In our post about last night's MPAC teleconference call , we drew attention to the significant fund raising by both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Soros-backed Center for American Progress (CAP). According to Guidestar that tracks non-profit IRS Form 990s, SPLC and CAP in 2011 raised over $81.1 million combined, vastly surpassing the alleged $40 million that several foundations provided several counter-jihad groups criticized in last night's conference call by MPAC, SPLC and CAP. SPLC has invested assets in its endowment of more than $224 million.
Following the post, we were contacted by Jerry Kammer, a Pultizer Prize winning former journalist now with the Washington, DC-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Kammer sent us a March 2010 CIS expose article on the shenanigans behind donor fund raising by SPLC's controversial founder, Morris Dees. His CIS article is entitled: "Immigration and the SPLC:"How the Southern Poverty Law Center Invented a Smear, Served La Raza, Manipulated the Press, and Duped its Donors."
Lori Lowenthal Marcus, author of the Jewish Press article on the MPAC teleconference excerpted in our post urged us to publish this excerpt from Kammer's , background article:
Duping Donors, Cashing In
The deceptions that the Montgomery Advertiser described have been a consistent part of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s strategy to build its reserve fund. It received $32,395,733 in contributions in 2008, an average of $88,755 per day. At the end of the 2008 fiscal year, during which its investments lost more than $48 million, the fund had $174,200,000.92
While Dees was raised a Southern Baptist, he suggested to some donors that he had a more diverse background. For example, in a 1985 fundraising pitch for funds to protect SPLC staff from threats of Klan violence, Dees made conspicuous use of his middle name — Seligman, which he received in honor of a family friend. A former SPLC attorney told The Progressive magazine that Dees signed letters with his middle name in mailings to zip codes that had many Jewish residents.93 The article was titled “How Morris Dees Got Rich Fighting the Klan.” A former SPLC employee told theMontgomery Advertiser that the donor base was “anchored by wealthy Jewish contributors on the East and West coasts.”94
Attorney Tom Turnipseed, a former Dees associate, told Cox News Service, “Morris loves to raise money. Some of his gimmicks are just so transparent, but they’re good.”995
Turnipseed described a fundraising letter whose return envelope carried “about six different stamps.” The purpose of the ruse was to present the appearance of an organization struggling to keep going. As Turnipseed noted: “It was like they had to cobble them all together to come up with 35 cents.”
Writing in Harper’s magazine in 2000, investigative reporter Ken Silverstein reported that the SPLC was “the wealthiest civil rights group in America.” He also noted that Dees had broken a series of promises to end fundraising and live off its endowment once it had reached a threshold level.96
Wrote Silverstein: “Morris Dees doesn’t need your financial support. The SPLC is already the wealthiest civil rights group in America … . The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the SPLC one of the worst ratings of any group it monitors.”
Silverstein noted that Dees’ salary was tens of thousands of dollars more than the salary paid to directors of organizations like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It amounted to a quarter of the annual budget of Atlanta’s Southern Center for Human Rights, whose annual caseload included dozens of death-penalty cases.
Dees may believe his tactics are harmless embellishments, minor manipulations justified by his altruistic mission to challenge hate and “teach tolerance” through a program that sends educational materials to schools across the country. He might apply the same rationalization to a deception cited by USA Today in 1996 as an example of his exaggeration of the threat of hate groups. The paper reported that “in a recent report on arsons at black churches in the South, his Klanwatch newsletter included five 1990 fires in Kentucky. But Klanwatch omitted a significant fact: the fires were set by a black man.”97
Taking Account of Morris Dees
A few journalists, mostly writing in liberal publications, have described a long history of hustling, hypocrisy, and hucksterism at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of [hate] groups than the millionaire huckster, Morris Dees,” wrote JoAnn Wypijewski of The Nation magazine in 2001.98
Ripping the SPLC as “puffed up crusaders,” Wypijewski wrote: “Hate sells; poor people don’t, which is why readers who go to the SPLC’s website will find only a handful of cases on such non-lucrative causes as fair housing, worker safety, or healthcare, many of those from the 1970s and 1980s. Why the organization continues to keep ‘Poverty’ (or even ‘Law’) in its name can be ascribed only to nostalgia or a cynical understanding of the marketing possibilities in class guilt.”
In 2009, liberal journalist Alexander Cockburn called Dees the “arch-salesman of hate-mongering.” Under a headline that labeled Dees the “King of the Hate Business,” he said Dees thrived by “selling the notion there’s a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, ready to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other … . Ever since 1971, U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with his fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America.”99
Jesuit humanities professor Raymond A. Schroth, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, described Dees’ manipulation this way: “He focuses on a real problem and packages it to suit his purposes. If the problem is nuanced, complicated … he provides a prism, based partly on fear, through which we can view the issue: The Internet is out of control; hate groups are poisoning the World Wide Web. His Southern Poverty Law Center, with your help, will save you.”100
A reviewer left this comment on the Guidestar entry for SPLC: "it's a great group to donate to if you're an intellectually bankrupt leftist hack." To which we would add, dhimmi, too.