I have written so many times about the fundraising charade conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in which “hate group” numbers are inflated and fear mongering is used to pump up SPLC’s massive endowment used to pay enormous salaries.
As with the proverbial broken clock, SPLC occasionally is right about a particular hate group and occasionally does good work, but mostly it has politicized itself as part of a strategy to demonize the Tea Party and those who disagree with SPLC on social issues in order to keep itself relevant to donors. SPLC even listed Rand Paul as a extremist to watch.
Charlotte Allen, writing in The Weekly Standard (via Five Feet of Fury h/t Joethefatman), has a must read history of the SPLC fundraising machine and the cynical attitude of the founders and executives, King of Fearmongers. The article recounts the long history of progressives complaining about SPLC’s manipulative fund raising, and the pathetic record of the SPLC in funding programs.
Really, read the whole thing and bookmark it, here is just a taste:
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.
SPLC treats its deep-pocket donors quite cynically:
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…
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.”
It’s not just the fundraising, Allen notes. It’s the padding of hate groups, a point I have made repeatedly as to SPLC’s listing of Klan and Neo-Nazi groups in Rhode Island which do not appear to exist.
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.
As I have mentioned before, I was once a consistent donor to SPLC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. That is why the SPLC’s politicized fear-mongering has me so upset and so determined to expose SPLC for what it now is.
I was once one of those (not so old) northern liberals who was milked.
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.