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Me for the DC Examiner: The real Southern Poverty Law Center scandal isn’t about #MeToo–it’s about 48 years of separating gullible rich liberals from their money

April 1, 2019

My latest for the Washington Examiner:

…By the 1980s, however, [Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris] Dees was redirecting the center’s litigation away from those classic civil-rights issues and related liberal causes such as the death penalty, and instead focused on the Ku Klux Klan. He pioneered a legal strategy known as “damage litigation” that entailed suing the Klan and other white-supremacist organizations for violence by their members, putting those organizations out of business with devastating court-assessed damages.

By the 1980s the Klan was moribund, down to about 5,000 members, most of them politically and economically marginal, but few northern liberals on the SPLC’s mailing lists seemed aware of that. One of the SPLC’s most striking legal victories was a 1987 award of $7 million to the mother of a young black man who had been murdered by two Klansmen. She saw very little of the money, for the sole asset of the Klansmen was a rundown warehouse in Tuscaloosa that netted just $51,875 in a forced sale. No matter, Dees mailings publicizing that lawsuit generated $9 million in donations for the SPLC, according to a 1995 Pulitzer-nominated series about the center in the Montgomery Advertiser. Meanwhile, in 1981 the SPLC had formed an educational and publications unit called Klanwatch, that would mark the beginning of its “hate groups” focus. It was highly effective at generating donations. Its fundraising letters warned of “neo-Nazi terrorism unparalleled in this decade,” and were sometimes signed by [1972 Democratic presidential candidate George] McGovern, Ethel Kennedy, novelist Toni Morrison, and other celebrities.

The shift raised some progressive eyebrows. In 1986 the SPLC’s entire staff of lawyers quit, distressed by Dees’ obsessive focus on the Klan at the expense of what they said were more pressing civil-rights issues. It was at this juncture that [just-resigned SPLC president Richard] Cohen and [just-resigned SPLC litigation chief Rhonda] Brownstein joined the center. The 1995 Advertiser series claimed the center spent only 31 percent of its revenues on program services such as litigation and public education. Its net assets had grown to $52 million by then. By 2000 it more than doubled, to $120 million, and Ken Silverstein, writing in Harper’s magazine, pointed out that there was almost no connection between the “hate groups” the SPLC relentlessly publicized and actual hate crimes, nearly all of which were committed by lone wolves. (The 1995 Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was never credibly connected to any militia group, for example). Writing in 2009 for the leftist magazine CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn accused the SPLC of using the election of President Obama to raise the specter of “millions of [anti-Obama] extremists primed to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampf tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.” By 2011, the SPLC’s assets had more than doubled again, to $256 million. The center’s most recent audited financial statement, for the fiscal year ending Oct. 18, 2008, shows total net assets of $471 million.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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2 Comments
  1. P-FLAG Supporter permalink

    Care to explain why the Family Research Council has to resort to distorting the work of scientific researchers such as Dr. A. Nicholas Groth, a pioneer in the field of sexual abuse against children, which Dr. Groth wrote a letter to the FRC demanding them to remove his name from a FRC article about homosexual child molestation because he complained the FRC was distorting his work?!:

    https://shadowproof.com/2013/12/10/family-research-council-distorts-researchers-work-a-decade-after-he-demanded-a-retraction/

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