Why leftists criticize the profiteering Southern Poverty Law Center

I’ve had doubts about the Southern Poverty Law Center since I learned about their profiteering ways in the ’90s. In 2010, I learned how very white its ten highest-paid executives were.

Ken Silverstein had this about the SPLC:

Southern Poverty: richer than Tonga

Back in 2000, I wrote a story in Harper’s about the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Alabama, whose stated mission is to combat disgusting yet mostly impotent groups like the Nazis and the KKK. What it does best, though, is to raise obscene amounts of money by hyping fears about the power of those groups; hence the SPLC has become the nation’s richest “civil rights” organization. The Center earns more from its vast investment portfolio than it spends on its core mission, which has led Millard Farmer, a death-penalty lawyer in Georgia, to once describe Morris Dees, the SPLC’s head, as “the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement” (adding, “I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye”).

When in 1978 the Center’s treasury held less than $10 million, Dees said the group would stop fund-raising and live off interest when it hit $55 million. As he zeroed in on that target a decade later, Dees upped the ante to $100 million, which the group’s newsletter promised would allow it “to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising.” At the time of my story seven years ago, the SPLC’s treasury bulged with $120 million, and the organization was spending twice as much on fund-raising as it did on legal services for victims of civil-rights abuses–yet its money-gathering machinery was still running without cease.

It’s still going. Last week, a reader sent me the SPLC’s 2005 financial filing with the IRS, which is required by law for charities. In five years, the SPLC’s treasury had grown by a further $48 million, bringing its total assets to $168 million. That’s more than the annual GDP of the Marshall Islands, and has the SPLC rapidly closing in on Tonga’s GDP.

Revenues listed for the 2005 filing came to about $44 million, which dwarfed total spending ($29 million). Of that latter amount, nearly $5 million was spent to raise even more money, and over $8 million was spent on salaries, benefits, and other compensation. The next time you get a fund-raising pitch from the SPLC, give generously — but give to a group that will make better use of your money. Like Global Witness.

Since the Bakkers are being forgotten, I’ll note for young readers that Jim and Tammy Faye were infamous televangelists.

Sadly, some articles on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s profiteering are behind paywalls:

The Conscience Industry — Alexander Cockburn — The Nation

The church of Morris Dees — Ken Silverstein — Harper’s Magazine

But if you wonder how very profitable SPLC is, here are pics of Morris Dees’ mansion: Southern ‘Poverty’ Law Center’s Cayman Islands bank account.

King of the Hate Business by Alexander Cockburn concludes,

…How about attacking the roots of southern poverty, and the system that sustains that poverty as expressed in the endless prisons and Death Rows across the south, disproportionately crammed with blacks and Hispanics?

You fight theatrically, the Dees way, or you fight substantively, 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, (http://www.schr.org/)

SPLC estimates of threats always run high, perhaps because they see threats wherever they look, perhaps to encourage donations. For example, the SPLC estimates “that there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members, split among dozens of different — and often warring — organizations that use the Klan name.” But the more realistic Anti-Defamation League estimates “…there are still approximately 3,000 Klan members and unaffiliated individuals who identify with Klan ideology — but turnover and lack of stability have diminished most groups’ numbers. Even the largest Klans don’t appear to have many more than 50 to 100 active members, and most Klans have fewer than 25 members.”

More:

SPLC: $238M assets, Bermuda acct, co-owns foreign $$ firms

If you’re looking for alternatives to the SPLC, consider the Anti-Defamation League. But the ADL is also imperfect, as that link shows, and there’s this; ADL Tells Cops To Infiltrate Antifa — And Film Protests — The Forward.

Do not confuse the ADL with the Jewish Defense League: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, the JDL consists only of “thugs and hooligans”. The group’s founder, Meir Kahane, “preached a radical form of Jewish nationalism which reflected racism, violence and political extremism,” attitudes that were replicated by Irv Rubin, the successor to Kahane.”

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Comrade Morlock

Comrade Morlock

If you’re losing an argument with me and are too proud to admit defeat, please feel free to insult me instead.

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