The Deceptive Methods of the Southern Poverty Law Center

By Dave Gibson
Volume 28, Number 3 (Spring 2018)
Issue theme: "The SPLC File - An Exclusive Report on the Southern Poverty Law Center"

The stated goals of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), founded in 1971 by attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph Levin, Jr., include fighting racial discrimination, poverty, and the continued use of the death penalty. However, in the early 1990s, the group began a campaign against what they deemed to be “right-wing extremists,” which, today seems to be anyone who votes Republican or espouses conservative beliefs.

An example of just how irresponsibly absurd the SPLC has become is from 2015, when they placed then-potential presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson (who happens to be black) on their “Extremist Watch List.”1

The SPLC did this in reaction to Dr. Carson’s views against same-sex marriage, and they cited the following line from his book, America the Beautiful:

If we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman, we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.

Incredibly, he was also criticized for speaking out against pedophiles, when he condemned NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), by this so-called “civil rights organization.”

Dr. Carson was eventually removed from the list, and the SPLC even issued a rare apology to the retired neurosurgeon, and current U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The SPLC seems to be perennially stuck in the 1960s, as demonstrated by their obsession with the ever-dwindling ranks of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). According to the large section of the SPLC’s website devoted to the KKK, there are more than 70 Klan groups nationwide, with a membership of between 5,000 and 8,000 (through 2017).2

However, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claims that the number is far lower. An ADL report which tracked KKK activities between January 2016 and June 2017, identified only 40 groups spread across the country, with a much smaller number of members.3

A U.S. News and World Report article published in August 2017, reported:

Nationwide, there are still an estimated 3,000 Klan members and unaffiliated people who “identify with Klan ideology,” according to the ADL. Membership, though, remains spread across dozens of groups. The largest Klans reportedly don’t have more than 50 to 100 active members, and most have fewer than 25.

Keeping with historical trends, the ADL noted the groups and activity are largely concentrated in the southern and eastern parts of the nation. Mississippi was found to house the most with five groups, followed by Alabama with four.4

Of course, the SPLC takes a decidedly different view of non-white, race-based groups, even when their activities result in the deaths of innocent civilians and police officers.

Such was the case following the July 2016 murders of five Dallas police officers, during a massive Black Lives Matter demonstration.

On July 19, 2016, SPLC president Richard Cohen posted an article on the group’s website, entitled “Black Lives Matter Is Not A Hate Group.” In this decidedly biased and contradictory piece Cohen notes:

In recent weeks, we’ve received a number of requests to name Black Lives Matter a hate group, particularly in the wake of the murders of eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Numerous conservative commentators have joined the chorus. There is even a petition calling for the hate group label.

In our view, these critics fundamentally misunderstand the nature of hate groups and the BLM movement….

There’s no doubt that some protesters who claim the mantle of Black Lives Matter have said offensive things, like the chant “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon” that was heard at one rally. But before we condemn the entire movement for the words of a few, we should ask ourselves whether we would also condemn the entire Republican Party for the racist words of its presumptive nominee—or for the racist rhetoric of many other politicians in the party over the course of years.5

Of course, the SPLC offered no examples of “the racist words” of the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, nor of the alleged “racist rhetoric” of many other politicians in the party over the course of years.

The SPLC Wants To Protect Cops - (But Only From White People)...

The SPLC has a section on their website entitled “Law Enforcement Resources,” in which they warn police officers about the “sometimes fatal” threats posed to them. Here’s an excerpt from that section:

Law enforcement professionals are more likely to encounter dangerous extremists than virtually any other segment of American society — and those confrontations are, tragically, sometimes fatal. In fact, a 2010 University of Maryland study found that 49 of more than 400 people killed by radical-right extremists since 1990, or nearly 15 percent, have been law enforcement officers. With that in mind, the SPLC has undertaken a number of initiatives to equip officers with information and other resources that may help them carry out their duties with a minimum of danger to themselves.

Our free law enforcement trainings teach officers how to recognize hate groups, symbols and activity; the threat potential of specific groups; and how to respond to hate group activity. The Extremist Files contains updated biographical profiles of leading hate groups and extremist leaders, plus background on the various extremist ideologies. And our Hate Map helps officials locate extremist groups within their communities….

White supremacy is a concept that most people thought was buried in the past. If its remnants ever continue to exist in the current times, one would think that most would probably be underground. Its membership probably made up of violent skinheads or older and conservative individuals.6

The following groups made their list of “dangerous extremists: “White Nationalists,” “Lone Wolf Terrorists,” “White Supremacist Prison Gangs,” “Racist Skinheads,” “The “Sovereign Citizens” Movement,” “Antigovernment Extremists.”

In addition to Black Lives Matter, conspicuously absent from this group of “dangerous extremists” are ANTIFA, ISIS, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

On February 12, 2018, Dr. Carol Swain wrote in The American Thinker:

Despite the growing threat of jihadist violence, the SPLC has been reluctant to add Islamic groups with terrorist ties to its list of extremists. It also ignored how, in 2004, the FBI found plans for a “grand jihad” in America within the archives of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America. Yet, the SPLC has applied the hate label to Muslim critics of Islam, such as Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Both are listed in its Field Guide to Muslim Extremists.7

Apparently, the SPLC has forgotten about the rash of ambush killings of this nation’s police officers being committed by black assailants.

SPLC to Police: Hands Off Illegal Aliens!

Most recently, on March 7, 2018, the SPLC issued a warning to local law enforcement agencies who cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in enforcing immigration holds on illegal aliens being held in local jails.

An excerpt from that warning follows:

The SPLC and other immigrant and civil rights groups issued a joint report today describing the legal liabilities that local governments face when they honor requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to hold people who have been arrested past the completion of their criminal custody, so that ICE agents can detain them.…

“Sheriffs should be forewarned, entering into arrangements with ICE to enforce immigration law will not protect them from liability for detaining individuals without probable cause of having committed a crime,” said Shalini Agarwal, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Florida office. “These arrangements create fear, and will have the perverse effect of damaging public safety by scaring away immigrant communities from contacting the police about actual criminal activity.8

In February 2017, Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver, whose husbands were both shot to death in the line of duty by a twice-deported drug dealer in California, sat with First Lady Melania Trump as the president’s guests at his first speech to a joint session of Congress. Their presence served as a stark reminder of the dangers this nation’s police officers face on a daily basis from an untold number of criminal aliens now lurking our streets.

So Much for Poverty...

The SPLC is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, and after an examination of the group’s financial reports, the biggest recipients of this “charity” seem to be the SPLC itself, and its top ranking officials.

The SPLC’s 2016 annual financial report (the most recent available) revealed an endowment fund totaling $319,283,961, of which $69,093,576 is sitting in off-shore accounts.9

Over the last few years, the SPLC has transferred millions in cash to firms based in the Cayman Islands, as well as to entities in the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda...all well known tax havens.10

In August 2017, Amy Sterling Casil, CEO of Pacific Human Capital, a California-based nonprofit consulting firm, told The Washington Free Beacon:

How many U.S.-based nonprofits dealing in human rights or social services have foreign bank accounts? My impression based on prior interactions is that they have a small, modestly paid staff, and were regarded by most in the industry as frugal and reliable. It is stunning to learn of transfers of millions to offshore bank accounts. It is a huge red flag and would have been completely unacceptable to any wealthy, responsible, experienced board member who was committed to a charitable mission who I ever worked with.

It is unethical for any U.S.-based charity to invest large sums of money overseas. I know of no legitimate reason for any U.S.-based nonprofit to put money in overseas, unregulated bank accounts.11

As far as having a “modestly paid staff,” that may all depend on one’s perspective. In 2015, Richard Cohen, president and chief executive officer of the group, was paid a base salary of $346,218, while collecting another $20,000 in other forms of compensation. That same year, Morris Dees, who serves as the SPLC’s chief trial attorney, was paid a salary of $329,560 with $42,000 in additional compensation, according to SPLC filings.12

In fact, during 2015, the SPLC spent a whopping $20 million on salaries.

The SPLC reports having investments in oil, gas, commodities, buyouts, venture capital, distressed companies, and various hedge funds, and answered “yes” to the question, “Did the organization have an ownership interest in a foreign corporation during the tax year?” on their 2015 IRS 990 form...Sounds rather “right-wing” to this observer.

While the self-proclaimed “civil rights” organization claims to have an army of 75 attorneys fighting for such causes as racial discrimination, ending the death penalty, the “rights” of illegal aliens and the LGBTQ community, the SPLC spent a mere $61,000 on legal services in 2015, according to their own financial report.13

In conclusion, the Southern Poverty Law Center hides behind their tax-exempt status to wield their leftist political influence, and regardless of the noble ideals the group may or may not have started out with, the organization seems to have turned into nothing more than a cash cow for Morris Dees and the rest of the SPLC’s leadership.

Perhaps, it is time for an audit!















About the author

Dave Gibson, a former legislative aide to a Virginia state senator, has been working as a freelance writer for many years. His work has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Times.