SPLC — Mark Potok Interview

July 14, 2014

Recently, we discovered an extensive interview on the Internet Archive with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s public relations chief, Mark Potok, in which he discusses the origins of the SPLC, its mission and its tactics. You can find the audio files to the interview here.

We’d like to highlight some of Mr. Potok’s more interesting comments, but, as always, we remind the reader to not  simply take our word for it. Any time you select excerpts from a larger work you run the risk of cherry-picking, or taking things out of context, and we’re certainly not professional transcriptionists here at Watching the Watchdogs. Listen to the interview and come to your own conclusions.

As to the origins of the interview, it was recorded and posted on the Internet Archive by Bill Holiday, a high school teacher from Vermont. A number of students, and at least one other teacher, are asking Mr. Potok questions about his work. The interview apparently takes place at the SPLC’s Montgomery headquarters, and several references in the conversation seem to date it to the first half of 2008.

In Track One, Mr. Potok explains the origins of the name of the organization:

“In the 70’s… “poverty law” was actually the phrase… it was a phrase used that just applied to… essentially… civil rights law… to kind of human rights legal actions.”

“I know a couple years ago there was a big discussion internally [at the SPLC], ‘Should we change our name to something else?’ People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is. By that time, people knew the name so well that, you know, we made, I think, the obviously right decision not to change the name.”

“People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is.” Interesting. One wonders how many donors are under the impression that a “poverty law center” might actually be in the business of defending poor people, no? Why change the name just because the mission changed? You don’t just toss out a multimillion dollar brand name for the sake of accuracy. More on this to follow.

Track Two includes an astonishingly candid assessment of how some critics view the SPLC:

“I think a lot of people feel, ‘Oh, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, they find, you know, the two hundred Nazis running around the country, they build them up into great big groups, they make a big deal about it and then ask for your money,’ right? In other words, it’s kind of a scam. You hype up this little tiny threat into something scary, uh, and then go and try to make money off of it.”

Well, Mr. Potok, you took the words right out of our mouth. Since 2009, Watching the Watchdogs has been documenting exactly this kind of behavior by the SPLC, and you have summed things up nicely. We have reported numerous times on the fact that there is no legal definition of “hate group,” and that you pretty much make them up as you go along.

Your “Hate Map” fundraising tool includes hundreds of alleged “hate groups,” (again, per your own definition), but you provide no information on these groups that researchers could use to verify their existence. In fact, you couldn’t even bother to make up locations for more than 200 of them. In 2012, you added 20 chapters of something called the “Georgia Militia” to that state’s “hate map,” but you couldn’t locate 18 of them!

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And the “Hate Map” is the keystone to all SPLC fundraising, Mr. Potok. You promote it widely in the Media as being factual and accurate, even after admitting directly to Watching the Watchdogs that your numbers are “anecdotal,” “a very rough measure” and the result of “an imperfect process.”

The donors believe your numbers, Mr. Potok, and that’s why they sent you nearly $37 million donor-dollars last year, and that figure does not include the nearly $36 million dollars in tax-free interest generated by the $281 MILLION in cash in the SPLC’s bloated “Morris Dees Legacy Fund.”

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And so, Mr. Potok, you really do hype up these minor threats, provide absolutely no documentation for your claims and then very successfully make a lot of money from it. I believe the term you used was “scam.” What would you call it?

In Track Five, Mark Potok relates the details of an event where a Klansman named Jeff Berry gives an interview to a news crew, then, thinking better of it, demands the tape of the interview from the crew at shotgun-point. Potok says the police did nothing in response to the reporter’s complaint and then makes an insensitive joke about gang rape.

“About a year later… well, we sued very quickly… well, it was shortly after that, and we easily won a judgment against Berry. You know, this was absolutely false imprisonment, right? I mean, it was a felony crime.”

A felony crime, Mr. Potok? Just for holding someone at shotgun-point? Oddly enough, On page 101 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice,  your boss, SPLC founder Morris Dees, writes with great relish about holding a man at shotgun-point. He even makes a little joke about it at the end.

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Was this not a felony crime too, Mr. Potok? Was this not also false imprisonment? Or are you willing to overlook the crime because the felonious perp signs your $3,000 dollar-a-week paychecks? Just a modicum of consistency would be SOOOO welcome here, Mr. Potok.

In Track Eight, Potok discusses what he labels “Nativist Extremist” groups and their failure to resort to traditional political means to achieve their objectives.

“These are groups that don’t merely say… that don’t target the policy… In other words, they don’t simply say ‘Immigration should be lower… because of whatever reason,’ right? ‘It’s bad for the economy or the environment or, you know, whatever… depresses wages in this country, therefore we’re going to write our congressmen or hold a rally or a parade or whatever.’ In other words, you know, engage in some kind of democratic action, right? Some kind of effort, you know, to have laws changed or whatever it is.”

The irony here, as we’ve pointed out time after time, is that while Mr. Potok denigrates these groups for allegedly not engaging in “some kind of democratic action,” the legend on his “Hate Map” fundraising tool clearly states that:

  “Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”

 While we continue to be amazed that a so-called “civil rights group” would deliberately conflate six of the most fundamental democratic civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities,” here we find Mr. Potok damning people both for participating and allegedly not participating in these activities. No contradictions there, Mr. Potok.

Track Nine covers the SPLC’s criteria for designating its “hate group” brand name:

“Our criteria for a “hate group,” first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological. So we look at a group and we say, ‘Does this group, in its platform statements, or the speeches of its leader or leaders… Does this group say that a whole group of people, by virtue of their group characteristics, is somehow less?’”

“It’s strictly ideological.” No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking.” Even the most rudimentary reading of SPLC fundraising materials and press releases, (redundant, we know..), finds repeated examples of you lumping conservatives and Christians as part of a diabolical “radical right” and anyone who believes that this nation’s existing immigration laws should be enforced and respected is immediately smeared as a “nativist.”

Labeling and name-calling are one of the eight central pillars of the propagandists’ stock and trade, Mr. Potok, and you have mastered them all. 

And the suckers sent him over $100,000 dollars a day last year, every day. No wonder he doesn’t want to change the name of the company. “Civil rights” doesn’t get any better than this.

A slightly longer quote from Track Ten, but it really is telling:

“Let me just say one other thing while I’m thinking about things to say. A lot of our criticism… let me think about how to say this… If there were just… if these groups just operated on the margins of the margins of society and ran around saying, you know, ‘We should kill all the Jews, we should kill all the gay people,’ and that was sort of all there was to it, yes, they would be scary in the sense that, every so often one of them goes off and kills somebody, but, you know, but would it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?

I mean, first of all, it’s not a message that flies very far…’Let’s kill all the Jews. Let’s, you know, build new gas chambers,’ or whatever. But the reality is, and especially since the immigration debate has become sort of the centerpiece of their world, is that their propaganda is getting out way beyond their little fringe world.”

“[W]ould it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?” On this point, Mr. Potok, we can agree. We may find many of the messages produced by some of these groups to be patently offensive and despicable. The problem arises when self-appointed vigilantes like you and the SPLC come along and decide who gets to speak, based on your own extremely nebulous criteria.

Once you start abrogating the civil rights of one group simply because you don’t like what they have to say, it’s only a matter of time before all groups are threatened by this same lynch-mob mentality.

As for the nature of the threats these alleged groups pose, Mr. Potok, please remember that not very long after you gave this interview in your office you made the following statements:

“And I would say as a general matter, it is extremely unusual these days for an organization to plan and carry out a criminal act where mainly for the reason that they are so likely to get caught.

So what we really see out there in terms of violence from the radical right is by and large what we would call lone wolves, people operating on their own or with just one or two partners. As opposed to, you know, being some kind of organizational plan.” (October 30, 2008, NPR.org,  Assessing White Supremacist Groups in the US)

“Still, [Potok] said the public should remain vigilant about the activities of hate groups, even though individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America. (www.courier-journal.com, July 21, 2009)

And speaking of ideology, Mr. Potok, if your goal in life was simply to debate those people with whom you disagree, it would be one thing. But to rake in tens of millions of dollars a year in the process of stifling any discussion whatsoever is dubious, at best.

Potok continues:

“I think our more major concern has been, especially recently, is how this propaganda has been put into the mainstream and is now treated like fact.”

 

 And this, Mr. Potok, is precisely how your “Hate Map” and other fundraising propaganda work. You broadcast these spurious claims to the donors and the media, and everyone takes you at your word. Few, if any, will perform even the most rudimentary fact checks, not that you provide much for them to actually check.

Track Twelve deals with the origins of the SPLC and its mission; at least in the good old days:

“It started with two lawyers, Morris Dees and Joe Levin, and they came from here [Montgomery] and that’s why we’re here, and they are still… here. So, you know, it was a very, very small non-profit law firm and it did some of that… yes… defending people who were accused… black people who were accused of things they hadn’t done, and so on.

But, you know, the cases tended to be… I mean, they were classic civil rights cases. In one of our early cases, had as a tactic, we sued the Alabama Highway Patrol, right, the State Police here because it was a 100% lily-white police force. You can imagine what the thinking on that is, right, I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

“I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

And we agree with you wholeheartedly once again, Mr. Potok. It IS a bad thing when an organization that purports to serve a diverse population is run by all whites, especially in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement. It really does send a message.

That being said, this year, once again, Watching the Watchdogs pointed out that for the 43rd consecutive year, the top leadership of your organization is as “lily-white,” to use your phrase, as it was on the day that Dees and Levin opened for business in 1971.

“So, it was very important to the lawyers here to desegregate the Alabama Highway Patrol, and in fact they won, like, a very important judgment that… they’re… I don’t know if this is still true, but at least a couple of years ago they were the most integrated police force in America. Right here in Alabama… twenty-five percent… which is, you know, something.”

Wouldn’t it be “something” if the SPLC’s Executive Suite was integrated and twenty-five percent of its highly paid top executives were from diverse backgrounds? Mr. Potok, just how thinly do you think we can spread the term “ironic” before it rightly morphs into “hypocritical”?

“I don’t know if that answered your question. We did a lot of different kind of cases that were all over the, kind of, civil rights map. There was a lot of death penalty defense work done here in the early years. We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.”

“We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.” That’s a rather dubious explanation, Mr. Potok. If anything, genuine civil rights groups like the Innocence Project, which actually do work with the poor, and on a fraction of your bloated budget, have demonstrated that the need for this kind of legal work has never been greater.

If you are no longer in the poverty law business, you really need to change the name of your company and just be honest with your donors.

And finally, from Track 13, Mr. Potok cuts to the chase and lays out what his company’s agenda really is:

“We see this political struggle, right? And it’s very different from what Teaching Tolerance does, right? I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them. Not to send them to prison unfairly or not take their free speech rights away… but as a political matter, to destroy them. And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

“We see this as a political struggle, right?” If that’s the case, Mr. Potok, and the SPLC is little more than another PAC, then stop hiding behind the sham that your company is somehow a civil rights organization. It’s doubtful your donations will decline, and they may even increase.

“I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them.”

So, Mr. Potok, you’ve already stated that the SPLC isn’t interested in criminality or potential for violence, it is, as you say, “all about ideology,” and yet you have the gall to claim that you’re not trying to take their free speech rights away?

If it’s all about ideology, Mr. Potok, and these groups aren’t advocating crime or violence, then isn’t what they’re saying, regardless of how offensive many people may find it, protected free speech? And yet, you’re dying to “destroy” them?

These groups aren’t breaking any laws, but you want to silence them because you don’t like what they say. Isn’t that textbook vigilantism, Mr. Potok? Taking the law into your own hands because you don’t like the way the democratic system works?

You said the exact same thing in 2007 at a luncheon in Michigan, in this grainy video. The crowd laughed and cheered. They’re all psychopaths, you said, and you can’t wait to “destroy” them.

 

“And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

Well, Mr. Potok, we cannot agree more about the efficacy of that technique. Watching the Watchdogs will continue to “track” your company, making meticulous notes of your comments, press releases and financial statements and report them to the public at large.

Unlike your office, though, we will continue to cite all of our sources and we will not take a dime for our efforts… as opposed to the nearly $2,000,000 donor-dollars you’ve earned for your efforts since 2001.

And rather than lead our readers to preconceived conclusions, which is, after all, the textbook definition of propaganda and the basis of your position at the SPLC, Mr. Potok, we will continue to urge people to look at the documentation for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

We’ll keep putting the evidence out there in the hope that someday we can make it “stick.”

SPLC 2014 — All White Execs Since 1971

April 28, 2014

Once again the Southern Poverty Law Center has released its annual IRS Form 990 and once again the form shows that the SPLC’s executive suite is as lily-white as when Morris Dees opened for business in 1971.

The SPLC’s 43-year record of no minorities at the top stands unbroken because it stands unchallenged. To date, Watching the Watchdogs seems to have a monopoly on exposing the total lack of diversity at “the nation’s leading civil rights organization.”

It’s a dirty job, as they say…

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Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $349,843
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $354,727
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $189,769
Mary Bauer — Outgoing Legal Director — $190,509
Teenie Hutchinson — Secretary — $168,487
Wendy Via — Development Director — $183,118 (+$16,358)
Mark Potok — Senior Fellow — $163,315

David Utter — Director — Miami – 
$162,642

Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s Former COO for the second year in a row! His paltry $148,385 is down nearly $86,000 donor-dollars from last year’s $234,309.

At this rate he’ll have to give up not working at the SPLC altogether.

Wendy Via scored the only solid raise last year, though her $16k boost was less than the $19,582 raise she got the year before.

And once again, the SPLC’s most highly educated team member, Dr. Heidi Beirich, failed to make the list of top-paid “key employees” even though she’s taken over Mark Potok’s role as primary propagandist.

Same job, different pay. That’s gotta be galling…

Sorry Dr. B. Better luck next year!

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve been pointing out this hypocrisy for five years now and not a single journalist or media outlet has picked up the story. Or maybe not so hard to believe.

And as usual, we expect the same questions we get every year about Julian Bond and the SPLC’s board of directors. In an effort to conserve electrons, we will simply redirect the reader to last year’s post on the Caucasian Crusaders that does a pretty good job of explaining how Morris Dees only hired Mr. Bond as an “honorary president” so he could use Bond’s name on fundraising materials and how the Montgomery Advertiser exposed the SPLC’s rubber-stamp board as far back as 1994.

That post explains it all in text, images and video.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we’ll have something new to report next year, that the white millionaire owners of the SPLC will finally begin to practice what they preach, but please, don’t anybody hold their breath.

 

FBI Removes SPLC as “Resource”

March 26, 2014

In an unexpected and unannounced move, the FBI has apparently dropped the Southern Poverty Law Center from the list of “hate crime resources” on the Bureau’s web site.

Several news sources have speculated that the FBI’s decision was at least partly due to the SPLC’s role in a a recent case of domestic terrorism at the Family Research Council.

In 2012, gunman Floyd Corkins entered the Washington, DC offices of the Family Research Council intent on murdering as many staffers as possible. Fortunately, facilities manager Leo Johnson was able to subdue Corkins before he could embark on his rampage, despite having been shot by Corkins in the scuffle.

While in custody, Corkins admitted that he plotted the attack using SPLC public relation chief Mark Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool.

“Asked by the FBI how he picked FRC to attack, Corkins stated, “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law, lists, uh, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”

Hopefully other law enforcement agencies will follow the Bureau’s example and purge their offices of all of Mr. Potok’s spurious fundraising propaganda.

Though long, long overdue, Watching the Watchdogs commends the Bureau’s decision.

Asked by the FBI how he picked FRC to attack, Corkins stated, “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law, lists, uh, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/03/fbi-scrubs-key-hate-crime-partnership/#tcoxTIJm5i0izCW6.99

Asked by the FBI how he picked FRC to attack, Corkins stated, “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law, lists, uh, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/03/fbi-scrubs-key-hate-crime-partnership/#tcoxTIJm5i0izCW6.99

SPLC — Bribing Teachers into Indoctrination

March 12, 2014

A recent news story in the Hawaii Reporter exposes the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest indoctrination scheme: Pay teachers $250 bucks a head to attend “Teaching Tolerance” training sessions.

“Teaching Tolerance” is the SPLC sub-unit that purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom. As we’ve reported here for years, “Teaching Tolerance” has been led by “whites only” since its inception in 1991.

Fortunately, State Rep. Bob McDermott got wind of the dubious scheme and has filed an ethics complaint against the Hawaii Dept. of Education.

“Are Hawaii teachers being bribed to promote a specific point of view in these materials to their students?” McDermott asked.”

This story bears watching.

SPLC 2014 — The “Hate Group” Bubble Pops!

March 9, 2014

It’s no secret that America has witnessed a decline in manufacturing over the decades. Apparently the Southern Poverty Law Center’s manufactured “hate groups” are no longer immune to market forces either. Their latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool, purporting to identify the SPLC’s list of “hate groups” for 2013 indicates a 6.6% decrease from the previous year.

While 6.6% may not seem like much in the real world, it is nearly unprecedented in the history of the SPLC. Considering the fact that there is no legal definition for “hate group,” the SPLC’s Public Relations Chief, Mark Potok, has simply manufactured as many as he needed each year to maintain the organization’s ongoing fear campaign. Last year he lowered his “hate group” count by half a percent voluntarily and now a second, much larger cut. What gives?

Since the “supply” of hate groups has never been a problem for Mr. Potok, we can only assume that the recent downward trend represents a collapse in “demand” for his dubious product.

[NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, last year we remarked that the 2012 decline in "hate groups" was the first in SPLC history, but as Mr. Potok's own graph below indicates, there was a mysterious, and short-lived,  14% drop recorded in 1999. We stand corrected. WTW]

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Mr. Potok acknowledges the drop in his annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” screed, but as we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, his claims of “spectacular growth” since the election of President Obama have never held much water.

“After four years of spectacular growth driven by the 2008 election of President Obama and the nearly simultaneous collapse of the economy, the radical right in America saw its first significant decrease in 2013.”

2009: The first full year of the Obama Administration and the worst year of the Great Recession returned “spectacular growth” of .6%

2010: Mr. Potok adds 70 new “hate groups” to his map, but at the same time the number of “homeless hate groups,” those Mr. Potok cannot locate on any map, including his own, jumped by 99, for a net loss of 2.9%

2011: Mr. Potok adds 16 new “hate groups” to his Hate Map for a mighty increase of 1.6%. That same year Mr. Potok states: “But Potok said the [Ku Klux] Klan has disintegrated. “There is no Klan now,” he said, only a collection of squabbling organizations. (www.sanluisobispo.com, March 23, 2011)

Doesn’t it seem a little odd that Mr. Potok would proclaim the disintegration of the KKK at the height of his alleged “hate group” boom? Or maybe “bubble” is a more accurate term. After a “spectacular growth” of -.6% for the first Obama Administration, Mr. Potok’s “hate groups” went into the visible decline of the past two years. The market can only absorb so much.

“Ah, well,” will say the Faithful, “There are still 939 “hate groups” on the Hate Map, [940, by our count, there's one skulking in Alaska-- WTW], which obviously proves that Mr. Potok and the SPLC are on to something!” Well, not so much.

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If you paste Mr. Potok’s “hate group” data into a spreadsheet, which you can download here, you’ll find some glaring “irregularities.”

If you sort the spreadsheet by Location (Column C), you find that Mr. Potok has no idea where 220 of his 940 groups are hiding. We know they are really, really there because Mr. Potok says they are really there. That’s 23% right off the top. THIS is “hard data”?

Let’s take New England, for example, sorted by State (Column D):

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Mr. Potok designated 32 “hate groups” for New England but he has no idea where 20 of them are hiding. That’s 33% off the top for Massachusetts, 66% for Vermont and New Hampshire (IHM and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are located in the same building in flyspeck Richmond, population 1,100 and change), 80% for Connecticut, and an incredibly ridiculous 100% for Maine and Rhode Island.

Again, friends… THIS is hard data?

Observant readers will note that while Mr. Potok fastidiously assigned every New England state its own chapter of the Klan, he doesn’t seem to know where any of them are located.

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In all fairness to Mr. Potok, it should be noted that the Loyal White Knights are an entirely new Klan group and the problem of locating them goes far beyond the rocky shores and granite hills of New England. Of the 51 chapters of the Loyal White Knights Mr. Potok has assigned to the entire United States, he is not able to locate 36 of them, or 70%.

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No wonder they call themselves “The Invisible Empire.”

Granted, it’s not just new Klan groups that are hard to find. Mr. Potok has misplaced entire groups of Neo-Nazis:

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White Nationalists:

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And more Racist Skinheads than you can imagine:

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And even when Mr. Potok does assign a city or town to one of his designated “hate groups” it still gives us absolutely no evidence that most of these groups even exist.

In 1998, respected investigative journalist Laird Wilcox, who describes himself as a Liberal, pointed out this lack of verifiable evidence in his seminal work, The Watchdogs.

When the SPLC releases their list, either in print or on the Internet, it fails to contain actual addresses that might be checked by journalists or researchers. Several listings refer to “unknown group” and the name of a city or town.” — The Watchdogs, p. 79

Mr. Wilcox set the standard for identifying Conservative and right-wing groups through a series of guides he published through the 1990s:

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Mr. Wilcox engaged in actual research and fact-checking, something no one in the modern media will bother to do, to provide usable information that could be cross-checked, verified or debunked:

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Mr. Wilcox even did something unthinkable, by Mr. Potok’s standards: He documented Progressive and left-wing groups as well as the Radical Right:

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The Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t really see much of a problem with the Radical Left. As Mr. Potok explained to Madeleine Morgenstern a couple years ago, “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”

And why would they be? There’s not nearly as much money in it.

Granted, many of the entries in Mr. Wilcox’ guides give little more than a P.O. box, but even that information is useful in helping the public and the Media judge the real potential threats of Mr. Potok’s alleged “hate groups.”

If Laird Wilcox could come up with this much information working on a shoe-string budget and using 1991 technology, why can’t Mark Potok do the same using the Internet and the SPLC’s hundreds of millions of cash on hand?

The simple fact is that he doesn’t have to. Visit your favorite online news aggregator and do a simple keyword search for “hate groups” and you’ll receive hundreds of recent hits, all referring to Mr. Potok’s Hate Map fundraising tool and very, very few contesting his spurious claims.

Last year, well-meaning donors believed Mr. Potok’s phony numbers and sent the SPLC $37,503,858 donor-dollars, or just over $103,000 every single day. This is why Mr. Potok, who is a public relations guy and not an attorney, received an annual compensation package in excess of $163,000 last year.

It makes no difference if Mr. Potok designates 800, 900 or 1,200 “hate groups” in a given year. His gullible donors will swallow any line he feeds them and Media will never say a word.

SPLC 2013 — Another Year of Record “Non-Profits”

February 24, 2014

Spring is in the air which means that the Southern Poverty Law Center is releasing its financial numbers for the previous year. This year is no exception and the first reports out of this venerable “non-profit” indicate that… wait for it… business has never been better.

According to the SPLC’s own bookkeepers, the SPLC’s bloated “Endowment Fund,” aka “The Morris Dees Legacy Fund” earned nearly $36 MILLION in tax-free interest in 2013. Don’t take our word for it. You do the math:

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Here, let’s do the math together:

   $281,123,473
-  $245,280,476
     $35,842,997

Let’s not be coy here, $35.8 MILLION is a sweet chunk o’ change for any outfit, especially for an alleged “non-profit.” This number does not include the $36,765,041 in tax-free donations the SPLC took in from well-meaning donors last year (roughly $4,200 every hour). In fact, last year’s $35.8 million is almost double what the bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2012.

So what exactly is the purpose of the “legacy fund”? According to the SPLC’s annual report, “The SPLC builds for the future by setting aside a certain amount of its income for an endowment, a practice begun in 1974 to plan for the day when nonprofits like the SPLC can no longer afford to solicit support through the mail because of rising postage and printing costs.”

Got that? The “legacy fund” was created to offset the costs of printing and mailing fundraising materials. Let’s take a closer look at those costs. First off, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the advent of the Internet and email has greatly reduced the cost of sending a message to potential donors. Just ask the nearly-bankrupt U.S. Postal Service.

Next, let’s look at just how much of the SPLC’s annual budget goes toward fundraising. According to CharityNavigator.org, the white millionaires who run the SPLC spend about 31% of their annual budget on fundraising. For you donors, that means that for every $100 dollar check you send the SPLC, they spend $31 dollars getting you to send the next hundred dollar check.

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For 2013, that 31% came to $12,379,629. Over all, the SPLC reports that its operating costs for 2013 were $39,678,300.

Subtract the SPLC’s fundraising costs from that and it cost them $27,298,671 to keep the doors open in 2013.

Subtract that $27 million from the $35.8 MILLION in interest the SPLC’s bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2013 and you’re left with a “non-profit” of $8,544,326.

If the purpose of the “legacy fund” is to generate funds in excess of annual operating costs it has achieved it’s goal in spades.

But the fundraising continues.

In 1995, SPLC founder Morris Dees promised his donors:

“The Law Center will continue to raise money until it reaches $100 million, Mr. Dees said.  The charity could then operate off the interest from investments.  “We believe that will make it so we won’t have to (stay) in this tough business of raising money to keep our programs going,” Mr. Dees said in a recent speech to a Montgomery civic club. In the meantime, Mr. Dees said he must raise money for current operating costs.”

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In 2002, the SPLC’s “Endowment Fund” neared the $100 million mark, but the fundraising continued. By 2007, the fund had topped $200 million, but the fundraising continued. In fact, Mr. Dees has spent the last few years hiring several high-priced fundraising professionalsto join our growing major gifts team.”

Mr. Dees  obviously has no intention of “living off the interest.” In 2013, the SPLC hired a new “Planned Giving Officer” tasked with the ghoulish job of getting the nearly-dead to sign over some of their assets to the SPLC. No wonder Mr. Dees calls it his “legacy fund.”

That same year, Mr. Dees advertised for a “Development Associate,” whose “primary job functions” included:

“Provides friendly and courteous customer service to SPLC’s best donors”

Really? Some SPLC donors are better than others? Those are Mr. Dees words, not ours. Our guess is your puny 3- and 4-digit donor checks don’t quite gain you access to the Winner’s Circle. What is it the guy said about “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth?”

It sure seems like Mr. Dees has every intention of staying in the “tough business” of gulling the gullible no matter how many tax-free millions his “legacy fund” generates.

Think about that the next time you cut a check to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Your donor dollars could do a whole lot more good closer to home. Do the math. We did.

SPLC — Anatomy of a Marketing Ploy

January 26, 2014

As mentioned in an previous post, the master fundraisers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have targeted the LGBT community in their latest marketing scheme. A little digging, very little digging, reveals just how flimsy this campaign really is from the get-go.

Visit the SPLC’s homepage and click on the “LGBT Rights” link on the left.

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The LGBT Rights page makes the following claim: “Our work on LGBT issues spans decades.” Really?

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If the SPLC has been fighting the good fight for the LGBT community “for decades,” why did they not even have an LGBT Rights page until 2011? Certainly there must be dozens of important LGBT cases to which the SPLC can point with pride.

Fortunately, the SPLC keeps a meticulous list of all of their court cases which one can access easily from their home page.

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They even provide a handy drop-down menu that sorts the cases by type.

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Sorting by LGBT Rights returns a total of 8 cases, which seems rather skimpy for a civil rights law firm that has been in business for nearly 43 years. Scrolling down to the oldest case, Hoffburg v. Alexander, we do indeed find that this case goes all the way back to 1980. Hoffburg, it turns out, wasn’t even the SPLC’s own case. It was an appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Glancing up, however, we find that the next time the SPLC went to bat for the LGBT community was in 2011!

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Apparently, there were no cases of anti-LGBT civil rights violations worthy of the great institution’s note for 31 years!

In this case, the SPLC threatened to sue a high school if it didn’t allow two female students to march in a pep rally as the school’s Snow King and Queen. Fighting the good fight doesn’t come much harder than that.

Scrolling up the list, we find that it was only a few months after the pep rally case that the SPLC threatened to sue the same school district.

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The SPLC claims it was contesting a “gag policy” that prevented teachers from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom. The actual policy read that teachers could discuss LGBT issues at an age appropriate level, if the subject was germane to the class work and remained entirely neutral on the subject, neither endorsing or denigrating it.

Neutrality wasn’t good enough for the civil rights center, and so, having as much spare cash on hand as any other public school system facing a multimillion dollar law firm, Anoka-Hennepin simply gave in. Another hard fought legal battle that never went to court.

Higher up the list, we find Hill v. Public Advocate, the simple copyright infringement case of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photo was used in a Colorado political flier without their permission, or that of their photographer, who holds the copyright. None of the plaintiffs are indigent, the case is being handled by one of the premier intellectual property law firms in the business and the term “civil rights” never appears once in the complaint.

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Soon after Hill, the SPLC jumped on another non-civil rights case, Ferguson v. JONAH. In this case, a group of gay Jewish men in New York City are suing an organization that promised to “cure” their homosexuality.

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This is a classic fraud suit, no different than thousands of similar suits filed every day, and the case is being brought forward by one of the best fraud law firms in NYC, none of the plaintiffs are poor and, once again, the term “civil rights” never appears once in the actual complaint.

If there are no civil rights issues in these otherwise cut-and-dried civil suits that are being handled by some of the best lawyers in the business, what exactly does the SPLC bring to the table?

In a word: Publicity.

In return for this free publicity, the SPLC’s master Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok, can claim that his outfit is out there fighting for gay rights.

The most recent case, as of this writing and described in a previous post, is a perfect example of Mr. Potok’s cynical marketing ploy.

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In this case, Mr. Potok and Co. are suing a poor, mostly Black junior high school where a 16-year old 8th grader named Destin Holmes claims she was verbally and mentally abused because she is a self-described lesbian.

Let’s be crystal clear here, nobody, in any of these cases, deserves to be subjected to any form of discrimination by anyone at any time or any place. Those of us who have been through junior high are still all too well aware of the juvenile stupidity that goes on in those institutions, by both the students and the staff, and that in no way explains or justifies it.

Obviously, this is a bad situation that demands immediate investigation, but is bringing a federal law suit against one of the poorest performing schools in one of the poorest performing states the best way to fix the system?

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Or is it little more than another classic Potok-ian publicity stunt?

Ironically, the complaint against Magnolia Junior High makes no mention of the fact that, while 78% of the student body is non-white, and both the principal and assistant principal, who have been named as defendants, are African American, Ms. Holmes is white.

Can anyone imagine the SPLC overlooking those facts if the races were reversed?

Again, no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, but when you look the SPLC’s paltry LGBT cases, almost all of which only date back to 2011, how much bang are the donors getting for their donor bucks?

There was one major anti-gay organization that appeared to have flown below the SPLC’s radar for over a decade. In 2000, the Boy Scouts of America went to the U.S. Supreme court to protect their right to actively discriminate against gay Scouts and Scout Leaders (Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale), something it had done since its inception in 1910.

In 2002, the BSA issued a press release reaffirming its belief that “an avowed homosexual” lacked the “moral character” to be a Scout or Leader.

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The Southern Poverty Law center completely ignored this blatant anti-gay discrimination for over a decade. You will find no mention of the BSA’s discrimination on the SPLC’s web site until 2012, and, even then, that has to be possibly the most tepid response to a genuine “hate-group” in the SPLC’s entire history.

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SPLC co-founder Joe Levin was wheeled out of retirement to announce that “Twelve years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center stopped participating in the Montgomery, Ala., United Way Campaign because the organization chose to fund the Boy Scouts of America.”

That was it? One of the “largest youth-serving organizations in America,” whose primary mission is to build the characters and mold the minds of millions of American boys, actively discriminates against gay men and boys for a century, and the best the SPLC, that bastion of LGBT rights, can come up with is to stop donating to the United Way and say absolutely nothing about it for twelve years??

But wait… it gets even better… Joe Levin continues:

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“DOESN’T INTEND TO ENCOURAGE BIGOTRY”??? Mr. Levin, the BSA took its case to the Supreme Court of the United States precisely to preserve its perceived right to discriminate. It doesn’t get any more intentional than the US Supreme Court!

Notice the softball language Mr. Levin uses when dancing around the hard facts: “Embraces anti-LGBT prejudice” and “Doesn’t intend to encourage bigotry.” Where is the SPLC’s patented “Hate Group” brand? The term never even appears in Mr. Levin’s pathetic apologia. Where was the SPLC’s multimillion dollar public relations machine for all those years? Can you imagine the pressure that could have been brought to bear against the BSA’s blatant discrimination?

[Update: On May 15, 2014, Joe Levin explained to MSNBC why the SPLC still doesn't designate the Boy Scouts as a "hate group":

“We don’t list the Boy Scouts (as a hate group,)” said Levin. “We only do that if we have a group that’s propagating known falsehoods associated with a particular person or group – in this case, the LGBT community. The Boy Scouts haven’t really done that.”

Of course not, Joe. Apparently, the BSA simply smeared all gays as immoral by accident.]

As it turns out, the BSA did reverse itself on its gay Scout policy effective Jan. 1, 2014. That decision was made based entirely on the protracted negative publicity campaign carried on by dozens of real LGBT support groups and major media outlets. The BSA’s Supreme Court decision still stands, but they finally gave in when public opinion turned on them and said that enough was enough. It was a movement in which the Southern Poverty Law Center’s role was precisely and exactly nothing.

And yet the SPLC has been fighting for LGBT rights “for decades,” right?

Well, not so much. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine,” anyone can wander back in time to view millions of websites as they appeared in the past, going back to the year 2000. It can be slow, and sometimes cantankerous, but it’s always free and a little patience can pay off big dividends.

In 2009, the SPLC issued a downloadable version of its latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool (Note: the “Hate Map” always reflects the previous calendar year):

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A closer look at the icon key reveals an astonishing fact. There were no anti-LGBT “hate groups” as late as 2009. Not one.

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In fact, the first anti-LGBT “hate groups” do not appear on Mr. Potok’s all-encompassing “Hate Map” until 2011, forty years after the SPLC opened for business.

Furthermore, while the Hoffburg case appears chronologically on the latest version of the SPLC’s case docket list, right between Brown and Wilkins

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Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we find Ms. Hoffburg’s case, the case that allows the SPLC to crow that its “work on LGBT issues spans decades” is conspicuously absent from the 2010 case docket!

2010 Case Docket

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Hoffburg never made the case docket list in more than 40 years because the SPLC didn’t even consider it worthwhile.

Once the white millionaires who run the SPLC decided to target the LGBT community though, Mr. Potok had to come up with something to show that they had not totally ignored the issue since opening shop in 1971. Hoffburg wasn’t much, but no one in the media will follow the simple steps outlined in this post, so no one would ever know the difference.

Well-meaning donors sent Mr. Potok more than $40 million donor dollars in 2012 because they believe him when he cries “hate group” and they believe him when he says how dedicated the SPLC has been to fighting anti-LGBT discrimination “for decades.” As usual, some simple, primary fact-checking of the SPLC’s own documents proves, once again, that Mr. Potok’s claims are meaningless.

Yet again, nobody should suffer discrimination due to their orientation, and any effort is better than none, but suing poor public school districts over pep rallies and yearbook pictures is pretty low-hanging fruit for an alleged “civil rights” law firm with nearly a quarter-billion dollars in cash on hand.

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If you want to contribute to a non-profit that has truly been in the fight against LGBT discrimination you need only do a little homework and ignore Mark Potok’s latest fundraising ploy.

SPLC — Where’s Joe Levin?

January 10, 2014

While doing some research on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website recently, we became aware of an interesting factoid: SPLC co-founder Joseph J. Levin, Jr., seems to have retired, yet he’s still drawing a six-digit salary from the donation bucket.

According to his SPLC bio, which refers to him in the past tense, he stepped down as SPLC President (a position Morris Dees called “largely honorary” in his autobiography) in 2003, and served as board member until 2009, but he continues to draw compensation worth over $185,000 a year.

Odd, that, considering all of the other board members are paid nothing.

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The SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990 tax return lists him as “general counsel” but other clues from the website imply that Joe isn’t around much these days.

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Mr. Levin is conspicuously absent from the SPLC’s list of senior staff, even though he is paid more than half of them (all women, ironically):

SeniorStaff

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His Board of Directors photo refers to him as “emeritus,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “one retired from professional life but permitted to retain as an honorary title the rank of the last office held.”

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Of course, if he is retired he’d hardly be the first to putter around with a part-time job, so maybe he does legal work for the SPLC on the side. Oddly, the LexisNexis legal database hasn’t placed Mr. Levin in a courtroom since 1991.

What exactly does Mr. Levin do around the office to earn his $3,500 a week?

The SPLC did call on Mr. Levin to issue one of the most pathetic apologies for the Boy Scouts of America in 2012. While the BSA has actively discriminated against gay men and boys since 1910, the best Mr. Levin could do was to gently chide the BSA in 2012 for “embracing prejudice” and “encouraging bigotry” (something Mr. Levin claims that the BSA does unintentionally…).

Mr. Levin couldn’t even bring himself to use the term “hate group.”

As pathetic as it was, it was the first comment the SPLC ever made about the BSA’s blatant discrimination. It seems that a “hate group” isn’t really a “hate group” if many of your donors are former members or the parents/grandparents of current members.

“Fighting hate” is all well and good until it cuts into the bottom line.

Speaking of the bottom line, one would think that the SPLC’s donors would be concerned that so much of their money is going to pay the salary of a guy who doesn’t seem to do much for the company anymore.

Your $100 donation will pay Mr. Levin’s absentee salary for about an hour and ten minutes. Not much bang for the buck when you think about it.

 

 

SPLC — More LGBT Pandering

December 19, 2013

As the Southern Poverty Law Center’s traditional donor base grows older and fewer people buy into the SPLC’s perennial “hate group” hype, the fundraisers in Montgomery have set their sights on a younger, often-Progressive and often-affluent LGBT demographic.

Earlier this year, Watching the Watchdogs noted how the SPLC was involved in two ham-fisted publicity stunts featuring LGBT plaintiffs in New York and New Jersey.

One case was a simple copyright infringement case where a political group in Colorado used a gay couple’s engagement photo in its literature without permission from the couple or the photographer, who holds the copyright to the photo.

The other case involved former clients of counseling outfit that promised Jewish men that it could “cure” them of their homosexuality. Basically, a cut-and-dried malpractice suit.

In both cases, the plaintiffs were not indigent and the actual cases were being handled by two of the top copyright and malpractice law firms in the NYC area. The term “civil rights” does not appear in either complaint filed by the SPLC, which is not even licensed to practice law in either state.

All the SPLC brings to those cases is publicity, and they will spin that publicity into donor-gold by the hands of their long-time Public Relations guru, Mark Potok.

This week’s court filing continues the SPLC’s newest fundraising scheme, pandering to the LGBT community, as well as one its older favorites, suing impoverished school districts in the Deep South.

Pretty low-hanging fruit for one of the nation’s “leading civil rights organizations,” but the media, and therefore the donors, will lap it up, as usual.

On December 17, 2013, the SPLC filed a law suit against Magnolia Junior High and the Moss Point School District on behalf of Destin Holmes, a 17-year-old, self-described lesbian who claims she was bullied and harassed by students and staff at the school “on account of her gender expression and sexual orientation.”

Obviously, nobody deserves to be bullied or harassed for any reason in any setting, and just as obviously, nearly everybody DOES get bullied and harassed in the special corner of Hell known as junior high. That in no way makes Ms. Holmes’ ordeal any less painful, but it should be considered in order to keep the case in perspective.

Ms. Holmes states that she was harassed every day by students, faculty and even administrators, who would call her names like “dyke,” “dyke-ass freak” and “lesbian” and make comments about her clothing. It also did not help that Ms. Holmes was 15 or 16 when she began her 8th grade year, making her stand out even more.

Again, nobody should ever be bullied, but as junior high school fare goes, is this really a job for a multimillion-dollar law firm with more than a quarter-billion dollars in cash on-hand?

Magnolia Junior High School is typical of the kind of target the SPLC prefers to go after: Southern and impoverished.

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Interestingly, the SPLC is making no mention of the fact that Ms. Holmes is white, while the majority of her classmates, the assistant principal and principal, LaJuna and Durand Payton, (both of whom are named in the complaint as making repeated homophobic slurs against Ms. Holmes), are black.

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Can anyone seriously imagine the SPLC ignoring this fact if the races were reversed?

The law suit is already buzzing around the Blogosphere and is getting big press in the LGBT media, its intended audience. No doubt Mr. Potok is rubbing his hands in anticipation of yet another record donation year, one that will top the $40 million tax-free donor-dollars he ballyhooed last year.

Hopefully, the LGBT community will be savvy enough to figure out that it is being carefully targeted by the white millionaires who run the SPLC.

In the end, the school district will concede defeat. Scarce budget dollars will be reallocated to create sensitivity training for everyone and who knows, it may actually turn junior high students into rational human beings. It could happen.

Again, nobody should be bullied or harassed. We wish Ms. Holmes the best in her freshman year at high school, another teenage milestone that has never been known for its humanity.

SPLC – The [white] Beat Goes On…

September 19, 2013

Today the SPLC proudly announced the accession of Lisa Sahulka to the six-digit salary post of Chief Operating Officer for the esteemed “civil rights” organization.

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Ms. Sahulka perpetuates a FOUR-DECADES-LONG policy of hiring only white candidates to the esteemed “civil rights” organization’s Executive Suite.

When the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, had the temerity to ask SPLC founder Morris Dees why there were no minority executives working at the famed “civil rights” organization as late as 1994, (23 years after Mr. Dees opened the doors of the esteemed institution…), Mr. Dees replied, “It is not easy to find black lawyers. Any organization can tell you that.”

Apparently, nearly 20 years later, it’s not easy to find black executives, fundraisers or computer programmers either, which is why the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Executive Suite is as lily-white today as when Mo Dees opened the doors in 1971.

It reminds us of the NFL/NBA’s hollow protests for forty years that “Well, we would hire black General Managers, only there aren’t any…”

Some things just don’t change in Montgomery, and if Morris “Atticus Finch” Dees has any say in the matter, they never will.

Remember folks, send the SPLC all the money you can afford, early and often. They’re down to their last quarter-BILLION tax-free dollars.

 

 

 


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