It’s 2012, and here are the leaders the Southern Poverty Law Center. Presented here, according to the SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990, are “the nation’s leading civil rights group’s” top nine, highest paid executives, their titles and compensation packages and any significant changes in their base salaries from the previous year:
Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $339,764
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $343,676 (-$1,133)
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $184, 411 (-$58)
Mary Bauer — Legal Director — $164,103 (-$94,566, Ouch!)
Teenie Hutchinson — CFO — $156,623 159,752 (+$3,129)
Wendy Via — Development Director — $148,537
Mark Potok — Intelligence Director — $151,392 (+$4,116)
David Utter — Director — Miami – $155,777 (+$18,521)
Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s COO, $230,181 (+$4,416). If anyone knows of a public photo of Mr. Toohey, please pass the info along to Watching the Watchdogs.
While there is some minor fluctuation in the compensation numbers, these need to be compared to the 4-,5- and even 6-digit raises the execs voted themselves the year before.
If you examine the photos closely, you may note a surprising coincidence: ALL of the SPLC’s highest paid executives are white.
Some people may find it odd that a civil rights organization, headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, the very birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement and home to Rosa Parks, would be run by white millionaires. Despite being located literally in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s home church, the Southern Poverty Law Center has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of power in its entire 41-year history!
Even the SPLC’s laughably named “Teaching Tolerance” program, which preaches diversity to K-12 schoolchildren and their teachers has been managed by “whites only” for 20 of its 21 years!
As long ago as 1994, Dan Morse, an investigative reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser noted the lack of diversity in the SPLC’s executive suite, and the situation has not changed whatsoever in the 17 years since.
(Dan Morse, “Equal Treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership,” Montgomery Advertiser, February 16, 1994.)
“Inside [SPLC headquarters], no blacks have held top management positions in the center’s 23-year history, and some former employees say blacks are treated like second-class citizens.”
The article continues:
“I would definitely say that there was not a single black employee with whom I spoke who was happy to be working there,” said Christine Lee, a black graduate of Harvard Law School who interned at the Law Center in 1989.”
In his defense, SPLC founder Morris Dees offered the following statements:
“There ain’t no plantation mentality. If that was the case, I don’t know what the blacks would be doing in the positions they are…” In 1994, when Dees made this eloquent statement, the SPLC’s highest paid African American employee was in charge of the mail room, where she had worked for the previous 20-plus years.
“It is not easy to find black lawyers. Any organization can tell you that.” This could be true. After all, for decades NFL and NBA team owners made the exact same arguments to explain their all-white executive suites, right?
“Well, we would hire a black head coach, only there aren’t any…”
And not to get nit-picky, but lawyers make up only about half of the SPLC’s top dogs. Apparently, it’s not easy to find black accountants, computer experts or public relations people in 2012, either.
Supporters of the SPLC will often point to the diverse “Board of Directors” posted on the SPLC’s web site as proof of inclusion at the top:
A veritable rainbow of diversity and multiculturalism, however the IRS Form 990 indicates that the board members are unpaid volunteers, which is not uncommon among such boards in the corporate world. The real question is how much influence does the board have over SPLC policies and practices?
During the same week-long investigative report of the SPLC, Dan Morse noted that most of the board members were old friends and cronies of Morris Dees who regularly rubber-stamped whatever the maestro put before them. Some of the board members in Morse’s 1994 report are still on the SPLC board today.
(Dan Morse, “Friendly Board,” Montgomery Advertiser, February 19, 1994.)
Conspicuously absent from the pantheon of highest grossing SPLC Movers and Shakers is Dr. Heidi Beirich. Dr. Beirich began working at the SPLC in the late 90s, around the same time as her boss Mark Potok, yet her longevity and advanced education have not done much to advance her career.
Dr. Beirich holds a PhD and two master’s degrees, compared to Mark Potok’s single Poli-Sci bachelor’s degree, yet even when an earlier IRS Form 990 included execs whose compensation dipped into the mere $70,000s, Dr. B. was nowhere to be found.
In short, it seems that Heidi Beirich, who gets as much face time on the networks as Mark Potok, is paid about half of what her less-educated male boss makes.
Apparently, it’s a man’s world at the SPLC, Dr. Beirich. A white man’s world.