Archive for August, 2010

SPLC — The Bloated “Endowment Fund”

August 19, 2010

Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees became a millionaire in 1964, according to his law and business partner at the time, Millard Fuller. Dees’ fortune did not come from practicing law, however, but rather from a hugely successful direct mail order business created by Dees and Fuller.

The two had met in law school a few years earlier, where they devised an ingenious business plan to deliver birthday cakes to their homesick classmates who could not be with their families during the school year. The partners invested their profits in local real estate, eventually splitting $70,000 in assets between them at graduation in 1960 (roughly half a million in today’s dollars). But the real bonanza was the education I got in direct mail,” Dees wrote, “I learned to write sales copy, to design an offer, and to mail at the most opportune time.”

Dees had mastered the art of the direct mail appeal, and more importantly, perfect timing. Forty years later, when Dees was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame, it would be for his fund-raising prowess rather than his business acumen.

Nowhere is the evidence of that acumen more apparent than with the SPLC’s incredibly bloated “Endowment Fund.” The purpose of the fund, according to SPLC annual reports is to  “…build 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.”

In his November 2000, article for Harper’s magazine, The Church of Morris Dees, journalist Ken Silverstein documents Dees’ ever-growing desire to fatten this grotesque cash cow.

Back in 1978, when the Center had less than $10 million, Dees promised that his organization would quit fund-raising and live off interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million, a sum that, one 1989 newsletter promised, would allow the Center “to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising. ” Today, the SPLC’s treasury bulges with $120 million, and it spends twice as much on fund-raising-$5.76 million last year-as it does on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses.

As the chart below illustrates, Mr. Dees has yet to settle upon the magical figure that will free him from his odious fund-raising duties. In 2007, the Endowment Fund actually broke the $200 million dollar mark, and still the fund-raising requests went out like clockwork, backed up by SPLC public relations guru Mark Potok’s spurious and unlikely “reports” and breathless alarums.

Even an old pro like Morris Dees has his setbacks, such as the $50 million dollar whack the fund took in 2008. But as Patrick Cleburne points out in his recent analysis of SPLC fund-raising tactics, this was merely a bump in the road. By 2009 the SPLC had recouped nearly $40 million of its losses, and did so during one of the worst years of the current recession. As Ken Silverstein observed in a 2007 piece for Harper’s, the SPLC was once again “richer than Tonga” and several other nation states. Not bad for a “non-profit.”

When will the Endowment Fund ever generate enough in interest to finally achieve Mr. Dees’ long awaited dream of financial independence? The truth is that it has been doing so for years.

According to the SPLC’s 2009 Financial Statement, the Center took in just over $31 million dollars that year, almost all of it from private donors. Total operating expenses for the year came to $29.6 million, leaving the non-profit with a profit of $1.4 million in leftovers.

The Endowment Fund generated just under $29.5 million in interest, which nearly meets the $29.6 million in expenses, however, if you deduct PR guru Potok’s $146,000 dollar compensation, (after all, his whole purpose in the organization is to scare the mostly elderly donors out of their donor-dollars), you more than break even.

Deduct the $5.3 million the SPLC spent on fund-raising printing and postage costs, (compared with the $1.1 million they spent on “legal case costs”),  and the Endowment Fund could continue to grow at an obscene rate, all without ever requesting another single tax-free donor-dollar.

Those figures do not even take into consideration any additional savings that would be realized by eliminating the salaries paid to Potok’s minions or other costs of the SPLC’s fund-raising machinery.

As with everything else spewed forth by the Southern Poverty Law Center, once you actually look at the numbers you come away with a very different picture than that painted by Minister for Propaganda and National Enlightenment Potok.

In the final analysis, the Endowment Fund IS the main business of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

SPLC — “Whites Only” 2010

August 19, 2010

Richard Cohen

Meet the dedicated men and women of the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to its most recent IRS Form 990, these are the SPLC’s top ten, highest paid executives, their titles and compensation:

Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $344,490
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $348,420
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $189,166
Rhonda Brownstein — Legal Director — $179,806
Jeff Blancett — Former COO (two years in a row!) — $159,301
Teenie Hutchinson — Chief Financial Officer — $155,414
Wendy Via — Development Director — $140,428
Mark Potok — Intelligence Director — $143,099
Jennifer Holladay –Strategic Affairs — $137,900
Mary Bauer — Director Immigrant Justice — $141,484

Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s current COO, $89,975 (the only 5-digit salary on the list). If anyone knows of a public photo of Mr. Toohey, please pass the info along to Watching the Watchdogs.

Does anyone else notice a disturbing pattern here?

NOT ONE of the SPLC’s top ten, highest paid executives is a minority, and certainly not an immigrant!

And yet, “the nation’s leading civil rights organization” preaches incessantly about the never-ending threat of White supremacists and routinely smears anyone who believes in enforcing existing immigration laws as “racist” and “nativist.”

This situation is hardly new. In 1994, the Montgomery Advertiser, that city’s leading newspaper, reported the exact same demographic situation!

(Dan Morse, “Equal Treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership,” Montgomery Advertiser, February 16, 1994)

Earlier this year, the SPLC posted a “diverse” Board of Directors on their web site:


A veritable rainbow of diversity and multiculturalism. Oddly enough, once Watching the Watchdogs initiated a campaign to point out to the Media that all of the esteemed board members, with the exception of Joseph Levin, were unpaid volunteers, the SPLC dropped the images from their web site. Coincidence, no doubt.

Of course, some will say that these “directors” play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of the SPLC, but after reading Morris Dees’ cynical anecdote about how he came to hire Julian Bond as the SPLC’s first “honorary President,” one has to wonder how much influence Mr. Bond wields as an honorary, unpaid Director?

The SPLC even promotes an annual “Mix it Up at Lunch Day,” where, according to their PR press release, “Thousands of schools are set to challenge social and racial boundaries” as their students agree to “take a new seat in the cafeteria” and sit with people of different races and backgrounds.

How exactly do the millionaires who run the SPLC “mix it up”?? Do they “challenge social boundaries” by eating lunch with the 5-digit salary peons? Or racial boundaries by having a sandwich with the janitors and landscaping crew?

And if this situation isn’t ironic (read: hypocritical) enough for you, here’s another picture to ponder:

This Google Maps photo shows downtown Montgomery, Alabama, the cradle of the American Civil Rights Movement and hometown of Rosa Parks. At center left is the SPLC’s multimillion dollar “Poverty Palace,” (marked with the letter “A”), and at top right, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King’s home church at the start of his career.

The millionaire hypocrites at the SPLC can literally plot their next “racists are everywhere” fund-raising project with a view of Dr. King’s home church from their penthouse windows.

The last remaining “Whites Only” sign in Montgomery hangs on the door of the SPLC’s senior boardroom.

SPLC — Where the Money Goes

August 11, 2010

According to financial documents posted on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site, the SPLC reported revenues of $31,046,000 for 2009. (All figures rounded to the nearest thousand dollars)

Of that total, more than $27 million came in the form of individual donations, mostly from elderly donors who have given to the SPLC for years. Since the SPLC is required by law to disclose its financial data, in order to keep its tax-exempt status, it might be interesting to see just where Grandma’s $100 dollar donation check really goes.                        (Left-click the chart for a larger image)


The numbers break down something like this:

$40 dollars go toward SPLC salaries

$15 dollars go toward fund-raising printing and postage costs

$10 dollars go toward the publication of “educational” materials (to be sold to local schools)

$3 dollars go to utilities, telephones, maintenance, etc.

$28 dollars go toward various and sundry expenses, such as travel costs, office supplies, “staff development,” etc.

And after all is said and done, about $4 dollars of Grandma’s $100 dollar donation, ($3.70 actually), goes toward “legal case expenses.”

(In 2008, the SPLC actually spent more on office supplies than on “legal case expenses.”)

Call me a skeptic, (and die-hard fans of the SPLC have called me much worse than that…), but shouldn’t the core business of a civil rights law center revolve around legal cases?

When tens of thousands of blue-haired Grannies send their $100 dollar checks to the SPLC, aren’t they doing so with the expectation that their hard-earned money will go toward “fighting hate” in the courts?

Do they even suspect that $15 dollars worth of that check is going to be used to ask them for the next $100 dollar check?

Do they get that same warm, fuzzy feeling over the thought that their contribution might pay for a laser jet ink cartridge, maybe two cases of printer paper, or roughly 40 minutes of SPLC founder, millionaire Morris Dees’ hourly salary?

The SPLC claims in its annual report that it “spent approximately 68% of its revenues on program expenses.” How this is possible when salaries and fund-raising costs alone eat up 55% of the budget is a mystery to me, but I guess a lot depends on one’s definition of “program expenses.”

As mentioned, a lot of people get upset when I quote the SPLC’s own financial data, but I’ve yet to find anyone who can claim that 3.7 cents on the donor-dollar is a good return on investment.

A Tale of Two Spin Doctors

August 8, 2010

Anyone who has studied the science of persuasion will immediately recognize the similarities between one of history’s most infamous propagandists, Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment Paul Joseph Goebbels, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Director of Intelligence,” Mark Potok.

Both men came from humble backgrounds. Goebbels, a failed novelist and playwright with a PhD in romantic drama; Potok, a freelance stringer for such hard-hitting newspapers as USA Today. Both men went to work for charismatic ideologues, becoming inordinately wealthy in the process.

Think about it. Mr. Potok has no legal or law enforcement experience, (“I’m not a lawyer, but I sure spend a lot of time around them!” Potok quips during his most recent scripted, pre-recorded “live call-in” webcast), and yet his “expertise” has earned him more than a million dollars from a law center. What services could Mr. Potok possibly offer the SPLC that are worth that kind of money?

Although more than half a century separates the careers of the two men, Doktor Goebbels would readily recognize Mr. Potok’s use of all the classic propaganda techniques, as laid down by their mutual mentor, “The Father of Spin,” Edward Bernays. Both men made millions practicing the black arts of Public Relations. As a popular television series might portray them, both are “Mad Men” of the first degree.

The key to any successful propaganda campaign, as either spin doctor could tell you, is domination of the media. Control the means of communication and you control the message. While Dr. Goebbels had to rely on compulsory enforcement, (listening to foreign radio broadcasts, from the BBC, etc., was a capital offense, at Dr. G’s insistence), Mr. Potok enjoys almost universal media access in the US and worldwide that is entirely voluntary.

The lack of any editorial oversight by major news organizations of Mr. Potok’s dubious observations is so delusional as to be collusive. What wouldn’t Dr. Goebbels give for such extensive media control? What wouldn’t Mr. Potok give for just one of Goebbels’ SS goon squads to silence the “wrong thinkers”?

While Dr. Goebbels would routinely label anyone who disagreed with his boss’ worldview as a “traitor,” “defeatist,” or “Bolshevik,” Mr. Potok’s smears of choice are “hater,” “extremist,” and the sure-fire, granddaddy smear of all time, “racist.” Same old techniques, just different labels.

Here lie the two greatest ironies: Goebbels was a hardcore Nazi who smeared his perceived enemies as “Bolsheviks,” and Potok is a life-long Leftist who smears his perceived enemies as “Nazis.” Goebbels’ duty was to convince the German people that everything was wonderful, (“Bombers? What Allied bombers? That was thunder you heard last night.”), while Potok earns his six-digit salary by maintaining the SPLC’s 40-year fear campaign, (“Hate groups are everywhere!! Send us more money, now!”)

And send more money they do. Last year the SPLC took in over $31 million donor-dollars thanks the ministrations of Mr. Potok, (of which only $1.1 million, or 3.7 cents on the dollar, were spent on “legal case costs”)

With a return on investment like that, one has to wonder if the three white millionaires who run the SPLC are actually paying their Spin Doktor enough?

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over” — Reich Minister for Propaganda and National Enlightenment, Joseph Goebbels.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” Public Relations pioneer, Edward Bernays, in his groundbreaking book, “Propaganda” (1928)

SPLC — More Damned Lies and Statistics

August 4, 2010

One of the SPLC’s most effective fund-raising tools is what I like to call “the empty statistic.” By this I mean a statistic that sounds quite impressive initially, because you do not know the actual numbers involved.

A case in point, a recent article in About.com’s “Race Relations” section raised the question: “Why Are Hate Crimes Against Latinos Rising?” The author of the piece, Nadra Kareem, quotes some pretty scary statistics from the SPLC’s $146,000 donor-dollar public relations guru, Mark Potok:

“FBI statistics indicate that anti-Latino crimes in America increased by nearly 40 percent from 2003 to 2007. That’s extremely alarming considering that the Latino population in the United States rose by just 14 percent during the same timeframe.”

“Wow!” The casual reader is likely to think, “Anti-Latino hate crimes are increasing at nearly three times the pace of immigration! I’d better get a check out to the SPLC right away!”

Of course, once you do a minimal amount of digging to discover the actual numbers involved, you come up with a very different picture.

According to Table 7 (page 16) of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting for 2003, there were 595 anti-Hispanic hate crimes reported in 2003. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/03hc.pdf By 2007, that “40% jump” brings the number to 830. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2007/table_07.htm

According to the US Census Bureau, there were 39 million Hispanics in the US in 2003. Factor in the increase of “only 14%,” or “only” 5.4 million new Hispanic immigrants and by 2007 the new total comes to 44.6 million.

Now let’s be perfectly clear here. NOBODY should have to be the victim of a crime, especially a hate crime, but an increase of 235 anti-Latino hate crimes against an increase of 5.4 MILLION Latino immigrants is statistically insignificant… when you plug in the actual numbers!

The 830 anti-Latino hate crimes against the overall 2007 population of 44.6 million represent even less of a crime wave.

Mark Potok knows this, but the vast majority of people who read the empty statistics he tucks into his fund-raising propaganda won’t. Even so-called professional media, such as National Public Radio allow Potok to propagate his fear campaign without asking for a single digit worth of proof.

Considering that the SPLC and NPR are in direct competition for the Left-wing donor dollar, you’d think it would be in NPR’s self-interest to out Mr. Potok at every opportunity.

What’s really amazing is the fact that during the same 2003 to 2007 time span, hate crimes against Blacks rose from 3,150 to 3,434. Not only were there four times as many hate crimes against Blacks as against Hispanics, but the Black population is smaller to begin with!!

Where is Mr. Potok’s outrage over THOSE numbers?

The simple truth is that Progressives are experiencing “donor fatigue” when it comes to poor Blacks. The SPLC has gone to that well too many times in the past. Hispanics are the new minority goldmine in 2010, and the SPLC intends to gather up every last nugget.

Vaya con dinero!! (Go with the money!!)


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