Screengrab from https://twitter.com/SenTomCotton/status/1106246018490871810
Last month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was rocked by the resignation of founder and president Morris Dees and some other top officers. As far as I know, no specific allegations have leaked out but the general tenor seems to be of a work place that was rife with sexual misconduct and racial discrimination even as it lambasted organizations like the Family Research Council for being intolerant.
While the SPLC has a media profile, and a profile within government, all out of proportion to its actual value, it functions mostly as a moneymaking scam designed to fleece credulous believers who have money by spinning up outrageous stories of alt-right and white nationalist terrorists lurking in every walk-in closet. In other words, it is petty much the way The Bulwark would function if it could. A former staffer, Bob Moser, penned a must-read in The New Yorker (you know what the stench had to be like if The New Yorker carries a hostile investigative piece on a progressive icon like the SPLC) called The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Washington Examiner used that as a basis for more details:
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s problems go well beyond the fact it’s a vicious, left-wing attack dog with no care whatsoever for the reputational and personal harm it causes by lumping Christians and anti-extremist activists with actual neo-Nazis.
As it turns out, the SPLC is a cynical money-making scheme, according to a former staffer’s blistering tell-all, published this week in the New Yorker. The center’s chief goal is to bilk naive and wealthy donors who believe it’s an earnest effort to combat bigotry.
But the sleaziest thing of all, out of everything Moser details, is the allegation that his former employer’s business model centers entirely around keeping donors in a state of constant, wallet-opening panic. The SPLC, which enjoys a sterling reputation in the press as a serious and knowledgeable authority on bigotry and extremism in the U.S., does this to great effect with sleek gimmicks such as its infamous “hate maps” and “hate lists,” all of which are shared widely by an extremely eager, fawning news media.
“[T]he center continues to take in far more than it spends. And it still tends to emphasize splashy cases that are sure to draw national attention,” he writes adding the group’s “central strategy” involves “taking on cases guaranteed to make headlines and inflame the far right while demonstrating to potential donors that the center has not only all the right enemies but also the grit and know-how to take them down.”
And the grift is good:
The SPLC has become partisan, unreliable—and lucrative. It’s ironic that a nonprofit with “Poverty” in its name has amassed a war chest of more than $500 million, $120 million of which is held in offshore accounts.
Senator Tom Cotton has been paying attention and he’s asking the IRS to do the same:
I am writing to urge you to investigate whether the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) should retain its classification as a 50l(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Recent news reports have confirmed the long-established fact that the SPLC regularly engages in defamation of its political opponents. In fact, the SPLC’s defining characteristic is to fundraise off of defamation.
This business model has paid well. The SPLC has accrued more than $500 million in assets.
According to the group’s most recent financial statement, it holds $121 million offshore in non-U.S. equity funds. The SPLC uses these assets to pay its executives lavish salaries far higher than the comparable household average.
Based on these reports, and in the interest of protecting taxpayer dollars from a racist and sexist slush fund devoted to defamation, I believe that the SPLC’s conduct warrants a serious and thorough investigation.
While IRS guidance lists several examples of tax-exempt purposes, engaging in defamation as a business model is of course not one of them. The SPLC defames other organizations in several ways. Each year, the SPLC publishes a so-called “hate map,” which ostensibly identifies hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam. But under the guise of its “hate map,” the SPLC also lists its mainstream political opponents and faith-based groups, including reputable organizations such as the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Center for Immigration Studies. The SPLC also defames individuals. It labeled the civil-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the British political activist Maajid Nawaz as “anti-Muslim extremists.”6 Last June, the SPLC agreed to pay Nawaz – who is himself Muslim – $3.375 million following a defamation lawsuit.
The SPLC’s defamation has not just damaged the reputation of these mainstream organizations and individuals by lumping them in with the Ku Klux Klan and Nation of Islam; it has resulted in injury and the threat of the loss of life, including an attempted mass murder. In 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins entered and shot up the Family Research Council’s headquarters, while carrying fifteen Chick-fil-A sandwiches that he planned to smear in his victims’ faces. Corkins told investigators that he selected the Family Research Council because the SPLC labeled the organization as a “hate group.”
These shady financial practices have earned the SPLC a well-deserved “P’ rating from Charity Watch, an independent organization that examines the financial abuses of nonprofit organizations.
To put this in context, the IRS, under Lois Lerner, refused to grant tax-exempt status to organizations that had “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names. At the same time, this monstrous slime bucket of slander-mongering had paying relationships with the FBI and with the Department of Homeland Security and was amassing vast wealth that seems to have been destined for executive salaries.
One hopes that Tom Cotton can get someone’s attention at the IRS and that that someone will have the guts to shut this corruption factory down. Then, maybe, they’ll start to work on the scam empire run by David Brock.
ICYMI: Sen. Cotton letter to IRS requesting an investigation into the tax-exempt status of #SPLC. "SPLC’s defining characteristic is to fundraise off of defamation…which has paid well. SPLC has accrued more than $500M in assets & holds $121M offshore in non-US equity funds." pic.twitter.com/bhyDpnTo8Y
— Nick Short (@PoliticalShort) April 3, 2019
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