The Despicable $outhern Poverty Law Center
1. SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER
2. The Church of Morris Dees
By Ken Silverstein — Harper’s Magazine, November 2000
How the Southern Poverty Law Center profits from intolerance
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 <http://www.servtech.com/~grugyn/kkk-5.htm> . 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.
Also see: Intolerance Identified — Morris Dees &The Southern Poverty Law Center The Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 4, No 50, December 11, 2000
3. The Dees Money Machine
by Alexander Cockburn
"Wild Justice," The New York Press
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 its mostly low-income contributors into unbelting ill-spared dollars year after year to an organization that now has an endowment of more than $100 million, with very little to show for it beyond hysterical bulletins designed to raise money on the proposition that only the SPLC can stop Nazism and the KKK from seizing power.
Gloria Browne, a lawyer who’s worked with Dees’ outfit, once told the Montgomery Advertiser that the Southern Poverty Law Center trades in "black pain and white guilt." He’s the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker of the civil rights movement. In fact, Dees began the 1960’s as an attorney in Montgomery, representing a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer, Claude Henley, who had led an attack on Freedom Riders at the local bus station. Dees has denied he was ever personally supportive of the Klan or Henley, but his former partner, Millard Farmer, has said, "We expressed openly our sympathies and support for what happened at the bus station." For the rest of the
1960s Dees sat on the sidelines and got rich from marketing "Famous Recipe" cookbooks with Farmer; he built a tennis court, pool, high-quality stables and got a Rolls-Royce.
He founded the SPLC in 1971. In the end Dees and Farmer fell out, with Farmer (who later gave away most of his money and started Habitat for Humanity) saying bitterly, "If an issue isn’t bringing in money, he’s off to the woods. He may believe [in civilrights] but he’ll quit doing the work if it doesn’t make money." Farmer says of the
Southern Poverty Law Center that it’s "little more than a 900 number."
Dees has always been alert to the paranoias of the hour. The center’s entire legal staff resigned in the late 1980s, in part because Dees was reluctant to take up legal issues of real importance to poor people. His obsession was the Klanwatch Project, a cash cow for the SPLC. Literature from the SPLC portrayed the Klan as poised to take over American and embark on an orgy of burning and lynching. This was at a
time when the major danger to poor people was going to be welfare reform, a collusive project between the Gingrich Republicans and Clinton liberals, among the latter being many ferventnsupporters of Dees. Dees sits on a mountain of cash, but his courtroom forays are not profuse. In the early 1990s, when the center’s reserves were about half what they are today- $52 million in 1993- the center (between 1989 and 1994) filed
only a dozen suits.
Recently Jim Reddin and Cletus Nelson sent CounterPunch, the newsletter I coedit with Jeffrey St. Clair, and interesting account of Dees’ latest twist in moneygrubbing. In its most recent Intelligence Report newsletter, the SPLC -in a "Special Report"- puts forth the preposterous theory that far from being a glorious renaissance of the radical spirit in American political life, the protest against the World Trade Organization, most in evidence in Seattle and in Washington, DC, at the start of last week, have been the nexus for a far-flung crypto-facist conspiracy comprised of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other shock troops of the far right. The SPLC’s anonymous writer confidently states that the anarchists, socialists,
environmentalists and other left-wing dissidents who gathered in Seattle at the start of last December were secretly infiltrated by European-style "Third Position" fascists who mix racism with environmentalism. "Right alongside the progressive groups that
demonstrated in Seattle- mostly peaceful defenders of labor, the environment, animal rights and similar causes- were the hard-edged soldiers of neofascism," the newsletter excitedly warns.
No documentation is offered to substantiate this allegation. The newsletter doesn’t name a single right-winger who has infiltrated Direct Action, Food Not Bombs, Greenpeace or any of the other groups that organized the Seattle protests. Dees’ pretense is that he stands for civil rights, but of course the newsletter entirely ignores the civil rights abuses committed by the Seattle police against the protesters, even though the ACLU has filed a civil rights suit over the "no protest" zone" declared by city officials.
The attack on the anti-globalization movement marks a significant shift in the SPLC’s policies, suggesting to us that Dees sees material opportunity in attacking a popular radical cause. As part of its scourched-earth policy, the organization has declared
war against grassroots environmental activists. "They pine for nations of peasant-like folk tied closely to the land and to their neighbors," the newsletter observes disdainfully.
Some who’ve followed the FBI’s recent disastrous predictions about Y2K terror attacks from right-wing militias suspect that both the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League (which helped fuel the FBI"s Y2K predictions) are hauling water for the bureau, essentially acting as subcontractors performing tasks of defamation that in the old COINTELPRO days would have been performed by the bureau itself. The
worrying fact for fundraisers like Dees is that there is a distinct shortage of terrifying
specters with which to coax the money out of the pockets of the suckers. How long can you raise the alarm about a fascist takeover, when the legions of the ultra-right are a few beleaguered platoons camped around Hayden Lake, ID?
The Nation, Mother Jones, and kindred liberal publications have the same problem. If the fascist/Gingrichian bogey isn’t out there in the darkness, prowling round the campfire, maybe people will start concluding that real enemy is all too unidentifiably
roosting in Washington in the two-party system. So the new strategy of the Dees
crowd, the SPLC and ADL, is to point tremulously to such signs of realignment as the Antiwar.com conference, "Beyond Left and Right," about which I reported a couple of weeks ago, and raise the alarm, saying -as the Dees Intelligence Report does- that the left is being duped and captured by the far right and that realignment is a neo-fascist strategy. And of course they’re strains in theanti-globalist, anti-free trade movement that can buttress such a charge. It’s not hard to go to a gun show and scoop up a pamphlet attacking the New World Order along with the UN, the big banks, and the WTO.
American, populist culture has crank patches, as do all political cultures. In American environmentalism there’s a Malthusian element that goes back to the racist speculations of Harvard professors a century ago. One task for us left greens has always been to identify this element and attack it. Going "beyond left and right" doesn’t mean abandoning basic positions on racism, Malthusianism and the like, it
means trying to forge alliances on issues such as U.S. Interventions and wars, or on the Bill of Rights – and keeping one’spowder dry. The attack from Dees on the anti-WTO forces won’t be the last.
4. Publication=Fairfax_Journal; Date=16.12.2003; Section=OPINION_PAGE; Page=6; Book=A; Lump of coal
THE HOLIDAY SEASON usually inspires an avalance of charitable appeals as good-hearted people seek to help those in need. Unfortunately, most people also are very busy this time of year and don’t bother to check every charity’s financial statement to make sure that their donations will be put to good use.
Alas, 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 (www.splcenter.org), listed as No. 0454 in the Combined Federal Campaign, the federal government’s annual workplace fund-raising drive.
However, this alert federal employee did what most other generous people don’t bother to do.
Upon investigating further, he found that this particular "charitable" group seems to be dedicated more to keeping the people who run it out of poverty than helping to alleviate it elsewhere.
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."
The Montgomery, Ala.-based SPLC, which says it "engages in a wide range of civil rights litigation and employs innovative legal strategies to cripple hate groups," spent 89 percent of its total income on fund-raising and administrative costs, according to the audit, which expires next March.
So if someone sends the group a $100 donation, only $11 goes to advance civil rights. Not much bang for the buck there.
Granted, administrative costs tend to run high when executive salaries are in the six-figure range. For example, SPLC CEO Joseph Levin makes $231,036 per year, and Morris Dees, SPLC’s chief trial lawyer, pulls down a cool $280,699.
CFC contributors also were not informed that Dees was mentioned on Page 225 of former Clinton White House aide Sidney Blumenthal’s 1981 book "The Permanent Campaign" as "the most successful political direct mail operator in the country."
According to Blumenthal, Dees, who now claims to be a big champion of civil rights, was the one who recommended Republican fund-raiser Richard Viguerie to segregationist George Wallace.
Viguerie (who would later unsuccessfully run for governor of Virginia) went on to raise $6.9 million for Wallace’s 1976 presidential campaign.
Our advice? If you don’t particularly want your charitable donations to go towards somebody’s mortgage or country club dues, 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.
Give to local charities that have – without fanfare – been feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating your neighbors on a shoestring budget, and have earned your support.
Copyright – The Journal Newspapers
5. "’Til the Cash Comes Flowing Like a River…"
Full Name: Morris Seligman Dees, Jr.
Born: 16 December, 1936 in Shorter, Macon County, Alabama
– Graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955
– Received B.A. &J.D. Law degree  from University of Alabama
In an article titled Poverty Palace , Morris Dees told journalist John Edgerton that "I had a traditional white Southerner’s feeling for segregation." [The Progressive, July 1988 – Edgerton, John. Poverty Palace, How the SPLC Got Rich Fighting the Klan]
Dees made a fortune selling cookbooks by mail in partnership with Millard Fuller [who later founded Habitat for Humanity.] [Fuller, Millard. Bokotola. New Century Press: 1977]
Fuller has this to say about his 8 year association with Dees:
Dees and Fuller formed the law firm of Dees &Fuller in Montgomery, Alabama in 1960.
"Morris Dees and I, 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."
"But everything has a price. And I paid for our success in several ways. One price I paid was estrangement from the church."
Dees served in 1958 as state campaign manager for segregationist attorney general candidate McDonald Gallion and also worked for George C. Wallace. Fuller stated: "We wanted to be sure of having friends in high places."
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]
Dees founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971 with Joseph Levin [who left the SPLC in 1976] and Julian Bond [resigned late 1970’s.] [Articles of Incorporation. Southern Poverty Law Center, Inc.]
Acted as Chief fundraiser for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign in return for the campaign’s mailing list. Raised $20 million for McGovern. [Burlington Times, July 30, 1975. 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. Little, a black convict, was accused of killing a prison guard with an ice-pick . The felony charge against Dees was subsequently dropped, but the presiding judge, Hamilton Hobgood, refused to re-admit Dees to the case. The refusal was upheld on appeal after the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear Dees appeal. [Ibid.]
"The great untold story of the JoAnn Little trial was the role of the Communist Party, through its National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, in controlling the entire political movement surrounding the case. Angela Davis, a leading figure in both organizations became the most frequently quoted movement figure and constant companion of JoAnn Little… Party members were visible and influential on the defense committee, and the party frequently set up rallies of support around the country." [Columbia Journalism Review. Pirsky, Mark. March/April, 1976.]
Fund-raised for Jimmy Carter in 1976 hoping to be named Attorney-General, but was unenthused by the campaign for its middle of the road appeal " You’ve got to have a candidate who is way out on the extremes!" [The Progressive, July 1988.]
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. [Alabama Court of Civil Appeals CIV 2114, 1979]
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 xxxx 1993 Charity Watchdog Report]
"By frequently mailing out such persuasive appeals, Dees and his associates have drawn financial support from about half a million Americans [by 1988.] The number of contributors and the amount they have given are probably greater than any left-of-center group has recorded in a comparable period in the history of American philanthropy." [The Progressive>, July 1988.]
"The SPLC is already the wealthiest civil rights group in America…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 Church of Morris Dees – Harper’s, November 2000]
"What is the Southern Poverty Law Center doing…? Mostly making money…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…On the subject of ‘hate groups’ …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.â€Â…With…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 [SPLC headquarters]. 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." [JoAnn Wypijewski in The Nation, February 26, 2001, as quoted in FrontPage Magazine.]
Randall Williams who formed Klanwatch in 1981 as part of the SPLC’s said in 1988: "We were sharing information with the FBI, the police, undercover agents. Instead of defending clients and victims we were more of a super snoop outfit, an arm of law enforcement. Randall and four staff attorney’s resigned from the Center in 1986. [The Progressive>, July 1988.]
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 including:
Since August 1, 1984, the Law Center has taken in about $62 million in contributions and yet only spent about $21 million on actual programs, according to federal tax records.
In a series of fund-raising letters the Law Center implied it forced the United Klan’s of American to pay $7 million to the mother of lynching victim Michael Donald in 1987. Beulah Mae Donald actually received only $51,874.70 from the Klansmen. The Law Center collected millions as the result of fund-raising letters about the case.
The Montgomery Advertiser conducted a "random sampling of donors – people who receive a steady stream of fund-raising letters and newsletters – showed they had no idea the Law Center was so wealthy."
"They’re drowning in their own affluence," Pamela Summers, a former SPLC legal fellow told The Montgomery Advertiser . "What they are doing in the legal department is not done for the best interest of everybody [but] is done as though the sole, overriding goal is to make money.""I think people associate the SPLC with going to court. And that’s why they get the money. And they don’t go to court." There have only been a handful of court cases over the years, many of which remain unresolved.
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." [The Montgomery Advertiser. Feb. 13-14, 1994.]
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. [Harpers Magazine. Silverstein, Ken. The Church of Morris Dees. November 2000.]
The Birmingham News has also investigated Dees and the SPLC in 1994 and found the following:
Christine Lee, a Harvard Law School alumnus who interned at the Center in 1989, "I would definitely say that there was not a single black employee with whom I spoke who was happy to be working there." "As I was told [at the SPLC,] they don’t need Black people telling them how to handle Black issues," Lee said.
Dees responded by saying, "We don’t have black slots and white slots. Probably the most discriminated people in American today are white men when it comes to jobs because there are more of those who had more education opportunities and who the test scores show are scoring better and on paper look more qualified. That’s why you have so many reverse discrimination cases around." [Birmingham News. Feb. 17, 1994.]
USA Today reported in 1996 that Dees’ Southern Poverty Law Center was the "nations richest civil rights organization" with $68 million in assets. [USA Today. Aug. 3, 1996] Today it is closer to its stated goal of a $100 million endowment.
In the same article Stephen Bright, one of Dees numerous former associates told a reporter that Dees is "a fraud who has milked a lot of very wonderful, well intentioned people." [Ibid.]
At a news conference in Washington in April 1996, Dees announced that "Those [black] churches that have been burned in the South were certainly burned by racists." After subsequent investigation revealed there was no rash of black church burnings, many newspapers, including The Charlotte Observer, concluded that Dees "misinformed" the press. [Charlotte Observer. October 10, 1996.]
Dees has actively campaigned for for laws in which "associations of two or more persons" who train in the use of firearms for defensive purposes are declared "illegal militias." [Selected Speeches and Writings of Morris Dees.]
Dees is well known for putting ‘Hate on Trial’ in the 1990 Portland. Oregon civil trial of extremist Tom Metzger. One of the witnesses in that trial, Greg Withrow, now accuses Dees of suborning perjury by paying witnesses [and then hush money for another 5 years] for their testimony. [San Diego Times Union. August 25, 2002.]
Dees &the SPLC defames the entire Southern Heritage Community by labeling them ‘Neo-Confederates.’ [SPLC Intelligence Update. Summer 2000]
Dees assaulted an elderly journalist at a symposium sponsored by the University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida on January 12, 2002. The journalist had asked Dees a ‘bad question.’ Dees then had the journalist physically hauled out of the building by two policemen. [The First Freedom. February, 2002.]
"……check their IRS forms at guidestar.org and you will find that they are apparently a group which grows rich from the suffering of the genuinely oppressed while it has over $100 Million in existing investments, a $23 Million dollar facility, and raises $36 Million a year…..
One of the most interesting things I find is that……Morris Dees collect[s] a salary (2001 IRS Form 990) of $258,048 and $25,357 ($283,405) in his "Employee Benefit Plans and Deferred Compensation……"
……[you would think that since they are supposedly] fighting hate and injustice on behalf of the poor while able to raise $36 Million a year and maintain $100 Million in liquid assets [then they] would represent those victimized pro bono (for free) in every case. Yet the SPLC claims that it spent $3.3 Million on those legal actions, but also documents that they charge fees for their legal services and, when they win, they take a standard lawyer’s cut of the award (probably 40%).
Maybe this is why Beulah Mae Donald, the mother of 1987 lynching victim Michael Donald actually received only $52,000 from the Klansmen who were held responsible in civil court for inciting the lynching and murder of her son. We can only suspect where the remainder of the $7 Million award that drove the Klan into bankruptcy might have gone.
According to the 2001 IRS Form 990 the SPLC spent $2.2 Million on postage alone."
7. Reprinted, Courtesy of The Southern Mercury magazine, Premiere issue, 2003
THE ISSUE AND SOME QUESTIONS
In the late 1990s what is perhaps the most powerful and professional "anti-hate" civil rights pressure group in the United States–the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)–began targeting and attacking the Sons of Confederate Veterans, its leaders, and initiatives. In "exposes" published in the SPLC’s quarterly journal Intelligence Report, in training courses offered to hundreds of law enforcement agents across the nation, and in its self-erected position as a "source" for "background" on "hate groups" to national media outlets such as CNN, ABC, and CBS News, this powerful group began lumping the SCV together not only with other respectable heritage organizations (such as the League of the South), but with "the Klan" and skinheads. The SCV was, said the SPLC, increasingly dominated by "neo-Confederates." The SCV’s campaign, for instance, to retain the CSA battle flag atop the South Carolina capital building, the SPLC termed "sometimes ugly" and various SCV leaders were called "racists" or "white supremacists." (1)
Why has the Southern Poverty Law Center unleashed these attacks? Just what is this powerful "civil rights" group, and who is its controversial leader Morris Seligman Dees? Why is the SPLC so highly regarded by law enforcement? Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and open-minded citizens need to understand and answer these questions. And educators and the news media should closely examine their reliance on the SPLC for "facts" or "background" when reporting stories relating to Southern and Confederate heritage.
First, a little history is in order.
THE ROLE OF THE SCV
In 1906 Confederate veteran General Stephen D. Lee addressed the national convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in New Orleans, placing before them what would be known henceforth as the "charge," summarizing the purposes and goals of the Sons (then a relatively new organization only ten years old). Those brief words of General S. D. Lee bear repeating:
To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the
cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the
Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation
of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which
you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also
For the first seventy-five years of its existence the SCV was mostly concerned with memory, with keeping alive the memory of the exploits and accomplishments of our ancestors; with commemorating their service and sacrifice; with retelling their momentous odyssey in books and articles and speeches; and in inspiring new generations of Southerners (and Americans generally) to emulate their virtues. By the 1970s and 1980s many of the symbols and much of the history that Southern folk had taken for granted over the years began to be questioned, disputed, and attacked. Indeed, Southern and Confederate culture, itself, came under a barrage of assaults on many fronts. Many in the so-called "civil rights" movements of the 1960s were not content to simply press for reasonable legal and constitutional changes; rather, some saw the resulting upheaval as an opportunity to demolish and eliminate just about ALL of Confederate culture and heritage–and to make some money in the process. Like the English bands that played "The World Turned Upside Down" at Yorktown in 1781, Southerners witnessed their world turned upside down and the denigration of almost anything and everything "Confederate."
Prior to 1990 the SCV had concentrated most of its efforts on the goal of commemorating Confederate veterans, their history and heritage, and in telling their story. But Stephen D. Lee’s charge demanded that latter-day sons also, when required, defend the PRINCIPLES that their forefathers advanced. What are those principles that General Lee referred to? The late historian/author Professor M. E. Bradford, among others, summed them up: a belief that tradition should be our guide constitutionally and socially, a stout defense of the rights of the states, a strongly religious conception of civil society, a reliance on communities and families as basic to society and the social order, and opposition to egalitarianism politically and socially. All of our ancestors would have subscribed to these tenets, whether "old" Whig or Democrat, "fire-eater" or "conservative."
Increasingly, throughout the 1990s to the present the SCV has been forced to defend the principles about which General Lee spoke and three hundred thousand Southern boys gave their lives to defend. Composed of lineal descendants of the veterans of 1861-1865, the SCV is the largest Southern heritage organization in the nation, and it occupies a unique position in the increasingly bitter battle for Southern and Confederate heritage and culture. The defense of that heritage has brought the SCV squarely into conflict with those who not only want to eliminate Southern symbols, but who also wish to purge and destroy Southern culture itself, the Southern way of life. Those symbols will cease to have meaning if the culture and heritage they represent, the ideas they stand for, are no longer celebrated, believed, and felt. That is why the SCV has not only stoutheartedly opposed such things as the lowering of historic flags from official buildings and the elimination of "rebel" mascots, but has also assisted Southern citizens and students whose rights, culture, and heritage have been attacked and imperiled.
ENTER THE SPLC: Who is Morris Dees?
Morris Seligman Dees was born in Alabama and received a law degree from the University of Alabama. One of his earliest associates was Millard Fuller, who would later found Habitat for Humanity. In 1960 Fuller and Dees formed the law partnership of Dees and Fuller in Montgomery. Their object, as Fuller expresses it in two autobiographical volumes, was "to get rich" and get rich quick. They did this through any number of enterprises: selling cookbooks, toothbrushes, tractor cushions–anything that would make money. (2) In his book Love In the Mortar Joints Fuller states: "Morris Dees and I, 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." But Fuller grew disenchanted with that lifestyle: "But everything has a price," he recounts. "And I paid for our success in several ways. One price I paid was estrangement from the church." (3) In a few years Fuller left the partnership and dedicated his life to a new, more altruistic cause: Habitat for Humanity.
Dees, meanwhile, began raking in the bucks–and seeking to make friends in high places. While segregation was still the law of the land he had supported and worked in a campaign for Governor George Wallace, and his law firm was involved in defending a man charged with beating one of the Freedom Riders during the 1961 Montgomery "freedom" bus rides. The legal fee, states Fuller, "was paid by the Klan and the White Citizen’s Council."(4)
But times were changing, and Morris Dees could read the signs. By 1971 Dees had been "reborn" as "defender" of civil rights; in that year he, Julian Bond, and Joseph Levin founded the Southern Poverty Law Center to serve as a "civil rights law firm" and promote social justice. (Bond would resign from the SPLC when it became apparent that his presence was deterring contributions by liberal Jewish donors) (5) In 1972 Dees served as a fundraiser for presidential candidate George McGovern and proved extremely adept at direct-mail solicitations; according to journalist John Edgerton in an article, "Poverty Palace: How the SPLC Got Rich Fighting the Klan," published in the liberal magazine The Progressive, Dees raised some $24 million for the McGovern campaign.(6) By 1975 Morris Dees had established himself (and the SPLC) as a leading light among "professional" civil rights advocates.
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS: The Joan Little Case and Beyond
A major opportunity for national prominence came Morris Dees’ way in 1975 with the infamous Joan Little case in Washington, North Carolina. The facts of the case were well reported at the time: Little, a black woman and convicted felon, was apparently approached by her white jailor for sexual favors, whereupon she stabbed and killed him with an ice pick. The case immediately was made a cause celebre by leftwing groups and the Communist Party and by a sympathetic press nationwide. Dees and the SPLC were involved in Little’s defense, along with another high-profile "professional" civil rights attorney, Jerry Paul. Paul boasted that the defense team had "orchestrated the press." As correspondent Mark Pinsky later wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review, "â€¦the great untold (or unreported) story of the Joan Little trial, which I first learned from the members of the defense law firm and defense committee [italics mine], was the role of the Communist Partyâ€¦controlling the entire (and considerable) political movement surrounding the case [â€¦.] Party members were visible and influential on the defense committeeâ€¦."(7) Rallies in support of Little raised large sums of money, despite, states Pinsky, "persistent charges of large-scale [financial] mismanagement and misappropriationâ€¦."(8)
During the trial Dees revealed just how far he was ready to go to succeed. He attempted to bribe a witness—suborn perjury. He was arrested and removed from the court. While the felony charge was later dropped, presiding judge Hamilton Hobgood refused to re-admit Dees to the case, a refusal that was upheld on appeal when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.(9)
The 1975 perjury arrest was not the last time that Dees and the SPLC would be charged with bribing a witness to advance an agenda. In 1990 Dees and the SPLC sued well-known West Coast racialist Tom Metzger with the object of putting Metzger and his various enterprises out of business by destroying him financially. This famous case, "putting hate on trial" as it was called by the media, involved charges that Metzger inspired skinheads to fatally beat an Ethiopian immigrant. Greg Withrow and David Mazella were prosecution witnesses for Dees. Withrow also described in lurid detail how he himself was nailed to a cross on August 8, 1987. Because of his testimony Withrow became something of a celebrity; he appeared on the "Oprah" Winfree program and was sponsored on an "anti-hate" tour by the Anti-Defamation League.(10) But in a report published on August 25, 2001, The San Diego Union-Tribune revealed that Withrow had recanted his testimony and that he was suing Dees, the SPLC, and the ADL for $32 million in damages. Withrow declared that the story of the crucifixion was fabricated, and additionally that Dees paid him $1,500 for perjured testimony in the trial; he added that Dees also paid the other prosecution witness, David Mazella, as well.(11)
Charges of perjury are not the only legal problems that Morris Dees has had. In 1979 Maureene Bass Dees, his ex-wife, sued him, alleging instances when Dees had committed incest with his stepdaughter and future daughter-in-law. At least once he was alleged to have engaged in homosexual conduct.(12)
USING HATE TO GET RICH: Dees the Hustler
In his two autobiographical volumes, Love In the Mortar Joints and Bokotola, Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller offers a fascinating portrait of Morris Dees, a man on the make, a man whose goal was to make money, and lots of it, and to have friends in high places. Although the Southern Poverty Law Center was founded ostensibly as a "civil rights" organization to do such things as defend prisoners who faced the death penalty or sue on behalf of those suffering from discrimination, the Dees organization quickly became the richest and most powerful organization of its kind in the United States. According to investigative journalist Ken Silverstein in a major report published in Harper’s Magazine (November, 2000) the SPLC counted (in 2000) assets of well over $120 million.(13) Most of this is raised through direct mail solicitations, and very little of it is spent on behalf of the "poor, downtrodden, and oppressed." Most of the solicited millions remain in the hands of Dees and the SPLC. In 1998 the American Institute of Philanthropy, which evaluates the stewardship of charitable organizations, gave the SPLC an "F" rating in its administration of its funds.(14) A former associate, Millard Farmer, has stated: "He’s the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement, though I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye."(15)
Let’s examine the methods of Dees and the SPLC.
From its beginning the SPLC created an easy target: the Ku Klux Klan. Never mind that the Klan, by the late 1970s and 1980s, was splintered into dozens of dwindling groups, down to less than 2,000 members nationwide, with almost no power or influence. As Ken Silverstein relates, "the 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 with almost exclusively with mediagenic villainsâ€¦." (16) In his famous lawsuit against the United Klans of America in 1987, Dees won a judgment of $7 million on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son had been killed by individual Klansmen. The Klan’s total assets amounted to one warehouse, the sale of which netted Donald damages of $51,875. But the SPLC in a direct-mail campaign implied that it was forcing the Klan to pay Mrs. Donald the full amount. It used the Donald killing (including a lurid photograph of her dead son) to raise an additional $9 million. Mrs. Donald got nothing.(17)
In February 1994 two investigative reporters for The Montgomery Advertiser, Dan Morse and Greg Jaffe, published a revelatory series of articles on the SPLC, Morris Dees, and their fundraising tactics.(18) According to three former SPLC attorneys interviewed for the series, Dees selected the Klan as a target because he knew that it would bring in tens of millions of dollars from conscience-ridden liberals across the nation. "The fundraising letters would make it seem to people who really didn’t know the South as if the Klan was out of controlâ€¦And so he (Dees) could get Northerners who really didn’t know much about the South to give him money," Deborah Ellis, former SPLC attorney told The Montgomery Advertiser reporters. "The market is still wide open for the product, which is black pain and white guilt," the article quotes Gloria Browne, another former SPLC attorney, as saying.(19)
The Montgomery Advertiser’s reporters found that because of his fundraising practices a number of Dees’ associates left the SPLC in disgust. Former SPLC associate Courtney Mullin declared of Dees, that he is "â€¦not immoral, he’s amoralâ€¦I hesitate to say the words that I want to say because they sound so far out, but I really think the Center–in so far as Morris embodies the Center–is evil. They pretend to be on a side that has moral underpinnings (but) they do damage by their dishonestyâ€¦.I mean the little old lady from North Carolina sends her $5 thinking that she’s going to helpâ€¦then it’s just going to line the coffers of the Southern Poverty Law Center so they can have the most beautiful building in the world and have all this money in the bank. That’s wrong."(20) In 1986 the SPLC’s entire legal staff resigned in protest over Dees’ refusal to address the issues of homelessness, voter registration, and affirmative action which they considered more important to poor minorities-but much less lucrative than appealing to largely white benefactors about the evils of the Klan.(21)
In fact, according to another story published in The Birmingham News, the SPLC had few minority employees on its staff and the ones working there were unhappy.(22) Over its nearly three decades of operation the SPLC had hired only two black attorneys, both of whom had left disillusioned. Of the thirteen former black employees interviewed by The Montgomery Advertiser, twelve complained of racial problems while at the SPLC, problems which ranged from a paternalistic attitude to racial slurs.(23)
The SPLC spends twice as much (1999 figures) on fundraising as it does on legal services for civil rights abuse "victims."(24) In a random survey of regular donors who contributed to the SPLC, The Montgomery Advertiser found that most had no idea the Center was so wealthy. Indeed, the American Institute of Philanthropy estimates that the SPLC could operate normally for almost five years without raising one additional tax-exempt penny from well-meaning donors!(25) Despite its affluence the Center files relatively few lawsuits against "hate" groups, and those are generally high profile, money making ones. Yet the SPLC continues to solicit contributions "aggressively and effectively." Reporters Morse and Jaffe report that "three nationwide organizations that monitor charities have criticized the Law Center for misleading donors and spending too little on programs."(26)
The rash of alleged Southern black church burnings in 1996 gave Morris Dees and the SPLC another opportunity to use supposed "hate" for profit. At the time he claimed that the burnings were the work of a conspiracy of Southern "white extremists" [the Klan and others of like mind]. But subsequent investigation by a federal commission found no conspiracy; in fact, most of the burnings had nothing to do with "white extremists" at all. The Charlotte Observer concluded that Dees and the SPLC had "misinformed the media."(27) Reporter Andrea Stone in USA Today admitted that, "â€¦some black civil rights leadersâ€¦say Dees raises millions by exaggerating the threat of hate groups. For instance, in a recent report on arsons at black churches in the South, hisâ€¦newsletter included five 1990 fires in Kentucky. The article doesn’t mention they were set by a black man."(28) No wonder another Dees associate, Stephen Bight of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said of Dees, "[he] is a fraud who has milked a lot of very wonderful well-intentioned people. If it’s got headlines, Morris is there."(29)
CREATING HATE WHERE NONE EXISTS
Over the years Morris Dees and the SPLC have searched diligently for "hate groups" to expose and then use in fundraising schemes. Many of the targeted groups are not "hate groups" at all; some exist only on paper, or only consist of a hand full of members. That hasn’t stopped the SPLC. Soon after the infamous Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, the SPLC mailed out a solicitation linking McVeigh to "militia groups." In the best traditions of "yellow journalism" the SPLC screamed that the "militia movement" counted perhaps 40,000 members, mostly armed, and a majority linked to the Klan.(30) But subsequently Federal investigators found no connection between McVeigh and any militia group. Indeed, researcher Laird Wilcox estimated that members in such groups numbered only around 7,000, and most of them were not focussed on race or violence, but on constitutional issues.(31) An FBI spokesman added that his agency did not regard the militia movement as a danger.(32)
More recently the SPLC claimed that Ohio had become a hotbed for rightwing "hate" groups. It listed forty such groups in the state, while a similar organization, the Center for New Community, declared that seventy-three "hate" groups had set up shop in the Buckeye State. David Martin, an investigative reporter for the Cleveland Scene checked those claims and found them woefully exaggerated and disingenuous. Instead of the "haven for hate" claimed by the SPLC, Martin found that most of the cited groups were marginal, minuscule, and practically non-existent. One of the "groups" listed was a ninety-year-old sight-impaired man who had once published a newsletter.(33) Asked about the prevalence of such groups in the state, Ted Almay, superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, replied: "I don’t think there are 73 people in Ohio, let alone 73 groups" that fit that definition.(34) But don’t ask the SPLC to tell the real story when a money-raising exaggeration will do.
REACHING STUDENTS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
One method the SPLC uses to spread its "anti-hate" message is its highly advertised "Teaching Tolerance" educational kit for schools and parent groups. Featuring a curriculum suitable for all levels in the classroom, "Teaching Tolerance" is touted as a $325 value "absolutely free to any school on request"–but for the taker, only "at cost"–that is, $30 a kit.(35) Instructional materials for teachers train them on how to completely remold–perhaps the word should be "brainwash"–their students by combating "hate" speech, various stereotypes, religious "bias," and so on. One element, titled appropriately, "I Spy Sexism," encourages students to become "conditioned" to recognize "sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia" among their fellow classmates and denounce it and "do something." Another element encourages "creating a safe environment for gay and lesbian students." Traditional norms of behavior and traditional religion are attacked as intolerant and prejudiced. There is even a component titled "Writing for Change," that is aimed at fighting prejudice and discrimination by "deconstructing" the English language and the manner in which we write sentences–so as to avoid "hierarchy" and "avoid assumptions based on factors like age and race." Students are exhorted to explore "the impact of homophobia and heterosexism" in writing, while encouraged to become aware of "perceptions of diversity."(36) "Teaching Tolerance" is a supreme example of the SPLC raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from well-intentioned educators and parents while spreading cultural Marxism to thousands of America’s schoolrooms.
For years the SPLC has offered propaganda and programs to train law enforcement to recognize and deal with "hate groups." Recently, the SPLC, in collaboration with Auburn University-Montgomery and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) launched an online "hate-crime" training course. The course, "Introduction to Hate and Bias Crimes," offers law enforcement officials college credit and continuing education credits, as well as official FLETC recognition. For a mere $118 (with the SPLC providing scholarships of up to 50% of the cost) qualified law enforcement personnel can enroll in the online semester course.(37) No doubt the officers will be "sensitized" appropriately through the ministrations of Dees and company.
NO ENEMIES ON THE LEFT
The SPLC is a self-proclaimed defender of civil rights and "watchdog" against "hate" and "extremism," but what strikes many observers as curious is that just about all of the group’s enemies are on the political right-wing. And, indeed, as the list of tried-and-true familiar targets–the Klan (now practically moribund), Aryan Nations (similarly almost non-existent), and various skinhead groups–becomes less and less credible, the SPLC has widened its reach and attempted to tie in conservative groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens and the League of the South: these groups and others like them have become the "new" Klans, grist for the SPLC’s direct-mail solicitations! Legitimate and mainstream questions such as immigration policy, English as our national language, gay rights, abortion, and "multiculturalism" now figure in SPLC Intelligence Reports as criteria for determining if someone or some group is "extreme" or "racist" or not.(38)
Ominously, the SPLC has also begun to aim its judicial venom at orthodox Christians. In a letter dated July 16, 2002, Dees outlined to a representative of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State a legal strategy to attack and defame Judge Roy Moore, the famous Alabama judge who placed a Ten Commandments monument in the halls of the Alabama State Supreme Court. In his comments Dees details a plan to portray Judge Moors as a "bigot" and a "lone religious nut in partnership with a fanatical church [Dr. D. James Kennedy and the Presbyterian Church in America!]. This is the story that will make this case so dirty that no appeals court will reverse [it]â€¦."(39)
Interestingly enough, although numerous left-wing organizations promote class hatred and racial antagonism, such groups normally don’t appear on the SPLC’s web site as "hate" groups. The SPLC even endorses the work of some extreme left-wing organizations, terming them "human rights" groups. Researcher Laird Wilcox gives examples of two such radical left groups, the Center for Democratic Renewal of Atlanta and the Political Research Associates of Somerville, Massachusetts, both of which have had identifiable and long-time Marxist connections.(40)
"LINKISM" AND VICARIOUS LIABILITY
Even more disturbing perhaps are some of the SPLC’s legal tactics. The Center has long been notorious for suing (and bankrupting) an entire organization for the actions of a lone, individual member or members. Its lawsuits against Aryan Nations, the United Klans of America, and the Tom Metzger organization fall into that category. Such practices–termed legally "vicarious liability"–should cause serious alarm with civil libertarians, as Ken Silverstein recounts in Harper’s. The SPLC is also notorious for spying and preparing dossiers on private citizens who are supposedly "linked" to "hate" groups and then sharing its "files" on these "hate-mongers" with law enforcement agencies and a receptive news media.(41) Favorite SPLC "spokesmen" such as publications editor Mark Potok show up repeatedly in print and on the air to offer "comment" on individuals and groups named on the SPLC’s laundry list of "hate" organizations. In many cases, such comments are taken as gospel and there is little opportunity to rebut the criticism
8. (csason, SWR. BT)
The truth about ‘hate crimes’ and the racial justice racket