsehoods. When I raised this objection with Potok by email, he emailed in reply: “The FRC and some of the other anti-LGBT groups portray gay people as sick, evil, perverted, incestuous and a danger to the nation.”
Besides being willing to slap the hate label onto groups that may merely interpret data differently from the SPLC, the center routinely tries to link, if only by implication, increases in the number of hate and patriot groups it tallies to actual incidents of domestic terrorism and other violence. SPLC president Richard Cohen’s March 5 warning letter to Holder and Napolitano trotted out the Oklahoma City bombing one more time, even though neither McVeigh nor his convicted co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, had ever belonged to any organization that could remotely be called a hate or patriot group. Similarly, after 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee last August 5 before turning his gun onto himself, Potok and Heidi Beirich, the SPLC’s intelligence director, issued a joint statement claiming to have been tracking Page since 2000 (when, they said, he had purchased “goods” from a now-nearly defunct neo-Nazi organization) and linking him to white-supremacist sentiment because he had once been the leader of a “racist white-power band.” The band in question, End Apathy, had described itself on a MySpace page as “old school,” with “punk and metal” influences, whose music was supposed to be “a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.” Page’s actual motive for his murder spree remains a mystery to police and the FBI (he was apparently a loner who had trouble holding jobs and keeping girlfriends).
There is something disconcerting about a private organization spending years monitoring someone who had never committed a serious crime, and something equally disconcerting about trying to connect a rock band to a murder rampage, no matter how racist or otherwise unappetizing the band’s lyrics might have been. Furthermore, it is odd that an organization that characterizes itself as being devoted to civil rights—a phrase that connotes the struggles of individuals to assert their rights against a tyrannical government—devotes its energies to tracking the activities of people who are insufficiently respectful of the government: Obama-loathers, opponents of gun control, politically incorrect metalheads, grandmothers who stash canned goods in their basements because they are certain that the government is about to suspend the Constitution and that anarchy will ensue. Don’t such stances, as long as they fall short of directly inciting violence, fall under the First Amendment’s free-speech protections? When I posed this question to Potok, he replied: “When we list these groups, we’re not predicting that they’ll commit violence. We say very explicitly that we’re listing them solely on the basis of their ideology. We’re foursquare behind the First Amendment. We believe these people can say all these things, but we’re going to call them out. We have never suggested restricting any kind of free speech.”
To the SPLC’s credit—or perhaps in an effort to distance itself gradually from Dees’s much-criticized fish-in-a-barrel Klan lawsuits—the center’s legal department, which now maintains offices in four other Southern cities besides Montgomery, has branched out substantially into immigrant rights, prison reform, and gay and lesbian issues (although several critics with whom I spoke speculated that the last might represent another of Dees’s efforts to tap via mailing lists into a well-off and easily frightened donor base: gays). The SPLC’s online list of its legal actions seems thin for a staff of 34 lawyers plus about 36 support-staffers: only 16 new case-filings in 2012 plus 1 in 2013, although Cohen, the center’s president and legal director, said the list represents only the tip of a litigation iceberg, and that most of the suits had been preceded by months of laborious investigation.
Some of the legal actions appear to bear the Dees strategical earmarks of cash-strapped defendants plus maximum donor-base appeal: a recently filed fraud lawsuit against an obscure Jewish nonprofit in New Jersey that offers so-called conversion therapy to gays and lesbians hoping to enter traditional heterosexual marriages, and a quick settlement in 2012 of a gay-bullying suit against a school district in a Minneapolis suburb that likely had a limited litigation budget. Another of the SPLC’s lawsuits, against the Thompson Academy, a for-profit juvenile facility in Broward County, Florida, whose residents complained about systematic staff mistreatment, was filed in federal court in 2010, then settled on undisclosed terms about a year later. The settlement appeared to accomplish little, however. In 2012, the Broward County Public Defender’s office stepped in, filing a series of petitions in state court containing nearly identical allegations to those in the SPLC’s suit, and the state of Florida shut down Thompson this past January.
Nonetheless, even the SPLC’s severest critics give the center’s lawyers credit for providing high-quality legal services that have resulted in tangible legal changes. “Their immigration project does some pretty good work, as do some of their other projects,” Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights conceded. (The SPLC’s latest immigration case, filed in February, challenges an Alabama law that requires the state to maintain an online list of immigrants who are arrested and can’t prove that they’re not “unlawfully present” in the United States; the SPLC argues that the law provides no means for people to get off the list if their immigration status changes.) Michael McDuff, a private criminal defense lawyer in Jackson, Mississippi, worked alongside SPLC staff lawyers on a 2007 lawsuit that resulted in the closing of the Columbia Training School, a girls’ juvenile facility where a laundry list of horror stories included alleged improper shackling, sexual abuse, and a lack of psychiatric care for the inmates, many of whom suffered from mental illness. “I’m aware of some of the criticism of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” said McDuff, “but Sheila Bedi in their Jackson office just did a terrific job.” (Bedi, now a law professor at Northwestern University, headed the SPLC’s legal staff in Jackson at the time.) “The SPLC lawyers did a lot of the legal work, and I was pleased to see that they weren’t in this case just for the publicity,” McDuff continued. “I’m no fan of Morris Dees, but their operation in Mississippi has been terrific.”
Dees may indeed have few fans among liberal Southern lawyers—or among liberal journalists who have followed his career closely. Still, just as the SPLC’s Northern donors have yet to realize that the days of flaming crosses in the South are done, the Northern legal establishment has yet to realize that Dees’s claim to fame may lie primarily in his indisputable genius at self-promotion. Dees parlayed his Ku Klux Klan forays into an NBC made-for-TV movie titled Line of Fire in 1991 and his lawsuit against Tom Metzger into a PBS special titled Hate on Trial in 1992. Universities have showered him with more than 20 honorary degrees, and organizations ranging from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice to the National Education Association have feted him with awards.
In 2011 the Gruber Foundation, headquartered at Yale, awarded Dees its coveted Justice Prize, citing, yes, one more time, that $7 million verdict the SPLC won in 1987 against the United Klans of America. In August 2012 the American Bar Association presented him with the ABA Medal, the organization’s highest award, “for exceptionally distinguished service by a lawyer or lawyers to the cause of American jurisprudence.” (Both the Gruber Foundation and the ABA declined requests for interviews.) At around the time that Dees picked up his medal from the ABA last summer, the Obama Justice Department hosted him as a featured speaker at a “diversity training event” for some of its employees in Washington, where a DOJ staffer picked him up at the airport and took him out to dinner with his family, according to emails obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Still, there may soon come a day when the SPLC’s donation-generating machine, powered by Dees’s mastery of the use of “hate” to coax dollars from the highly educated and the highly gullible, finally breaks down. That is why, according to Cohen, the SPLC has no intention of soon spending down much of that $256 million in stockpiled assets that has earned the center an “F” rating from CharityWatch. “We’ve tried to raise a substantial endowment, because our fundraising is on a downward trend,” Cohen told me. “Those 1960s liberals—they’re getting older, and the post office is dying. We’re likely to be out of the fundraising business within 10 years.” What the SPLC wants to do is to ensure that “hate” is forever.
Here are excerpts from the article Southern Poverty Law Center's Lucrative 'Hate Group' Label, by Rosslyn Smith, American Thinker, August 20, 2012.
... the not-for-profit SPLC ostensibly began its mission to help those who had been victimized by civil rights violations by filing suits on their behalf. In recent years, the SPLC greatly expanded its definition of civil rights and hate groups to the point where any organization that opposes the left's favored causes risks being labeled a hate group by the SPLC. It has also moved away from suing on behalf of the aggrieved to raising awareness of the presence of "hate groups." Most of all, for the last 35 years, it has become a real fundraising dynamo...
A growing consensus on the political right is to consider being labeled a hate group by the SPLC a badge of honor...
I agree that it is, but I take issue with others about what is to be done. When I look at the entire history of the SPLC, I don't think the recent trend of inflate the hate is as much about political correctness run completely amok in the age of Obama as it is about the greed and self-aggrandizement of the founder of the SPLC and the gullibility of the donor base.
Yes, mock those who increasingly conflate disapproval of policy ideas with hate. It is a silly idea. But mock even more those who continue to donate to SPLC as dupes of pious-sounding con men. Make them doubt their self-image as serious-thinking people by showing that they are being manipulated by a shameless huckster whose principal agenda has always been to become very wealthy. For if you understand that motivation, it is easy to see why the definition of hate had to be expanded to include groups that were considered very mainstream just a short time ago.
SPLC founder Morris Dees is a lawyer, but he began his career as a direct marketer, hawking everything from cookbooks to tractor seat cushions. Indeed, the SPLC was a latecomer to the civil rights movement, as many of the biggest legal and legislative battles had been won before the organization was formed in 1971... By the mid-60s, Morris was rich...
The Southern-born Dees knew that many of the northern liberals on McGovern's donor list would get a vicarious thrill from sending a check to the Alabama-based SPLC to fight the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.
If appealing to some of these rather naive donors meant tarring other Southerners as racist, bigoted hicks, so be it...
But by the late 1980s, a different problem was starting to develop: the Klan was all but dead, and few of the organizations labeled as white supremacists had more than a handful of members.
But this didn't stop SPLC from using such groups for their direct mailing haul of shame...
In 2010, Ken Silverstein, the author of the 2000 Harper's article, noted that the SPLC had found a large new target: those immigration reform groups that supported almost anything more restrictive than amnesty and de facto open borders.
...As the SPLC publicizes the names of ever more hate groups to "raise awareness" of intolerance and to tap into ever new sources of funds, its donors should keep in mind a genuine larger truth. Heightened awareness has never by itself helped the actual victims of anything, anywhere, at any time. At best, it is entirely self-referential. At its worst, it serves as a useful ploy to make a donor who hasn't done much in the way of due diligence about an organization's finances feel good about sending money to what appears to be a righteous cause...
Article by Alexander Cockburn, Creators.com, 2009.
The sun is dipping low in the evening sky over the Republican Party as the Other Leading Brand. A mere 21 percent of the adult population identify themselves as Republicans...
It's also horrible news for people who raise money and make money selling the notion there's a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, ready to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of "Mein Kampf" tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.
What is the arch-salesman of hate mongering, Mr. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, going to do now? Ever since 1971, U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with his fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC. Nine years ago, Ken Silverstein wrote a devastating commentary on Dees and the SPLC in Harper's, dissecting a typical swatch of Dees' solicitations. At that time, as Silverstein pointed out, the SPLC was "the wealthiest civil rights group in America," with $120 million in assets...
But where are the haters? That hardy old standby, the KKK, despite the SPLC's predictable howls about an uptick in its chapters, is a moth-eaten and depleted troupe, at least 10 percent of them on the government payroll as informants for the FBI...
Dees and his hate-seekers scour the landscape for hate like the arms manufacturers inventing new threats and for the same reason: It's their staple...
You fight theatrically, the Dees way, or you fight substantively, like, for example, the Institute for Southern Studies run by Chris Kromm; or like Stephen Bright, who makes only $11,000 as president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights. The center's director makes less than $50,000. It has net assets of a bit over $4.5 million and allocates about $1.6 million a year for expenses, 77 percent of its annual revenue. Bright's outfit is basically dedicated to two things: prison litigation and the death penalty. He fights the system, case by case. Not the phony targets mostly tilted at by Dees but the effective, bipartisan, functional system of oppression, far more deadly and determined than the SPLC's tin-pot hate groups. Tear up your check to Dees and send it to Bright.
Read the complete article.
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
June 22, 2011
published on LewRockwell.com
Read the original article
"I have great respect for the Southern Poverty Law Center."
~ Congressman Lacy Clay (D-Banksters)
"Instead of monitoring "hate" and "extremism," they [the SPLC] are concerned with tarring patriotic Americans who oppose their left-wing agenda as haters and extremists."
~ Former Congressman Tom Tancredo
"When you get right down to it, all the SPLC does is call people names. It’s specialized in a highly developed and ritualized form of defamation . . .
What they do is a kind of bullying and stalking . . . . Americans really need to ask themselves if they are willing to tolerate this kind of operation in a free society.
~ Laird Wilcox, author of The Watchdogs: A Close Look at Anti-Racist "Watchdog" Groups
When Rush Limbaugh attempted to buy into an NFL franchise, the political left spread spectacular lies about him, even falsely and absurdly claiming that he had defended slavery on his radio program. When the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., sponsored a public debate on immigration policy, the left-wing hate group known as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) smeared and denounced AEI by claiming that it was "mainstreaming hate" by sponsoring the debate. Of course, Americans have been debating immigration policy ever since the Louisiana Purchase. The SPLC is the leading leftist group that engages in this kind of totalitarian behavior.
When a group of military and police officers organized a group called "Oathkeepers" to simply affirm the oath they had all taken to respect and live by the U.S. Constitution, they were denounced by the SPLC as a "hate group," the exact same language the SPLC uses to describe the KKK. When in 2009 the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that "Ron Paul for President" bumper stickers "could identify likely threats," their asinine statement came from information supplied to them by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The League of the South recently published its "Declaration of Cultural Secession" advocating a society that advances what it calls the virtues of "Celtic culture," defined on its Web site as "the permanent things that order and sustain life: faith, family, tradition, community, and private property; loyalty, courage, and honour." The SPLC lied about and defamed the League of the South by spreading the falsehood on its own Web site that by "Celtic culture" the League of the South means, and I quote, "white people." Apparently the SPLC believes that only white people embrace family, tradition, community, private property, courage, etc.
Impuning the motives of one’s political opponents, rather than engaging in civilized debate, is an age-old strategy of socialists and other left-wing extremists. In his famous book, The Law, Frederic Bastiat wrote of how the socialists of his day (the 1840s) routinely responded to his criticisms of their interventionist economic schemes by accusing him of hating the poor. It is also obviously the modus operandi of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC works hand-in-hand with leftist politicians like Congressman Lacy Clay (D-Banksters), quoted at the top of this article, who are too cowardly to sponsor a new Sedition Act that would outlaw criticisms of the government altogether, as was done during the Adams administration. Instead, they support in any way they can the operations of the SPLC, which attempts to censor all serious criticism of the extreme leftist political agenda of socialist politicians like Lacy Clay by accusing any and all critics of "hate" or "extremism," the same words that are used to describe genuine hate groups like the KKK, or criminal or terrorist organizations and individuals.
The SPLC’s Extreme Left-Wing Agenda
The Spring 2010 issue of an online journal, The Social Contract, published seventeen articles about the Southern Poverty Law Center by various scholars and journalists. In an article entitled "SPLC: America’s Left-Wing Hate Machine," journalist Jerry Woodruff wrote of how the SPLC’s founder, Morris Dees, proudly received the Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU in 1990. Baldwin was a communist who is quoted by Woodruf as having written such things as "I am for socialism" and "I seek social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class . . . . Communism is the goal."
Baldwin was a companion of "Red Emma" Goldman, who publicly advocated murder and violence to further a communist revolution in America. She was eventually deported, and Baldwin wrote to her, "you always remain one of the chief inspirations of my life," Woodruff documents.
Morris Dees’s cheerful acceptance of an award that is associated with such despicable characters is not an isolated example of the extremist backround of the SPLC’s staff and directors. SPLC Director James Rucker is also the executive director of an organization called "Color of Change" that was founded by one Van Jones, who was forced to resign from the Obama administration after online videos appeared showing him publicly describing himself as an advocate of "urban Marxism" and "Third World Communism."
Perhaps the most absurd thing the SPLC does is to sponsor a Web site called "Tolerance.org" and to purportedly teach "tolerance" in primary and secondary schools. The man in charge of Tolerance.org is none other than William Ayers, the "Weather Underground" terrorist of the 1960s who admitted to setting off bombs at the U.S. Capitol building in his youth. "I don’t regret setting the bombs," Ayers told the New York Times on October 4, 2008. "I feel we didn’t do enough" bombing, he said.
There appears to be no reason to suspect that Ayers has ever abandoned his revolutionary communistic ideology. Woodruff writes of how Tolerance.org works closely with another far-left group known as the National Association of Multicultural Education (NAME), which raises money by selling bumper stickers, coffee mugs, and other trinkets with sayings imprinted on them by Karl Marx, Castro’s henchman/murderer Che Guevara, and Red Emma. NAME is said to have given a standing ovation for its 1997 convention keynote speaker, Ward Churchill, the fake American Indian/plagiarist/resume fraud who was forced to resign from the University of Colorado several years ago after he publicly compared the people killed in the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11 to Nazis. Ah, tolerance.
The SPLC as a "Hate Group" Hedge Fund
Shortly after Barack Obama was elected president a student of mine who was the president of the College Republicans asked me if I thought Obama would play the race card and accuse his legitimate critics (of socialized medicine, for example) of being motivated by racism as a way of censoring debate. My response to the student was that such a thing is considered to be too vulgar and uncivilized for a president to engage in, which is why Obama and the Democratic Party would probably assign the job to one the hundreds of "nonprofit" organizations that are essentially fund-raising and propaganda arms of the Democratic Party. The Southern Poverty Law Center quickly took the lead, since it was already so experienced at race baiting and racial racketeering.
For example, it was the SPLC that spread the false stories during the Clinton administration that there was an "epidemic" of fires at predominantly black churches in the South. Investigative reporters at the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere quickly proved the story to be false, which would have destroyed the credibility of any conservative or libertarian organization, but never an organization or individual on the extreme Left. That of course is where your typical member of the "mainstream" media sits.
In another Social Contract article entitled "Cooking the Books on Hate: A Closer Look at the SPLC’s Famous List," Steven Menzies quotes the SPLC’s chief hatchetwoman/propagandist, one Heidi Beirich, as saying that its list of "hate groups" is determined by vague "journalistic procedures." But when any group is placed on the list there is usually no specific information, no footnotes, and no fact checking is possible. "Mr. X of the YZ organization is said to have once associated with a dubious character with racist feelings" is the kind of statement that is used to "list" a "hate group."
There have never been any left-wing groups on the SPLC’s lengthy list of "hate groups." It’s "Hate Watch" Web site clearly states that it is supposedly "Keeping and Eye on the Radical Right." There is no mention of the Radical Left, such as the organizations the SPLC’s board members all have founded or belong to and associate with. When pressed, the professional political haters at the SPLC will admit, as Mark Potok, author of the laughingly-named "Intelligence Report" did, that his "hate group" list is "all about ideology," as Menzies writes.
In "Fighting Hate for Profit and Power," also in the Spring 2010 issue of The Social Contract, John Vinson demonstrates just how dogmatic, hateful, and plain weird Mark Potok of the SPLC is when he quotes him as saying of the critics of an open-border immigration policy (which would include most members of Congress and most Americans) that he will "destroy, completely destroy them" with his practice of "ritual defamation." Ah, tolerance.
The teachers of tolerance at the SPLC responded to the creation of the TEA Party movement by issuing a 2010 "Intelligence Report" entitled "Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism" claiming that the TEA Party movement is "shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories, and racism." Most "mainstream" journalists support everything the SPLC stands for (radical socialism, essentially) and therefore reports such hysterical nonsense as though it were scientific fact.
The SPLC has become an extraordinarily wealthy organization, and its directors and employees profit very handsomely from it. Morris Dees long ago became a millionaire from this shady scam. Apparently, its main source of revenue is fundraising letters that are sent out to the least intelligent/most gullible liberals in America who actually believe the SPLC’s wild and unproven smears and respond by sending them a check. In a Social Contract article entitled "Bashing for Dollars: The SPLC’s Predatory Game," Brenda Walker writes that by 2005 the organization had an endowment of $174 million. "Very little of the hoard is spent on actual civil right work," writes Walker. "The major products are smear campaigns," which are essentially fundraising campaigns.
In an article entitled "The Church of Morris Dees" in the November 2000 issue of Harper's magazine Ken Silverstein noted that the SPLC spends such a high percentage of its revenue on salaries, perks, and fundraising that "The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Center one of the worst rankings of any [nonprofit] group it monitors." That, I suppose, is how it was able to move into its new palatial headquarters building in Montgomery, Alabama that is known locally as the "Poverty Palace."
All of this is undoubtedly why leftist journalist Alexander Cockburn wrote in the New York Press in 2007 that "I've long regarded Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center as collectively one of the greatest frauds in American life. The reasons: a relentless fundraising machine devoted to terrifying mostly low-income contributors into unbolting ill-spared dollars year after year to an organization that now has an endowment of more than $100 million . . ." Amen, Brother Cockburn.
June 22, 2011
Thomas J. DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today.
Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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Article by the Fairfax Journal, December 16, 2003.
... human nature being what it is, there always seems to be a lump of coal lurking among the sugarplums.
We were reminded of this unpleasant fact again by a Journal reader in Arlington who considered making a contribution to the Southern Poverty Law Center, listed as No. 0454 in the Combined Federal Campaign...
In fact, unknown to most CFC donors, the tax-exempt SPLC flunked an audit by the Arlington-based Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, which requires that "a reasonable percentage, at least 50 percent of total income from all sources, should be applied to programs and activities directly related to the purposes for which the organization exists."
...SPLC...spent 89 percent of its total income on fund-raising and administrative costs...
Granted, administrative costs tend to run high when executive salaries are in the six-figure range. For example,... Morris Dees, SPLC's chief trial lawyer, pulls down a cool $280,699...
... give your hard-earned dollars to a real charity, not a bunch of slick, parasitic hucksters who live high on the hog by raising money on behalf of needy people who never see a dime of it.
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In case you missed the story, last November 4th a polling precinct in Philadelphia, PA was patrolled by an organization called the New Black Panther Party, a Marxist group that in 2000, was listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a racial hate group. Video footage shot in 2008, show Black Panther precinct workers intimidating white voters. This was covered by the news organizations, and resulted in charges being filed by the Bush Department of Justice, whose job it is to defend and protect the voting rights of all Americans.
What should have been an open and shut case has become something more troubling, after the Eric Holder-led Justice Department dropped charges against the Black Panthers, who supported President Obama. Currently, this decision to drop the charges, is being challenged by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, (an organization with which I am affiliated).
Now this is the part where things really get interesting.
The SPLC has been mum on the issue, despite the fact that in 2000, it included the New Black Panther Party among its annual list of hate groups. In fact, what is most shocking is that the SPLC has spent far more resources hounding conservative organizations, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, and prominent citizens like CNN's award-winning anchor Lou Dobbs, than it has protecting the civil rights of American voters, which includes white people as well as black. The unrelenting attacks on Mr. Dobbs and others are shameless. The once venerable organization wages war against conservative individuals, principles, and organizations. How unfortunate for America. How unfortunate for the organization's founders.
There is a name for what has happened. It is called "mission creep." Mission creep occurs when an organization strays beyond its original purpose and engages in actions antithetical to its goals. Rather than monitoring hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center has become one.
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Black pain and white piety is a winning combination in contemporary America, as any number of phony liberals have demonstrated over the years.
Nobody manipulates this combination better than Morris Dees. Few do it as well....
Mr. Dees is a lawyer in Montgomery, Ala., who is the "national chairman" of something called the Southern Poverty Law Center, which sounds like the hide-out of a noble band of warriors against hate crime and other racial wrongs, but is actually a fund-raising scheme that could teach televangelists a thing or two.
In fact, maybe it has. Morris Dees, says his former partner, "is the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement, though I don't mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye."
Mr. Dees took in $44 million from gullible contributors, mostly white, in 1999 and spent $13 million actually trying to help the poor and beaten down, mostly black, fight for their civil rights. He has been well known for years to reporters in the South, most of whom have never written much about who he really is. Mr. Dees, like the late I.F. Stone or the living Jesse Jackson, became a pet rock of the media, engaged in a calling so noble that it is regarded as tasteless, or at least suicidal, to notice that he runs around naked....
Ken Silverstein recently told another version of the Morris Dees story in Harper's magazine, and it's a tale well told.
What captured Mr. Silverstein's attention is the most recent project of the Dees "law center," a kit called "Teaching Tolerance" that is available for only $30 on the Dees Web site, with the firm but meaningless assurance that's it's "a $325 value." (Why not $425? $525?)
What the buyer gets is a compendium of hate crimes that any casual newspaper reader already knows about, described in vivid ink of a purple hue, spreading the alarm that the Ku Klux Klan, heavily armed white-citizen militias and six Nazi Panzer divisions that never made it to Omaha Beach are bearing down on Cleveland, or maybe Providence. Even a journalist for the 11 O'clock Eyeball News on Channels 3 through 10 would blush twice trying to peddle stuff like this.
Then we get the dirty little secret of hate-crime reporting. "Horrifying as such incidents are," writes Mr. Silverstein, "hate groups commit almost no violence. More than 95 percent of all 'hate crimes,' including most of the incidents [Mr. Dees] cites (bombings, church burnings, school shootings) are perpetrated by 'lone wolves.' " Indeed, membership in the Ku Klux Klan, which is the most lucrative Dees fund-raising target, has shrunk so dramatically that the Klan would have been out of business years ago but for FBI infiltration. In some chapters the only members with paid-up dues are FBI informants.
In one case cited by Mr. Silverstein, Morris Dees won a judgment for a black woman whose son was killed by Klansmen. She received $51,875 as settlement. Mr. Dees, according to an investigation by the Montgomery Advertiser, pulled in $9 million from fund-raising solicitation letters that featured a particularly gruesome photograph of the grieving mother's son. Mr. Dees, who pays himself an annual salary of $275,000, offered the grieving mother none of the $9 million her son's death made for him.
Mr. Dees, in fact, earns - or is paid, which is not necessarily the same thing - more than nearly any officer of other advocacy groups surveyed by the National Journal, more than the chairmen of the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Children's Defense Fund.
"You are a fraud and a con man," Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which actually takes on dozens of death-penalty appeals for poor blacks every year, once told him. "You spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself so shamelessly."...
White guilt can be manipulated with black pain, but it has to be done carefully. It's a sordid scam. Some people would call what Morris Dees does a hate crime, but it's a living, and a very good one.
Read the complete article.
By Ken Silverstein, Originally published by Harpers Magazine, available on American Patrol. November, 2000.
Ah, tolerance. Who could be against something so virtuous? And who could object to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Montgomery, Alabama-based group that recently sent out this heartwarming yet mildly terrifying appeal to raise money for its "Teaching Tolerance" program, which prepares educational kits for schoolteachers? Cofounded in 1971 by civil rights lawyer cum direct-marketing millionaire Morris Dees, a leading critic of "hate groups" and a man so beatific that he was the subject of a made-for-TV movie, the SPLC spent much of its early years defending prisoners who faced the death penalty and suing to desegregate all-white institutions like Alabama's highway patrol. That was then.
Today, the SPLC spends most of its time--and money--on a relentless fund-raising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit rider passing the collection plate. "He's the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement," renowned anti- death-penalty lawyer Millard Farmer says of Dees, his former associate, "though I don't mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye." The Center earned $44 million last year alone--$27 million from fund-raising and $17 million from stocks and other investments--but spent only $13 million on civil rights program , making it one of the most profitable charities in the country.
The Ku Klux Klan, the SPLC's most lucrative nemesis, has shrunk from 4 million members in the 1920s to an estimated 2,000 today, as many as 10 percent of whom are thought to be FBI informants. But news of a declining Klan does not make for inclining donations to Morris Dees and Co., which is why the SPLC honors nearly every nationally covered "hate crime" with direct-mail alarums full of nightmarish invocations of "armed Klan paramilitary forces" and "violent neo-Nazi extremists," and why Dees does legal battle almost exclusively with mediagenic villains-like Idaho's arch-Aryan Richard Butler-eager to show off their swastikas for the news cameras.
In 1987, Dees won a $7 million judgment against the United Klans of America on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son was lynched by two Klansmen. The UKA's total assets amounted to a warehouse whose sale netted Mrs. Donald $51,875. According to a groundbreaking series of newspaper stories in the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC, meanwhile, made $9 million from fund-raising solicitations featuring the case, including one containing a photo of Michael Donald's corpse.
Horrifying as such incidents are, hate groups commit almost no violence. More than 95 percent of all "hate crimes," including most of the incidents SPLC letters cite (bombings, church burnings, school shootings), are perpetrated by "lone wolves." Even Timothy McVeigh, subject of one of the most extensive investigations in the FBI's history-and one of the most extensive direct-mail campaigns in the SPLC's-was never credibly linked to any militia organization.
No faith healing or infomercial would be complete without a moving testimonial. The student from whose tears this white schoolteacher learned her lesson is identified only as a child of color. "Which race," we are assured, "does not matter." Nor apparently does the specific nature of "the racist acts directed at him," nor the race of his schoolyard tormentors. All that matters, in fact, is the race of the teacher and those expiating tears. "I wept with him, feeling for once, the depth of his hurt," she confides. "His tears washed away the film that had distorted my white perspective of the world." Scales fallen from her eyes, what action does this schoolteacher propose? What Gandhi-like disobedience will she undertake in order to "reach real peace in the world"? She doesn't say but instead speaks vaguely of acting out against "the pain." In the age of Oprah and Clinton, empathy--or the confession thereof--is an end in itself.
Any good salesman knows that a products "value" is a highly mutable quality with little relation to actual worth, and Morris Dees-who made millions hawking, by direct mail, such humble commodities as birthday cakes, cookbooks (including Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers), tractor seat cushions, rat poison, and, in exchange for a mailing list containing 700,000 names, presidential candidate George McGovern-is nothing if not a good salesman. So good in fact that in 1998 the Direct Marketing Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame. "I learned everything I know about hustling from the Baptist Church," Dees has said. "Spending Sundays on those hard benches listening to the preacher pitch salvation-why, it was like getting a Ph.D. in selling." Here, Dr. Dees (the letter's nominal author) masterfully transforms, with a mere flourish of hyperbole, an education kit available "at cost" for $30 on the SPLC website into "a $325 value."
This is one of the only places in this letter where specific races are mentioned. Elsewhere, Dees and his copywriters, deploying an arsenal of passive verbs and vague abstractions, have sanitized the usually divisive issue of race of its more disturbing elements-such as angry black people-and for good reason: most SPLC donors are white. Thus, instead of concrete civil rights issues like housing discrimination and racial profiling, we get "communities seething with racial violence." Instead of racially biased federal sentencing laws, or the disparity between poor predominantly black schools and affluent white ones, or the violence against illegals along the Mexican border, the SPLC gives us "intolerance against those who are different," turning bigotry into a color-blind, equal-opportunity sin. It's reassuring to know that "Caucasians" are no more and no less guilty of this sin than African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics. In the eyes of Morris Dees, we're all sinners, all victims, and all potential contributors.
Morris Dees doesn't need your financial support. The SPLC is already the wealthiest civil rights group in America, though this letter quite naturally omits that fact. Other solicitations have been more flagrantly misleading. One pitch, sent out in 1995-when the Center had more than $60 million in reserves-informed would-be donors that the "strain on our current operating budget is the greatest in our 25-year history." Back in 1978, when the Center had less than $10 million, Dees promised that his organization would quit fund-raising and live off interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million, a sum that, one 1989 newsletter promised, would allow the Center "to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising. " Today, the SPLC's treasury bulges with $120 million, and it spends twice as much on fund-raising-$5.76 million last year-as it does on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses. The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Center one of the worst ratings of any group it monitors, estimating that the SPLC could operate for 4.6 years without making another tax-exempt nickel from its investments or raising another tax-deductible cent from well-meaning "people like you."
The SPLC's "other important work justice" consists mainly in spying on private citizens who belong to "hate groups," sharing its files with law-enforcement agencies, and suing the most prominent of these groups for crimes committed independently by their members-a practice that, however seemingly justified, should give civil libertarians pause. The legal strategy employed by Dees could have put the Black Panther Party out of business or bankrupted the New England Emigrant Aid Company in retaliation for crimes committed by John Brown. What the Center's other work for justice does not include is anything that might be considered controversial by donors. According to Millard Farmer, the Center largely stopped taking death-penalty cases for fear that too visible an opposition to capital punishment would scare off potential contributors. In 1986, the Center's entire legal staff quit in protest of Dees's refusal to address issues-such as homelessness, voter registration, and affirmative action-that they considered far more pertinent to poor minorities, if far less marketable to affluent benefactors, than fighting the KKK. Another lawyer, Gloria Browne, who resigned a few years later, told reporters that the Center's programs were calculated to cash in on "black pain and white guilt." Asked in 1994 if the SPLC itself, whose leadership consists almost entirely of white men, was in need of an affirmative action policy, Dees replied that "probably the most discriminated people in America today are white men when it comes to jobs."
Contributors to Teaching Tolerance might be surprised to learn how little of the SPLC's reported educational spending actually goes to education. In response to lobbying by charities, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1987 began allowing nonprofits to count part of their fundraising costs as "educational" so long as their solicitations contained an informational component. On average, the SPLC classifies an estimated 47 percent of the fund-raising letters that it sends out every year as educational, including many that do little more than instruct potential donors on the many evils of "militant right-wing extremists" and the many splendid virtues of Morris Dees. According to tax documents, of the $10. 8 million in educational spending the SPLC reported in 1999, $4 million went to solicitations. Another $2.4 million paid for stamps.
In the early 1960s, Morris Dees sat on the sidelines honing his direct-marketing skills and practicing law while the civil rights movement engulfed the South. "Morris and I...shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money," recalls Dees's business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller (not to be confused with Millard Farmer). "We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich." They were so unparticular, in fact, that in 1961 they defended a man, guilty of beating up a journalist covering the Freedom Riders, whose legal fees were paid by the Klan. ("I felt the anger of a black person for the first time," Dees later wrote of the case. "I vowed then and there that nobody would ever again doubt where I stood.") In 1965, Fuller sold out to Dees, donated the money to charity, and later started Habitat for Humanity. Dees bought a 200-acre estate appointed with tennis courts, a pool, and stables, and, in 1971, founded the SPLC, where his compensation has risen in proportion to fund-raising revenues, from nothing in the early seventies to $273,000 last year.
A National Journal survey of salaries paid to the top officers of advocacy groups shows that Dees earned more in 1998 than nearly all of the seventy-eight listed, tens of thousands more than the heads of such groups as the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Children's Defense Fund. The more money the SPLC receives, the less that goes to other civil rights organizations, many of which, including the NAACP, have struggled to stay out of bankruptcy. Dees's compensation alone amounts to one quarter the annual budget of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which handles several dozen death-penalty cases a year. "You are a fraud and a conman," the Southern Center's director, Stephen Bright, wrote in a 1996 letter to Dees, and proceeded to list his many reasons for thinking so, which included "your failure to respond to the most desperate needs of the poor and powerless despite your millions upon millions, your fund-raising techniques, the fact that you spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself so shamelessly." Soon the SPLC win move into a new six-story headquarters in downtown Montgomery, just across the street from its current headquarters, a building known locally as the Poverty Palace.
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Obsessed with fundraising, the fabulously wealthy Southern Poverty Law Center exaggerates the scope of racism in the United States to frighten donors into opening their wallets. SPLC is nominally a public interest law firm, but it spends little on actual litigation. Instead, it uses politically skewed definitions of racism to indoctrinate children while smearing conservatives who question racial preference programs.
...Conservative writers have observed that to be called a "racist" today is akin to the label "Communist" in the 1950s. Indeed, the SPLC's tactics are hard to distinguish from those of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was also a fan of guilt by association.
Although SPLC bills itself as a civil rights law firm, it devotes only a fraction of its resources to actual legal work. Of the $28.9 million in expenses it declared for the year ended October 31, 2005, it spent only $4.5 million on "providing legal services for victims of civil rights injustice and hate crimes," and $837,907 for "specific assistance to individuals" in the form of "litigation services," according to its Form 990...
In the same period, SPLC paid Morris Dees $297,559 in salary and pension plan contributions...
"No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of [hate] groups than the [SPLC]'s millionaire huckster, Morris Dees, who in 1999 began a begging letter, 'Dear Friend, The danger presented by the Klan is greater now than at any time in the past ten years'" - JoAnn Wypijewski of the Nation magazine, 2001
...It may take some intellectual toughness to insist that the nation has the right to decide who may or may not cross its borders, but surely it's not hate. But Morris Dees doesn't see it that way. He sees all opposition to immigration as a symptom of hate...
Richard Samp, chief counsel for the Washington Legal Foundation, told Organization Trends that he finds it difficult to take anything the SPLC does nowadays seriously. "There are so many of these [liberal groups] that they have to speak in particularly shrill tones in order to distinguish themselves from the many other groups out there," Samp said. "I certainly disagree with their saying America is racist. I don't think they really believe that," he said.
SPLC's hyping of racism in America is "simply fundraising puffery," Samp said.
Yet it may be too easy to dismiss SPLC. It has mastered the art of inflaming racial passions, and in doing so it undermines Americans' confidence in the nation's racial progress. SPLC's activism may be too profitable an enterprise for it to give up, but it can have a corrosive effect on our politics. Jim Sleeper, author of Liberal Racism, wrote that "there is a race industry that has a moral and financial stake in ginning up these racial bogeymen." Sleeper told columnist Deroy Murdock that the race industry makes "a real effort to play up the bad news and play down the good... The ground is shifting under our feet, and a lot of these people don't want to let go."
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I was slimed by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- a group that dresses its leftist agenda in tolerance clichés. Not that I mind. Over the years, I've been smeared by the best. The Poverty Law Center is a rank amateur, by comparison.
According to the SPLC, I am a hateful person who bears watching. I'm also "involved with several extremist groups" which are either "anti-immigrant" or "anti-gay."
These allegations are contained in the November 1st issue of the Center's online publication HATEWATCH ("Watchmen on the Walls Return To Latvia"), which discussed my participation in a November 14-18 pro-family conference in Riga.
According to HATEWATCH, after touring the U.S. with a "traveling anti-gay road show," Watchmen On The Walls -- which is associated with the New Generation Church in Latvia -- was returning to the citadel of Slavic homophobia.
I should feel right at home in such execrable company, SPLC suggested, noting that in a speech I gave last year at a Vision America conference (which it described as a "Christian Right outfit") I remarked that the goal of militant homosexuals was to "transform us so that Salt Lake City on a Sunday morning looks like today's San Francisco on a Saturday night."...
As for my dangerous liaisons ("Feder is involved with several extremist groups"), SPLC noted that I'm a member of the advisory board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform "an anti-immigrant group whose leader has compared immigrants to bacteria."
This is so typical of the left: A group that seeks border security and wants to do something about the crisis of illegal immigration is "anti-immigrant." Based on the same reasoning, those opposed to date rape must be anti-male.
The "bacteria" stuff refers to a 1997 Knight-Ridder article on FAIR founder John Tanton. "Bacteria" was the way the author of the article characterized Tanton's views on immigration. Tanton himself never used the word.
But the foregoing is mild compared to SPLC's modus operandi, which makes the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU seem nuanced, objective and calm by comparison.
What makes the Southern Poverty Law Center particularly odious is its habit of taking legitimate conservatives and jumbling them with genuine hate groups (the Klan, Aryan Nation, skinheads, etc.), to make it appear that there's a logical relationship between say opposing affirmative action and lynching, or demands for an end to government services for illegal aliens and attacks on dark-skinned immigrants. The late novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand called this "the broad-brush smear."
What the Southern Poverty Law Center calls fighting hatred is more than just an opportunity to defame political opponents. It's good business.
Thanks to the fundraising genius of co-founder Morris Dees, at the end of FY 2005, SPLC had a surplus of $189.4 million. As Chief Trial Counsel, Dees receives an annual salary (including pension contributions) of $297,559. Though he'd hate to admit it, hate has made Dees a rich man.
Together, SPLC's three top executives - all white -- took home just shy of three-quarters of a million dollars in 2005.
SPLC has its critics on the left. Journalist Alexander Cockburn characterized Dees' fundraising technique as "frightening elderly liberals (into believing) that the heirs of Adolf Hitler are about to march down Main Street."
In a 2000 article in Harper's Magazine ("The Church of Morris Dees"), Ken Silverstein wrote that with Dees at the helm SPLC "spends most of its time-and-money on a relentless fundraising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit rider passing the collection plate."
The article also explained how the Center has amassed a fortune exploiting the victims of bias crimes.
Silverstein wrote: "In 1987, Dees won a $7-million judgment against the United Klans of America on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son was lynched by two Klansmen. The UKA's total assets amounted to a warehouse whose sale netted Mrs. Donald $51,875. According to a groundbreaking series of stories in the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC, meanwhile, made $9 million from fundraising solicitations featuring the case, including one containing a photo of Michael Donald's corpse."
A perusal of its website would convince the casual observer that the nation is awash in goose-stepping neo-Nazis and noose-swinging night-riders -- all armed to the teeth and lusting for the blood of innocents.
SPLC habitually overstates the danger of real hate groups. Thus, in one of his 1999 fundraising letters, Dees wrote "The danger presented by the Klan is greater now than at any time in the past 10 years."
In reality (that which exists outside the delusional universe of direct-mail fundraising), the Klan is weaker now than it was in 1999; and in need of Viagra then. In the 1920s, the hooded scum held massive marches in our nation's capital and controlled several state legislatures. Today, the Klan has an estimated 3,000 members nationwide, 10% of them FBI informers.
The Center devotes considerable resources to watching the Klan. (Its publication HATEWATCH was formerly called KLANWATCH.) It watches Klansmen grow senile, go into nursing homes and die. Today, most bias-related crimes (including the murders of James Byrd, Jr., Matthew Shepard and the Oklahoma City Bombing) are the work of a few nutcases.
Put that in a fundraising appeal and see what comes in from the yokels in Manhattan or San Francisco.
As telling as the hatred over which SPLC obsesses, is that which it ignores.
On the Center's website, check out the colorful Hate Map, a state by state directory of extremist organizations. Broken down by category, these include the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, Racist Skinheads, White Nationalists and Black Separatists.
Then there are other groups only Dees and Hillary Clinton would consider hateful, like the Traditional Values Coalition and Young Americans for Freedom of Michigan State University. What's missing is any mention of a Saudi-funded mosque, a rabid imam preaching jihad or a Muslim group with ties to terrorism...
But with its politically correct blinders firmly in place, the Southern Poverty Law Center sees no hatred in Jihad Nation, or on the left generally.
What's the Center's impact? Its website boasts that it "trains personnel for more than 75 federal law enforcement agencies and provides services for local, state and international agencies." A picture on this page shows a regional commander of the Illinois State Police shaking hands with an SPLC staffer.
Doubtless, the Center provides invaluable training in helping law enforcement personnel to monitor the dangerous activities of extremists like the American Enterprise Institute and the Federation for American Immigration Reform -- as well as to track the fiends who engage in "nasty polemic" and display racial "insensitivity."
Then there's its infiltration of public education through Teaching Tolerance, a curriculum "to help K-12 teachers foster respect and understanding in the classroom" for such victim-groups as illegal immigrants.
The Center says 600,000 educators subscribe to its Teaching Tolerance magazine...
The Southern Poverty Law Center is symptomatic of the left's penchant for calumny, which is another sign of its intellectual impotence. Those who can't frame arguments - participate in open debate - distort, stigmatize and engage in guilt by association. The left is guilty of the very tactics of which it accuses the late Joe McCarthy.
But, please, don't call the Southern Poverty Law Center smear artists. There's no artistry in its smears, which are crude, clumsy and transparent.
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.
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...The Southern Poverty Law Center is a thriving business. The Alabama-based "nonprofit" firm has become a font of riches for founder Morris Dees and his associates. Its last tax return (2005) showed it took in nearly $111 million in donations the previous four years alone and reported assets of $189.4 million at the end of 2005.
Its business is fundraising, and its success at raking in the cash is based on its ability to sell gullible people on the idea that present-day America is awash in white racism and anti-Semitism, which it will fight tooth-and-nail as the public interest law firm it purports to be. That might lead a skeptic to wonder why it spends little on litigation and why Mr. Dees pockets a lot of money sent in by panicked donors who buy into the smear campaigns against organizations or prominent individuals who question racial preference programs.
To me and to other observant conservatives, the Southern Poverty Law Center is a clever scam, relentlessly cultivating for profit the fear that this nation is filled with Klansmen and rife with people eager to perpetrate genocide. If you're curious about this organization and its legitimacy, spend some time on the Internet and assess it for yourself, because I want to move on to something else related to the comment by Mr. Potok. He mentions cross-burnings on the lawns of interracial couples. If this is true, shame on those who do such things, but what you probably don't know about - and what the law center ignores - is the atrocity committed on an interracial couple in Winchester, Calif.: Marine Sgt. Jan Pawel Pietrzak, a Polish immigrant, and his African-American bride of two months, Quiana Jenkins Pietrzak. Four African-American Marines, two of them under Sergeant Pietrzak's command (including Emrys Justin John, 18, of Baltimore), are accused of breaking into the couple's home and killing them both (one is also charged with a sex crime). In the weeks since the brutal murders, the media have been largely silent about the grisly incident. Would that be the case had the alleged perpetrators been white? Don't be silly.
And as we have come to expect, the authorities won't attribute the Pietrzaks' deaths to "hate."...
"Hate crimes," as trumpeted by the likes of the Southern Poverty Law Center, are a questionable legal construct used almost exclusively against whites.
Hateful or not, interracial violent crime is overwhelmingly black on white or black on Asian. The Department of Justice's figures show that between 2001 and 2003, blacks were 39 times more likely to commit violent crimes against whites than the reverse. Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year involving blacks and whites, blacks commit 85 percent and whites commit 15 percent.
You won't hear about that from the Southern Poverty Law Center or see it on the evening newscasts, because the truth is one thing and the liberal agenda is another.
Read the complete article.
Those of us who know and love the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC, or more appropriately, in VDARE.com's considered opinion, the $PLC] have been naturally intrigued to see if this wealthy operation would be a victim of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme...
Immigration patriots are particularly interested in the $PLC [SPLC] because of its recent obsessive smearing of essentially every immigration reform group in sight. This includes naming as a "hate group" not merely VDARE.COM (which has responded by naming the $PLC a "Treason Group") but also the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which the $PLC has absurdly claimed is "at the nexus of the American nativist movement" along with FAIR's equally harmless fellow Beltway herbivores, NumbersUSA and the Center For Immigration Studies.
This new $PLC obsession is obviously odd because the huge post-1965 influx of unskilled legal and illegal immigrants, whatever else can be said about it, has been an unmitigated disaster for low income blacks-allegedly the $PLC's historic concern. Labor leader Cesar Chavez (ironically an $PLC hero) saw this dynamic clearly in the case of his farm workers, at that time largely native-born Hispanics. It's why the Howard Industries blacks cheered last year's ICE raid on their employer.
Complaints, even from the Left, about the $PLC's [Southern Poverty Law Center] lack of interest in black and "Civil Rights" issues, and its extreme interest in money, date back at least to Ken Silverstein's classic The Church of Morris Dees (Harper's Magazine, November 2000) and JoAnn Wypijewski's ferocious defense of her criticism of the $PLC for ignoring local Black causes in her Nation magazine article Back to the back of the Bus (December 2000).
The standard critical assessment of the $PLC's chosen activities is that it is dominated by the extreme personal greed of its founder, Morris Seligman Dees. There are several stories about this in the (now quite extensive) $PLC literature. On this theory, Dees realized some years ago that his most generous supporters were simply more interested in savaging conservative and other politically incorrect groups than they were in the uplifting of blacks, and he responded accordingly.
The $PLC's Form 990 (PDF), which tax-exempt charities must file the IRS, and its Audited Financial Statements (PDF) are now available for the fiscal year ending October 2008. And the answer to the Madoff matter-no such luck. Our friends apparently escaped unscathed.
But how did the $PLC manage to resist the allure of the so-called "Jewish T-Bill"-an operation which claimed to produce relatively moderate but extremely consistent returns over many years? Would that not be attractive to the $PLC as a prudent 501(c)(3) Charity-as it was tragically to so many others, and to so many Jewish retirees as well?
Answer: absolutely not. The reason the $PLC dodged Madoff was simply that its financial resources are managed astonishingly aggressively. The clear overriding objective: making money. Safe, slightly above-par returns just did not fit the bill.
Of course, this investment objective did cause the $PLC to sustain $51.2 million in "Investment" losses in the Fiscal year closing 10-31-08. But this left the $PLC with some $167.8 million in total portfolio assets at the end of the year.
And the implied approximately 30.5% FY 2008 loss is actually not exceptional. The S&P 500 lost 37.5% over the same period. (Of course, this makes the questionable assumption that it was prudent for the $PLC to be so exposed to stocks, rather than less volatile financial instruments like bonds or money market instruments).
Essentially, the $PLC balance sheet looks similar to what one would imagine for a retired Goldman Sachs partner: property and working capital, plus a huge sophisticated investment portfolio.
As of 10-31-08, the $PLC showed $35.6 Million (18.5% of its assets) in a kind of current account, called the "operating fund", which contains, curiously, all the physical assets including $16.9 million in depreciated real estate (to be fair- apparently no yacht!) This "operating fund" includes an investment pool of $11.6 million, on which losses of $1.2 million were sustained in FY '08. Presumably this is the management's dabbling/fun account.
The balance consists of an investment portfolio, which stood at $156.2 million at 10-31 08. This is termed the "Endowment Fund".
It is important to understand that, according to the $PLC's own Financial Statements, there are essentially no restrictions on this fund. In the Charity world, this is not what is commonly understood by an "endowment", which is usually dedicated to specific purposes, and often confined to spending income only. As Daniel Borochoff, President of the American Institute of Philanthropy, told Bill O'Reilly in 2001:
"They want to build up their reserves just like you'd probably like to be a multimillionaire so you could live off the interest... It's not really an endowment [just] because the board called it that." (See NPI/SPLC Report II, Pp17-18)
Proof of Borochoff's view of the $PLC strategy arose in 2008. Endowments are usually tapped in poor years, for operating expenses. But the $PLC transferred $4 million from its "Operating Fund" to its "Endowment Fund" last year-a clear demonstration of the management's Scrooge-like priorities.
It is when one examines the details of this "Endowment Fund" that the $PLC's heroic dedication to money-making becomes glaring. P14 of the Financial Statements reveals that of the $156.2 million:
So far, perhaps so good. But then:
Some venturing into equity alternative investments (limited partnerships, leveraged buyout funds etc. which in 2008 proved to be horribly illiquid) might be permissible for a very large pool of capital seeking to provide for very long term and heavy spending commitments-a university, perhaps, with a massive payroll and plant. But the $PLC has disclosed no such commitments. With 52% of the "Endowment Fund" in these things, the management was clearly swinging for the fences for its own sake.
An idea of the potential problems arising from this exposure appears in Note 4, P15:
"At October 31, 2008, the Center has outstanding commitments to invest approximately $8,300,000 in limited partnerships and LLC's under capital commitment agreements."
This means that in 2009 the Southern Poverty "Law" Center is obligated to spend in on these investment projects more than the $8 million it spent on "Legal Services" in 2008!
Another insight into the $PLC's aggressiveness from P14: the "Operating fund", which functionally appears to be the Center's housekeeping account, had $4.9 Million in "common stock" and "Mutual fund" holdings - 13.8% of reported assets. Again curiously, obligations under the (relatively small) "gift annuity" and "pooled income" programs are held in the "Operating Fund". One might have thought they belonged where long-term investments are housed.
The unmistakable impression is that the "Endowment" is intended to be wholly focused on making capital gains, undistracted by the day to day (or even year to year) financial concerns of running the Center.
Page 14 also piously states:
"The Center's endowment fund maintains a broadly diversified investment portfolio oriented toward equity investments and strategies to take advantage of market inefficiencies. The Center's investment objectives are... achieved in partnership with an active investment advisory committee and external managers."
But there is no mention of the purpose served by hoarding all this money. Particularly given the heavy use of mutual funds, which are not the sort of thing "external managers" are needed to run but which must be selected by someone, the impression is that a great deal of senior management's time goes to grooming this portfolio.
In FY 2008, the $PLC reported raising $32.4 million from the public.
But expenditures came in at only $30.7 million. In the charity world, this is somewhat embarrassing, because competing fund-raisers can argue that a surplus means you don't need more donations.
Expenditures included $8 million on legal services and $12.9 million on "education"-presumably mainly under the tendentiously-named "Teaching Tolerance" program, which seems to mainly consist of glorifying minorities. Fundraising took $5.4 million (16.7% of revenue). (I have seen it suggested that the "Education" expenditure includes much mailing which should be considered fund-raising.)
Officer's salaries took $1,275,725 (3.9%) Highest paid is Richard Cohen, President and CEO, at $348,652. Morris Dees got $336,072, a 2.8% increase. The top five non-officer employees were paid an aggregate of $747,128 (up 2.3%) including $143,206 for Mark Potok (a 3.2% increase).
Non-officer compensation as a whole took 33.1% of income. Once again poor Heidi Beirich did not place.
For perspective, the cost of living in Montgomery, Alabama, where the $PLC has its notorious "Poverty Palace" headquarters, is just 77% of the U.S. national average. Median household income is $41,676.
On the other hand, the $PLC constantly proclaims the likelihood of right-wing violence. And apparently believes it: three of the top five "independent contractors" it reports provide security services. Under these circumstances, it seems strange and ungenerous that the two figures most in the public eye-Mark Potok and Heidi Beirich-should rank so low in compensation.
From its "Endowment Fund", the $PLC gave nothing ($0) to its alleged causes. By contrast, the Chais Foundation, with approximately the same amount of assets but no public fund raising effort, is reported to have given $12.5 million away in each of the last two years.
However, there is nothing to stop charitable foundations giving grants to other 501(c)(3)s!
No doubt in this terrible year-with like-minded charities suffering from the stock market crash, recession, and Bernard Madoff-the Southern Poverty Law Center will be stepping forward to help!
Notice to liberal foundations: contact the $PLC here!
Ask for Morris!
The $PLC has achieved virtually a sacred status with the Main Stream Media. Its pronouncements are effectively accorded Papal Infallibility. But in reality, it is merely a bunch of bigoted ethnic-special-interest thugs.
VDARE.com does not to expect everyone to concede this. But we look forward to seeing how this group of pirates can be defended from the charge of money-grubbing.
It is not possible to better Joan Wypijewski's scathing advice to her liberal readers in The Nation: (You Can't Get There From Here, February 26 2001):
"What is the Poverty Law Center doing... ? Mainly making money...the center doesn't devote all of its resources to any kind of fight....A few years ago the American Institute of Philanthropy gave the SPLC an F for 'excessive' reserves. [VDARE.com note: as it still does in its December 2008 Rating Guide] So readers, rip up those pledges to the Southern Poverty Law Center."...
Read the complete article
As predictably as the rooster crowing at dawn, whenever and wherever American citizens protest mass immigration-legal or illegal-the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) springs into action, attempting to malign them as "hate groups." So, when concerned citizens in Arizona, with the support and encouragement of local and national elected officials, and national immigration reform organizations, mobilized to place an initiative on the November 2004 ballot, SPLC immediately instituted a campaign to discredit them. To date, no organization advancing the case for reduced immigration is viewed by the SPLC as a "legitimate" organization-not one!...
Prop. 200, which initial polls show has the support of 74 percent of the electorate, would require the state to screen to ensure that illegal aliens do not receive benefits or access to government-funded programs that are specifically prohibited to them under federal law. The ballot measure also requires that people demonstrate proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and present identification at the polls to ensure that the person casting a vote is actually the person who registered...
Unlike other advocacy groups promoting large-scale immigration to the United States, SPLC makes no attempt to justify their positions on economic, or humanitarian grounds. Rather SPLC's sole function in the immigration policy debate is to attempt to discredit any individual or organization that supports reductions in immigration and enforcement of immigration laws.
The charges invariably leveled by SPLC have long since been discredited as utterly specious, or at best a McCarthyist version of Six Degrees of Separation, in which everyone advocating immigration reform can charged with having talked someone, who talked to someone, who talked to someone else who is a bad person. Similarly, SPLC tries to connect carefully selected dots in an attempt to prove that funding for all immigration reform advocates is tainted.
The most often cited, and most often repudiated allegation of SPLC is that all immigration reform advocates and organizations are, in fact, advocates of a long discredited pseudo-science known as eugenics. This charge, on which SPLC's entire smear campaign is based, stems from the fact that the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) received money from the Pioneer Fund in the 1980s. Some of the founders of the Pioneer Fund, in the 1930s, had supported research in the field of eugenics.
Based on that line of reasoning-that the views of a foundation's founder some three-quarters of a century ago have any bearing on the foundation's grantees today-all recipients of Ford Foundation largesse would have to be considered suspect of harboring racist and anti-Semitic views. Such assertions are, of course, patently ridiculous. (Provided below is a partial list of Pioneer Fund grants over the past few years.)
Who is the SPLC?
SPLC was founded by Morris Dees, an Alabama attorney, in 1971. Since that time SPLC has raised hundreds of millions of dollars "outing" organizations they deem to be right-wing hate groups. While their often wild accusations are still reported by an unquestioning mainstream media, SPLC was itself "outed" in the November 2000 issue of Harper's Magazine, a venerable and independent mainstream publication (see below). According to contributing editor Ken Silverstein in an article entitled, "The Church of Morris Dees," the SPLC is little more than a direct mail outfit that has raised heaps of money hyping hate crimes-real and imagined-while doing virtually nothing for the victims.
...The group spends twice as much on fund-raising activities each year as it does on legal services for the people whose causes they purport to champion. SPLC's fund-raising-to-expenditure ratio has earned them one of the American Institute of Philanthropy's worst ratings for any of the organizations it monitors.
Another revelation in the Harper's article-one that is far less shocking in the post-Enron and WorldCom era than it was a few years ago-is that accounting procedures have allowed the SPLC to disguise fund-raising activities as "educational" activities....
Rather than being legitimate crusaders against alleged right-wing "hate" groups, SPLC and Dees have been shameless exploiters of the misfortunes of people they do almost nothing to help, claims Silverstein. Alarmist, and often graphic, direct mail solicitations hyping supposed hate crimes that are usually the sick handiwork of lone individuals rather than organized groups, net the SPLC handsome returns while doing little or nothing to aid the victims. The hate "groups" the SPLC relentlessly raises money to fight are often the figment of SPLC's direct mail department's overheated imagination, and unrelated crimes are attributed to these groups because, like sex and fear, hate sells.
His former partner in the direct marketing business that Dees ran before starting SPLC confesses that the two of them were not above hucksterism in their quest to amass profits. "We were not particular about how we did it," Dees' former business partner is quoted saying in Harper's....
...The reporting of Silverstein and the assessment of SPLC by the American Institute of Philanthropy, however, should lead responsible news media to carefully scrutinize the assertions and accusations made by SPLC. It does suggest that the record, motives, and tactics of the organization leveling the charges should not be taken at face value.
Pioneer Fund Recipient (Partial List)
Read the complete article.
...1955 marked the second time Montgomery's blacks boycotted public conveyances over segregation. The first was in 1900, when transit segregation was put into law. For that whole summer blacks refused to ride the trolleys. The white power structure was forced to make a minor compromise but would not cave for more than a half-century; almost another half-century on, the long walk to transit freedom in Montgomery continues.
Meanwhile, here's J. Richard Cohen congratulating himself and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in thirty years of existence has addressed the transportation crisis twice and the transit racism in its own hometown not at all...
Perhaps simple courtesy is also "beside the point" for the center's puffed-up crusaders, seeing as how the coalition's work doesn't fall within their "historic mission"--i.e., bringing headline-grabbing lawsuits. But because even the Federal Transit Administration's Office of Civil Rights advises activists that the fight for transit justice in America is unlikely ever to be won in court, that historic mission turns out here to be a self-serving cloak for indifference. Even at the level of rhetoric, Cohen and his colleagues, who regularly expound on civil rights issues in Op-Ed pieces or letters to the editor in the Montgomery Advertiser, have not bestirred themselves on the bus crisis.
What is the Southern Poverty Law Center doing instead? Mostly making money. I would never have suggested that it "devote[s] all [its] resources to the fight against white supremacist organizations," because the center doesn't devote all of its resources to any kind of fight. In 1999 it spent $2.4 million on litigation and $5.7 million on fundraising, meanwhile taking in more than $44 million--$27 million from fundraising, the rest from investments. A few years ago the American Institute of Philanthropy gave the SPLC an F for "excessive" reserves. On the subject of "hate groups," though, Cohen is almost comically disingenuous. No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of such groups than the center's millionaire huckster Morris Dees, who in 1999 began a begging letter, "Dear Friend, The danger presented by the Klan is greater now than at any time in the past ten years."
Hate sells; poor people don't, which is why readers who go to the center's website will find only a handful of cases on such unlucrative causes as fair housing, worker safety or healthcare, many of those from the 1970s and '80s. Why the organization continues to keep "Poverty" (or even "Law") in its name can be ascribed only to nostalgia or a cynical understanding of the marketing possibilities in class guilt. It barely even handles death penalty cases anymore, and lawyers struggling in the South to save the lives of people, mostly poor, on Death Row, will never forget that it was Morris Dees who smoothed the way to a federal judgeship for Ed Carnes, author of Alabama's death penalty statute and a notorious hanging judge.
With allies like Carnes and a salary close to $300,000 putting him among the top 2 percent of Americans, Dees needn't worry about "fitting in" with the masses of Montgomery. Naturally, he'd erect a multimillion-dollar office building that's a monstrosity. "I hate it," a security guard across the street told me, as the sun's hot rays bounced off the building's vast brushed-stainless-steel-clad southern exposure and onto his face, making him sweat, roasting his skin while he stood watch for the militia nuts Dees would have his donors believe are lurking around every corner.
So, readers, rip up those pledges to the Southern Poverty Law Center...
Read the complete article.
"Hate-watching" has become an enterprising sport in America. As so-called
hate-watch groups and organizations spring up all across the country, they
are venerated for their courage and unwavering defense of minority classes.
They are touted as the great overseers of the civil rights granted to
minorities by government.
For persons and organizations that wish to become powerful and recognizable
to mainstream America, hate-watching is a clever way to earn a secure
living. They can do so under the false flag of protecting minority identity
and opportunity, though crying hate has become the call to arms for the
protected classes against traditional culture.
Who are the true intolerants? Are they fervent Christians? Or is it the
so-called watchdog groups that profit from the anger and backlash of
protected classes who are themselves strangled by government policies?
The most notable of such prevaricators is the not-so-impecunious Southern
Poverty Law Center, headed by lawyer Morris Dees. Mr. Dees is a leftist icon
of sorts. He manages to reap gorgeous profits from his not-for- profit
business through website terrorism and hyper-emotional junk-mail campaigns.
The SPLC is the lead aggressor against right-wing organizations that are
ideologically unappealing to Mr. Dees and his fellow intolerants. What SPLC
does is use its government-approved coercive powers to ruin businesses,
smear reputations, and try to force people to participate in their farcical
diversity movement through "monitoring," while exposing alleged fascists,
white-supremicists, and even (gasp!) pro-Confederates.
These accusations are gathered in the SPLC's Intelligence Report, a
scuttlebutt rag that generates severe intolerance against any ideological
group that doesn't agree with its pinko views. One of the latest hits from
the Intelligence Report has been directed toward the Ludwig von Mises
Institute of Auburn, Alabama, an educational organization dedicated to
Austrian economics and classical liberalism. Such dedicated passions toward
education and the advancement of intellectual spirit apparently are not
sanctioned by the SPLC's intolerant bunch.
Another organization that has come under fire is the League of the South, an
organization inspired by the political theory of self-government, especially
with regard to local rule. As if smearing the Mises Institute and the League
of the South weren't enough, the SPLC attempts to link the two, in effect,
implying that any educational institution in the South with libertarian-like
views must be composed of Confederate sympathizers, and therefore, is racist
Victimology is an art at SPLC. The past deeds of Morris Dees sensationalize
race relations and patriotic uprisings, while encouraging deep fear in
individuals who see themselves as victims of an unfair political system.
Without producing this fear and victimological thinking, the center could
not possibly raise the huge funds necessary for such a tireless spy machine.
The SPLC is exactly such a contrivance, in fact. It is also a newspeak
machine that does not use logical reasoning or philosophical arguments to
make its case, but rather, emotional attacks that bait the weak-minded, and
seduce those looking for monetary "justice."
Organizations like the SPLC are empowered by government agencies in the
civil rights sector, and they are supported by a leftist media that allows
them unchallenged on-air exposures of purported right-wing intolerance
HBO recently ran a cable special entitled Hate.com: Extremists, which
focused on Internet groups that don't fall within the tolerance guidelines
set forth by hate-watchers. Of course, Mr. Dees and his Intelligence Report
editor Mark Potok took center stage in this documentary, pointing out how
extremist, right-wing America, with the famed Turner Diaries as its bible,
advances the cause of white people and terrorizes oppressed minorities.
The SPLC seems to take special pride in the fact that it can use tolerance
education as the carrot, and draw upon its Northern liberal junk-mail base
for its attack on all the evils of "extremist" America. It's interesting how
the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP) gets
flagged for hate, while the NAACP is a perfectly legit organization.
Throughout the HBO piece, Messrs. Potok and Dees appear against an
impressive backdrop of stately bookshelves in fancy offices. However, when a
self-styled racist appears on screen, his backdrop is the SPLC's favorite
target: the Confederate flag. This is a purposeful attempt, of course, to
smear the symbol of the noble causes of Southern secession and personal
The HBO documentary treats religious-based organizations in such a way as to
propagate the notion that all hardcore religious activism is "Aryan" in
temperament, excessive, and therefore dangerous to non-whites.
It is interesting to note how the SPLC also includes patriot groups in the
Intelligence Report. This is due to the fact that such groups "advocate or
adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines," and this undermines the State
worship that makes people like Mr. Dees opulent by way of the
multicultural-tolerance issue. One must remember that it was the Oklahoma
bombing that put the SPLC propaganda machine on the map.
In fact, SPLC must have licked its chops after Oklahoma City, as they
stormed into Michigan - a state known for citizen militias - and set up camp
for the enduring attack on patriotic movements. Mr. Dees was as familiar to
many Americans during this ordeal as was Dan Rather. One can almost say that
Dees was to Oklahoma City what Wolf Blitzer was to the Persian Gulf.
Now the SPLC takes it on the road, as Dees travels about the country
preaching his brand of liberality. He often speaks before college audiences,
where supple minds are ripe for feel-good altruism.
This man works to gain the trust of young people by displaying the evils of
admitted racist organizations that have a tiny number of adherents. Mr. Dees
then proceeds to propagate the notion that conservative organizations --
particularly those that are pro-gun or anti-government - pose the same
dangers, and thus, must be impeded.
The seeds of multiculturalism are planted in all forms of the media, and the
harvest of fear and anger is in full growth. Accordingly, the nobility of
the cause of liberty is buried beneath the scare tactics that associate
virtuous symbols and causes with loathing and intolerance. For that reason,
the professional hate-watchers are the profiteers of divisiveness.
Karen De Coster is a politically incorrect, paleolibertarian CPA, and an MA
student in economics at Walsh College in Michigan.
This lengthy article on Digger's Realm discusses the Southern Poverty Law Center. View the complete article here.
Morris Dees Background Information, as provided by Discover The Networks, can be found here.
"'Til the Cash Comes Flowing Like a River..."
In an article titled Poverty Palace, Morris Dees told journalist John Edgerton that "I had a traditional white Southerner's feeling for segregation."...
"Morris Dees and I [Millard Fuller], from the first day of our partnership, shared one overriding purpose: to make a pile of money. We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich. During the eight years we worked together we never wavered in that resolve."...
In 1961 when Freedom Riders were beaten by a white mob at a Montgomery bus station, Dees [and Fuller] expressed openly his sympathies and support for what had happened at the bus station.
When one of the men charged with beating the Freedom Riders came to their office for legal representation, Dees and Fuller took the case. The legal fee was paid by the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen's Council. [Fuller, Millard. Love in the Mortar Joints. New Century Press: 1980 and The Progressive, July 1988]...
Arrested and removed from court in 1975 for attempting to suborn perjury [bribing a witness] in the Joan Little murder trial in North Carolina....
Acted as a fundraiser for both Ted Kennedy's 1980 and Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaigns and received their mailing lists as reward. [Ibid.]
Perhaps explaining the SPLC's 'Gay' rights activism, Dees was cited in 1979 by his ex-wife with a homosexual encounter during their marriage. She also cited numerous affairs with women including his daughter-in-law and underage stepdaughter....
The SPLC's fundraising practices have provoked the disapproval of watchdog groups that monitor charities: In 1993, the American Institute of Philanthropy assigned the SPLC a 'D' grade on a scale of A to F. [American Institute of Philanthropy 1993 Charity Watchdog Report]...
Today, the SPLC's treasury bulges with $120 million, and it spends twice as much on fund-raising-$5.76 million last year-as it does on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses...
"What is the Southern Poverty Law Center doing...? Mostly making money...
In 1994 the Montgomery Advertiser won a journalism award for a series of incisive and penetrating investigative articles exposing the unethical fundraising practices of Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center...
The SPLC which has crusaded for the rights of blacks for 23 years, is controlled by whites. It has hired only two black staff attorneys in its history, both of whom left unhappy. 12 of 13 former Black employees interviewed by the Montgomery Advertiser complained they experienced or observed racial problems during their employment. Several said the SPLC was "more like a plantation."...
In 1986 the entire SPLC legal staff resigned in protest of Dees refusal to address issues such as poverty, homelessness, voter registration and other issues they considered more pertinent to poor minorities rather than to get rich fighting a Klan chimera....
Dees has actively campaigned for laws in which "associations of two or more persons" who train in the use of firearms for defensive purposes are declared "illegal militias."...
Read the complete article.
The following links to allegedly personal information about Morris Dees are included here for completeness. We do not claim that the information contained in the following material is authentic, correct, or accurate.
"Maureene Bass Dees vs. Morris S. Dees, on Appeal" from the Circuit Court of Montgomery, Alabama, case CIV. 2114 (undated) - alleged court divorce document.