SPLC — Confederate Commodification

September 12, 2015

The recent controversy surrounding the Confederate flag merely adds more evidence to the theory that the Southern Poverty Law Center has yet to meet a tragedy it could not somehow spin into gold. While the company is sticking to its tried-and-true methods of appealing to its largely progressive donor base’s sympathies, this most recent marketing campaign is part of a bigger shake-up that has been in the works for the past few years.

In the aftermath of the mindless murders of nine people in Charleston in June, a media frenzy ensued demanding the removal of the Confederate flag from all public property across the country.

Naturally, the professional fundraisers at the SPLC saw an opportunity to appeal to their largely progressive donor base by hopping on the media bandwagon.

One of the savvier moves was to set up an online “Erasing Hate” hot-line where people can report sightings of the flag, schools and streets named after Confederates, etc., so that, in the words of SPLC founder Morris Dees, the company could “put pressure on” local governments.

It comes as little surprise, though, that there is no option to report the offending sites anonymously. Just as with the company’s cynical “Stand Strong Against Hate” map, the ultimate goal is to add the names and addresses of potential donors into its enormous fundraising database.

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Otherwise, you could have all kinds of anonymous practical jokers submitting the names of locations that couldn’t possibly be verified, except, maybe, by Google…

The SPLC doesn’t need “tipsters” to compile a comprehensive list of Confederate-themed locations any more than they would for a list of Winn-Dixie grocery stores or MoonPie distributors, but the list isn’t the point of the exercise.

While this kind of marketing ploy is pretty standard by SPLC standards, the company appears to be undergoing a major re-branding in the hopes of mining new sources of revenue.

Watching the Watchdogs has previously documented the collapse of the bloated Hate Map “hate group” count, which simply could no longer stand up to close inspection in the Age of the Internet. Someone in the Head Office, (we surmise it was Heidi Beirich), began an ambitious campaign to thin out some of the more obvious “hate group” padding, reducing the spurious count by 27% over the past few years.

The company has even redesigned the layout of their lucrative Hate Map to further obfuscate their spurious numbers, but they still have a lot of fat left to trim. For example, of the 22 alleged chapters of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan listed, only four are affiliated with a known city or town. The rest merely float about in limbo, padding the count.

Perhaps the most astounding move occurred early in 2014, when the SPLC actually dropped the descriptor “non-profit civil rights organization” from its website and fundraising materials. It now refers to itself as “an advocacy group.”

This is a huge sea change for the company, which would no doubt alienate it from many of its traditional, blue-haired donors, (which is possibly why the SPLC has neglected to publicly announce the change), but the benefits going forward are manifold.

By re-branding as an advocacy group, the SPLC no longer has to tie any of its actions to actual civil rights. Now they can freely pursue such cut-and-dried civil suits as the copyright infringement case involving a gay couple’s engagement photo. No civil rights were violated, or even mentioned in the complaint, but the SPLC was able to lend publicity to the case as part of its ham-fisted marketing campaign aimed at the LGBT market.

The recent Confederate flag flap apparently got someone in the SPLC’s Advancement Office (read: Fundraising) to think more proactively. “Instead of passively waiting for the donor-dollars to roll in, what can we actually sell people?”

The answer was brilliant. On September 10, 2015, the SPLC issued a press release stating:

“Singer-songwriter Steve Earle has partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center to take a stand against the Confederate battle flag and is urging Mississippi to remove the emblem from its state flag with the release of his new song, “Mississippi It’s Time.”

No doubt the term “has partnered with” actually means “was commissioned by,” which accounts for the next line in the release, which is obviously the most telling:

“The song is available for streaming here and for download on iTunes beginning Friday, September 11. All proceeds will go to the SPLC.”

And there you have it. The SPLC has found the perfect way to commodify, that is, to turn a buck from, the Confederate flag controversy.

If this scheme pans out, you can expect more commissioned songs, to be followed by t-shirts, books, smartphone apps and video games. “All profits will go to the SPLC.”

As we pointed out a week ago, the SPLC posted a $12 million dollar “non-profit” last year, over and above the $22 million in tax-free interest generated by its $302 million dollar cash endowment fund.

The SPLC needs more funding like a Mississippi catfish needs ugly lessons.

It’s probably no coincidence that the company chose to release its product on September 11, as they seldom miss an opportunity to cash in on symbolism.

Speaking of symbolism, however, nowhere in the actual text of the press release, (though there is a photo of the album cover), does the SPLC mention the name of Mr. Earle’s band… the Dukes.

No doubt the fundraisers wanted to avoid any potential association with former KKK leader David Duke, or more likely, those other, hate-filled, Icons of Evil…

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Whatever the reason, we’re obviously witnessing a major change in the way in which the Southern Poverty Law Center makes money. This bears watching and we at Watching the Watchdogs are more than happy to do so.

Stay tuned, y’all…

SPLC — Crunching the Numbers

September 11, 2015

As another summer winds down to a close, it’s always worthwhile to have a look at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s financial numbers and compare them to the company’s fundraising rhetoric.

According to the financial records for the most recent fiscal year, ending October 31, 2014, the SPLC reported total operating expenses of $42,414,311 against total annual revenues of $54,420,509, leaving a tidy “non-profit” of $12,006,198 when all was said and done.

Remember, friends, “non-profit” is a tax status, not a mission statement.

While the financial records on the web site are up-to-date, there are a couple of errors in the text that will, no doubt, be corrected in the near future. The most glaring error states that:

“At the end of the fiscal year, our endowment – a special, board-designated fund established to support our future work – stood at $245.3 million.”

That figure is three years old. According to the SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990, the company’s endowment fund closed 2014 at a record-breaking $302,825,586 dollars (Page 26). In 2000, Ken Silverstein reported in Harper’s Magazine that SPLC founder Morris Dees at one time announced that the SPLC would cease all fundraising activities once the Endowment Fund reached $55 million dollars. As that target drew nigh, Mr. Dees doubled his bet, saying that he could “live off the interest” of a $100 million dollar endowment.

The Endowment Fund reached that number by 2002, and yet, the fundraising continued. Five years later, the $200 million dollar mark was reached in 2007 and yet, the fundraising continued. Maybe Mr. Dees was misquoted and really had $300 million in mind the whole time.

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Speaking of fundraising, the second error on the financial information page states: “During the last fiscal year, approximately 68% of our total expenses were spent on program services.”

Like everything else to do with the SPLC, that statement is up for interpretation. According to the Form 990, the company spent $13,032,973 “seeking justice by supporting victims of civil rights abuses and hate crimes,” and another $13,939,793 in support of the company’s “public information and education efforts,” for a total program services outlay of $26,972,766, (p. 3), which only adds up to 63% of total expenses for the year, not 68%

But wait… there’s more! 

According to page 2 of the Form 990, the SPLC spent $9,674,637 on fundraising for the year, or 23% of its budget, putting it near the low end of Charity Navigator’s optimal fundraising expenses chart. However, the SPLC’s own auditors note that the company “incurred joint costs of $8,056,407 for educational materials and activities as part of fundraising appeals during the year ended October 31, 2014.”

“Joint costs,” the auditors explain, are “Activities and the production of materials which combine development, education, and management functions are allocated to the program and supporting services on the basis of the content of the material, the reason for its distribution, and the audience to whom it is delivered.”

For example, SPLC “management” spent more than $1,500,000 dollars in printing and postage costs last year, over and above what the education and fundraising wings spent. That makes no sense whatsoever until you realize that “Management” was merely holding that expense for “Development,” (pronounced: “Fundraising”). They’re not lying about spending the money, they’re just not excessively truthful over who spent it.

In short, “joint costs” are fundraising costs that are allocated to program service expenses. As long as the fundraising appeal contains an “action element,” it can technically be called something else. For example, when you receive a note from the SPLC saying “Hate groups are on the rise everywhere! Your financial support will help us fight hate,” you have received “educational materials” and a not fundraising letter. Get it?

When you add up the SPLC’s declared fundraising costs and its “joint” fundraising costs you come up with $17,731,044 dollars, or 42% of total expenses, which blows it completely off Charity Navigator’s charts.

So, if you deduct that $17 million in fundraising costs from the company’s annual expenses, as Mr. Dees promised he would when the Endowment Fund reached $100 million, it cost just under $25 million to keep the SPLC’s doors open last year.

At that rate, the Endowment Fund could support all programs for 12 years without raising another dime, but that doesn’t include the $22 million in tax-free interest generated by the fund, which would cover nearly everything without touching the principle. With a little of the “stewardship” the financial page brags about, the SPLC could carry on indefinitely without ever asking for another red cent.

Don’t hold your breath.

SPLC — Out of the “Civil Rights” Business?

June 30, 2015

With all of the attention the Southern Poverty Law Center has been getting in the press lately over the simple JONAH fraud suit in New Jersey, we couldn’t help but notice that the term “civil rights organization” had mysteriously dropped from the SPLC’s press releases.

After consulting with the Internet Archives’ marvelous Wayback Machine, we discovered that the SPLC has dropped the term “non-profit civil rights organization” from its Who We Are webpage, sometime around March of 2014.

December 29, 2013, now you see it:

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March 11, 2014, now you don’t:

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Seems rather odd, one would think, but the SPLC actually got out of the civil rights business in 1981, when its founder, Morris Dees, discovered there was far more money to be made hawking “hate groups” than taking on Death Row cases.

All of this was presaged by the SPLC’s $155,000-donor-dollar-a-year PR guru, Mark Potok, who glibly explained to a group of visiting high school teachers and students in 2008:

“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.”

Why would they even consider changing their multimillion-dollar brand name? Because they had dumped the “civil rights law” aspect decades before.

And with more than $302 MILLION dollars in cash on hand, the term “non-profit” seems a little silly.

The SPLC may have stopped claiming it is a civil rights organization, but it has yet to correct anyone in the media who mistakenly identifies them as such.

Looks like it’s up to all of us.

SPLC — “Hate Groups Are Very Hard To Track”

April 28, 2015

In a recent news report, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “Director of the Intelligence Project,” Dr. Heidi Beirich, admitted that her company screwed up in reporting an alleged “hate group” in Little Falls, New York.

On April 23, 2015, staff reporter Stephanie Sorrell-White of the Times of Herkimer, NY,  tossed Dr. Beirich a fig leaf with a headline of a “Computer glitch to blame for hate group misinformation,” but the fact is that the SPLC’s “Hate Map” is nothing more than a blatant fundraising tool.

Dr. Beirich, a long-time SPLC alumna, has only recently taken over the dubious position of “Director” from her predecessor, the arch-PR guru, Mark Potok.

Mark Potok -- Intelligence Director --  Click image to enlarge.

Mark Potok — Intelligence Director — Click image to enlarge.

Mr. Potok, who has ridden his “Hate Map” to a fortune well in excess of a million dollars, was pretty sloppy when it came to applying his patented “hate group” label. To wit, in 2012, Mr. Potok designated some 20 chapters of something he called “the Georgia Militia” on that state’s “hate map.” The only problem was that Mr. Potok couldn’t seem to locate any of those chapters on any map, including his own.

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Instead, Mr. Potok merely added 18 empty slots marked “Georgia Militia” to his “Hate Map” and assigned one chapter to somewhere in Camden County and another as “Statewide.” This, friends, is “hard evidence”?

In 2013, Mr. Potok reduced the number of homeless Georgia Militia chapters to 12, again, with 10 empty slots.

In 2014, after the accession of Dr. Beirich to the dubious throne, the first thing she did was to toss out the Georgia Militia malarkey out of hand. You will not find a single incidence of it on the current Georgia “hate map.” The position is simply untenable. Bravo, Dr. B. for your courage to clean house, at least partially.

Despite Ms. Sorrell-White’s regurgitation of Dr. Beirich’s spurious claim that a non-existent “hate group” was lurking in Little Falls, the truth is that the SPLC’s “Hate Map” is anything but accurate.

In 2011, Mark Potok admitted to this reporter, on camera, that his “hate group” numbers were “anecdotal,” “a rough estimate,” and “an imperfect process,” and last month, no less of an authority than Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League stated publicly that Mr. Potok’s claims were “wildly inflated.”

Yet the Media lapdogs continue to lap up these steaming bowls of fundraising tripe without performing even the most rudimentary fact checks.

The SPLC makes big claims and yet nobody in the Media is willing to vet them whatsoever.

Sadly, in an effort to perpetuate the highly lucrative “Hate Map” theme, Dr. Beirich offered the following lame excuses to Ms. Sorrell-White, who naturally gobbled them down without question:

“Hate groups are very hard to track,” she [Beirich] said, noting some groups were listed on the website by county or region.”

“In the case of those hate groups, where there was no city specified, our new system automatically populated the city field,” she [Beirich] said.”

Dr. Beirich, if you don’t have any information on the location of an alleged “hate group,” why in the world are you claiming its existence? The obvious answer is to pad your enormously lucrative “Hate Map,” but you seemed to be cut of a higher quality cloth than your “Vaya con Dinero” predecessor, Mr. Potok.

“We’re angry and embarrassed,” said Beirich, about the error.”

And well you should be, Dr. Beirich. The SPLC is paying you in excess of $150,000 donor-dollars a year to catch these gaffes before they become public. You really dropped the ball on this one.

Dr. Beirich, unlike Mark Potok, you are highly educated, with two Masters degrees and a PhD, in comparison to his BS in Political Science. Naturally, we expect more from you, which is why we applaud your determination to cut some of the fat from Potok’s laughable “hate map” by some 17 percent this year. Obviously, you cannot cut out all of the garbage in a single year or the entire scheme collapses, we “get it,” but you really need to distance yourself from Mr. Potok’s legacy.

Potok knew that nobody in the media would question his fundraising propaganda, but sadly, Dr. B., you do not have that luxury. The Internet will spell the demise of Potok’s pitiful “hate map,” as this example proves, and it will do so on your watch.

While you commended the people of Little Falls for calling you out on this blatant fabrication, inside you must be seething. Mr. Potok, it seems, has sold you a lemon. You’ve been promoted to Captain of the Titanic.

Worse yet, a real journalist might catch on to the SPLC’s “Hate Map” scam. Heaven knows that Watching the Watchdogs has been sharing its information with every news outlet it can reach in just such a hope.

Sooner or later, somebody is going to smell a Pulitzer.

SPLC — Black “Hate Groups” Outnumber The Klan

April 10, 2015

With the recent release of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool, we’ve had a chance to crunch the numbers once again, and , once again, we find them lacking.

We’ve been making this point for several years now and inevitably we run into the same cognitively dissonant crowd who swear that “The SPLC said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

Since you can’t really fight that mentality, the best option is to go with it and agree with them. The disbelievers own these numbers and so this simple factoid is (still) their own:

According to the SPLC’s own “hate group” numbers, the largest single category of “hate group” in these United States is Black and/or Muslim. See it for yourselves.

If you go to the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool and click on any state (pick a larger one for this exercise) and then scroll down, you’ll find an itemized list of which alleged “groups” reside in any given town, or, as it turns out, reside in no known location whatsoever, as with this stupidity that we documented in a previous post:

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Yeah. The SPLC claims 19 chapters of “The Aryan Strikeforce” but somehow cannot locate 18 of those chapters on any map, including their own.

Call us picky, but here at Watching the Watchdogs such wishful thinking simply isn’t good enough and so these homeless “hate groups” cannot be counted. 

It’s not like the SPLC provides any information about the alleged Strikeforce chapter in Somerville (although if you do click on the Somerville link the “Hate Map” will show you where in New Jersey Somerville is located. Big deal!), but if they cannot even be bothered to make up some backwoods hamlet to create a fig leaf of credibility, it’s not our fault.

And so, after adding up numbers for the four biggest categories of white “hate groups,” and stripping out the padding of the phantom groups, we come up with the following numbers:

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And so we see, according to the SPLC’s own numbers, minus the homeless “hate groups,” Black Separatist groups, composed mostly of the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers and the Israelite Church of God, far outnumber the Klan, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads and White Nationalist groups respectively.

[*The SPLC’s list of White Nationalists includes five chapters marked “Statewide” and five marked “Incomplete,” which are meaningless terms so we stripped them out. Even if you leave them in, though, there are still more Black hate groups, according to the SPLC.]

This is nothing new, folks. We first reported this ridiculous finding in 2011 and nothing has changed in the intervening years since.

So for all of you die-hard Southern Poverty Law Center loyalists who simply cannot conceive that your beloved Champions of Justice could either:

A.) Possibly make an error regarding “hate groups,”


B.) Simply make up fundraising crap as they go along,

then you own this “statistic.”

These are your numbers, not ours.

Anti-Defamation League Outs SPLC “Hate Map”

April 2, 2015

In an amazing display of internecine disunity, Mark Pitcavage, Director of Investigative Research at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), threw his opposite number, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, under the proverbial bus recently, claiming that the latter’s “hate group” numbers are “wildly inflated.”

Things have been getting scary enough at the SPLC, what with Mr. Potok’s lucrative but meaningless “hate group” tally dropping for the third year in a row, this time by a whopping 17%, but we never expected to see Mr. Potok outed by a co-captain of the Hate Industry. Strange days indeed!

In a March 23, 2015 article in the South Jersey Times, journalist Jason Laday laments that, according to the latest iteration of Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool, New Jersey “has the fourth highest number of hate groups in the country.” Laday notes that of the 40 alleged “groups” Mr. Potok has assigned to the Garden State, more than half of them are “racist skinheads” and most of those belong to the AC Skins. And as usual, Mr. Potok offers absolutely nothing to back up his claims.

Enter Mark Pitcavage of the ADL:

“According to Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at that Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the SPLC has a habit of counting single individuals as groups or chapters, which can give a skewed impression of hate groups in any given state.” [Emphasis added]

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s list is wildly inflated,” said Pitcavage. “They list skinhead groups in places where there are no organized groups, but instead it’s just a couple of individuals.” [Emphasis added]

Yow! We have to admit that while it is rewarding to see someone in Mr. Pitcavage’s position reaffirming what Watching the Watchdogs has been saying for years now, it’s a little unnerving to watch one Public Relations chief publicly de-panting another.

And if that were not weird enough, in the same article Mr. Potok pretty much admits that his “racist skinhead” numbers are crap:

“However, according to Potok, most racist skinheads aren’t part of any group, so the list is far from comprehensive.”

“Largely, it’s a bar and music scene,” he said. “In general, you do see, from time to time, some political plots, but most of the time it’s low-level interpersonal violence — infighting amongst themselves over women or drugs — or beating people up on the street.”

“By the time you’re 30, you’re aging out of it, by and large,” Potok later added. “You grow your hair out, even if you still have the same views.”

Comforting words, Mr. Potok, but you’re still pulling alleged groups out of your imagination to pad out your “Hate Map.”

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Aryan Strikeforce: 18 out of 19 chapters are homeless.

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Aryan Terror Brigade: 15 out of 16 gone missing.

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Creativity Alliance: 14 out of 15 chapters are pretty creative at hiding.

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Aryan Nations Ohio: 9 out of 11 are AWOL.

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White Boy Society: A perfect 8 out of 8! Really, Mr. Potok? Really?

And there we have it, 64 empty slots in this section of the “Hate Map” alone, despite Mr. Potok’s claim that “Only organizations and their chapters known to be active during 2014 are included.”

One has to seriously ponder exactly what Mr. Potok’s definition of “active” might be.

You did get one thing right, Mr. Potok… Your list is far from being comprehensive, or even comprehensible. Lucky for you and your fundraising machine, nobody in the Media will ever vet your “wildly inflated” claims.

Vaya con dinero, Mr. Potok. Go with the money.

SPLC Executive Suite 2015 — As White As Ever!

March 1, 2015

The mercurial month of March is often unpredictable weather-wise, but to those of you who take solace in certainty, we offer these unalterable truths: Spring is coming (Really!), the Southern Poverty Law Center will release its IRS Form 990 tax report and the Executive Suite of the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” will be as white as that hip-deep snow drift in your front yard.

Just as when Morris Dees opened the company for business in 1971, the team of the SPLC’s highest paid officers is all white for the 44th year in a row! Here then are your Doyens of Diversity, the Caucasian College of Multicultural Knowledge, those Titans of Tolerance… the 2015 SPLC All-Stars!

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You’ll recognize many veterans from previous rosters (here, here and here) but there are also several eager rookies in the lineup:

Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $359,300
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $364,789
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $196,446

Wendy Via — Development Director — $202,426 — (+$19,308)*

Teenie Hutchison — Secretary — $169,547
Mark Potok — Senior Fellow — $162,755
David Utter — Juvenile Justice Strategist–  $161,379

And the newcomers:

Jerri Katzerman — Deputy Legal Director — $162,549
Lisa Sahulka — Chief Operating Officer
— $53,469**
Heidi Beirich — Director, Intelligence Project — $154,146***

Maureen Costello — Director, Teaching Tolerance — Salary unknown†

We should take a moment to clarify the numbers:

In past years, we have noted any significant increases in compensation, and, while the top three white guys on the team, Cohen, Dees and Levin did pick up minor raises in the $6,000 to $9,000 range (just as you probably did too), and Messrs Potok and Utter actually lost a few hundred dollars each, these changes represent insignificant fractions of their base compensation packages overall.

Wendy Via has good reason to smile on her trading card. This year’s $19,000 bump is her third 5-digit raise in a row! And why not? The SPLC’s Development Department (pronounced: “Fundraising”) has been setting records every year, despite the worst recession since the Roosevelt Administration, and team owner Dees knows how to reward his golden geese. More on those donor-dollars and cents in our next post.

Newcomer Lisa Sahulka’s paltry salary as Chief Operating Officer is not a misprint. These are the numbers reported on the IRS Form 990 but they obviously do not reflect the whole story.

Ms. Sahulka’s predecessor, Michael Toohey, was pulling down $230,000 in 2012, $234,000 in 2013… a year after he’d quit the team, and $148,000 in 2014… two years after he became a free agent!

SPLC COOs eat gooood and we have no doubt that next year’s Form 990 will reflect a significant increase in her salary, whether Ms. Sahulka still plays for the team or not.

While Heidi Beirich is hardly a rookie, having joined the SPLC in 1999, this year marks her debut on the monochromatic Highest Paid Officer list, something we have been actively arguing in favor of for years.

Dr. Beirich steps into Mark Potok’s large shoes (hip waders, actually) as Director of the extremely lucrative Intelligence Report fundraising rag.

Although we don’t think much of Mr. Potok’s propaganda sheet, you cannot deny that the Intelligence Report brings in tons of donor-dollars every year. It’s a necessary vice, just like the beer concession at your local ball park.

We are staunch believers in equal pay for equal work, though, no matter how dubious the output.

Congratulations, Dr. Beirich! You’re very welcome!

This year we have included Teaching Tolerance director Maureen Costello in the leadership lineup. While Teaching Tolerance, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom, doesn’t agitate the donors in to frenzied fits of giving, the way the Intelligence Report does, it is somewhat influential in the public schools.

While Ms. Costello’s salary doesn’t make the top officer list on the SPLC’s Form 990, she is a prominent member of the SPLC’s Senior Program Team, which we noted recently was only 95% white overall.

In 1994, long before Ms. Costello’s reign, the Montgomery Advertiser ran a story noting that not only was the SPLC’s Senior Executive Staff entirely white, (“Equal treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership“), it also reported:

“The Law Center’s ambitious new project, Teaching Tolerance, which is designed to promote racial and cultural justice throughout America’s schools, is produced by an eight-member all-white staff according to the Law Center.”

Teaching Tolerance does not identify its current staff other than its director, so there is no way of telling if anything has changed since 1994. Obviously nothing has changed in the SPLC’s Executive Suite and so it’s always amusing to read the many press releases Ms. Costello issues each year promoting “Mix It Up Day” in the grade schools, where kids are encouraged to sit with people different from themselves in the cafeteria one day a year.

One wonders what “Mix It Up Day” looks like in the SPLC’s cafeteria? Maybe they swap out the white rice for mashed potatoes or grits?

And that’s the roundup for this year’s SPLC Senior Executive Staff All-Star Team. As usual, it’s an all-white roster, but some “civil rights” outfits are superstitious, just like ball players who always wear the same socks or have a “lucky” bat.

The Caucasian Country Club has been bringing in millions of dollars a year for decades so why change things now? It’s not like anyone in the Media is going to notice.

The SPLC’s Outright Telemarketing Scam

February 27, 2015

One month ago, we gave the Southern Poverty Law Center the benefit of the doubt concerning their dubious telemarketing practices. Today, with the release of their 2014 IRS Form 990 tax report, we cannot cover for their outright telemarketing scam any longer.

Here is the SPLC’s IRS Form 990 for the fiscal year ending October 31, 2014.

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For the fourth consecutive year, SPLC Founder Morris Dees, who bills himself as a “sound steward” of the donors’ money has deliberately scammed tens of thousands of well-meaning donors through his network of paid telemarketing rip-off artists.

To wit, for the past four years Mr. Dees has continued his relationship with Grassroots Campaigns of Boston, Mass, despite the horrific hemorrhaging of donor dollars. Grassroots has cost the SPLC hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars each year for their fundraising efforts:

2011:  -$212,214

2012:  -$869,686

2013: -$1,156,765

2014:  -$1,130,680

How in the world can Mr. Dees continue to deal with a company that has blatantly siphoned $3,369,345 donor-dollars out of his coffers over the past four years? These horrendous figures more than wipe out every dollar raised by his other telemarketing cronies, not that that amounted to all that much.

Checking out Telefund, Inc. of Denver, we see that they raised $561,102 in the name of the SPLC  in 2014, and only pocketed $422,292 in fees, leaving the SPLC $138,811, or a whopping 25% of the donation money.

Did anyone tell the donors that Telefund was pocketing three quarters of their donor-dollars?

But that’s all chump change compared to the experts at Harris Marketing group, who raised $213,694 in the name of the SPLC and “fighting hate,” and only pocketed $192,928, or a mere 90% of the money donated over the phone.

And yet, Morris Dees could not be happier with the results because Grassroots, Telefund and Harris all sold their information to him. For mere pennies on the dollar, Mr. Dees buys solid donor leads that he can feed into his own uber-efficient in-house fundraising machine at 100% profit down the road.

Best of all, it was the stupid donors who unwittingly paid to have their information sold to Mr. Dees. You really cannot beat that for “stewardship.”

Dees will lose money on the deal this year, but it’s nothing compared to the tens of millions he stands to gain from these donors over the coming decades.

But think about it. In 2014, Mo Dees paid $2,537,027 to third-party telemarketers to raise $1,979,272 in donor-dollars, meaning that the telemarketers kept every last dime they solicited over the phone in the name of the SPLC as well as an additional $557,755 out of the SPLC’s existing donor till

THIS is “sound stewardship?”  At $100 dollars apiece “only” 25,370 of the 2014 donors got screwed out of their donations. A mere pittance. At $50 dollars a pop the number jumps to more than 50,000 suckers, and yet, Mo Dees calls this “sound stewardship?”

Justify it anyway you want, but at least 25,000 well-meaning donors got screwed out of their money, just as they have for the past four years.

It’s time that the media and the IRS investigates the criminal scamming of the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is nothing less than blatant fraud. Selling the suckers one thing and giving them something far less.

The Other SPLC: (The Civil Rights One)

February 23, 2015

It was just over two years ago that we first wrote about the outstanding work done by the other SPLC, the Student Press Law Center, which, unlike the fundraising company with the same monogram (differentiated here as the $PLC), is actually interested in preserving civil rights for everyone.

The Student Press Law Center’s mission statement is very simple, but it covers points that the $PLC could never begin to fathom:

“The Student Press Law Center is an advocate for student First Amendment rights, for freedom of online speech, and for open government on campus. The SPLC provides information, training and legal assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them.”

A perfect example of the Student Press Law Center’s devotion to First Amendment rights can be found on a recent podcast, Protecting Off-Campus Speech on Social Media, which includes an interview with an attorney who recently fought for the free speech rights of a high school student.

The student, Taylor Bell, created a rap video that was critical of two coaches at his school who Bell alleged were engaging in inappropriate behavior with female students. Bell claims the behavior was widely known around school but the administration was ignoring the situation.

Bell’s lawyer, Scott Colom, admits that there was vulgar and offensive language in the video, but notes that Bell “…wrote the song away from the school, he recorded it in a studio away from the school, he never played it at the school, he never talked about the song at the school, he never did anything to bring the song to the school.”

In fact, the school blocks Facebook, Youtube and cellphones on school property, and so was entirely out of the purview of the school authorities. Nonetheless, Bell was expelled for the remainder of the school year.

When the case finally reached Mississippi’s 5th Circuit District Court of Appeals, it became evident that the sole basis for the school’s disciplinary action against Bell is that they simply didn’t like what he had to say in a video that he had created on his own time. The 5th Circuit ruled that Bell’s speech, as offensive as many would find it, was protected.

SPLC Executive Director, Frank LoMonte, summed it up nicely:

“Certainly the way the Westboro Baptist Church people make themselves heard is every bit as offensive as Taylor Bell’s rap song, and yet that was found to be fully protected by the First Amendment, and so the majority two-to-one ruling by 5th Circuit correctly focused in on the nature and the intent of the speech, which is the kind of speech that is most in need of First Amendment protection.

If the First Amendment doesn’t exist to allow people to blow the whistle on government wrongdoing, then it has no purpose at all.”

You’d be hard pressed to find any references to the First Amendment or freedom of speech in any form on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site. In fact, the $PLC makes its money by smearing anyone engaging in free speech as a “hate group,” anyone expressing their religious beliefs as a “radical fundamentalist,” and anyone seeking to petition the government as a “far-right-wing extremist.”

In fact, the $PLC’s Public Relations guru, Mark Potok, has stated publicly numerous times that his patented “hate group” smear is based entirely on offensive speech:

“All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend)

“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.” (2008 Potok interview)

Strictly ideological. Our donors don’t like what you have to say, regardless of your Constitutional right to say it, so we will simply smear you as a “hate group” in our fundraising materials and the donors will do the rest.

Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool is so far removed from reality that it makes this unbelievable claim:

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

Think about that. An alleged “civil rights group” deliberately conflating six of the most fundamental First Amendment civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities.”

Congress cannot abridge people’s right to speak, to write and publish, or to assemble peacefully, but somehow a private, multimillion dollar fundraising company can?

And yet the media will never question the $PLC’s frequent press releases, or vet them for accuracy, and the donors keep sending Mr. Potok tens of millions of dollars a year.

The whole thing would be bad enough if it was simply the fact that Mr. Potok’s company deceives tens of thousands of its donors out of their money every year, but he also has the ear of the Department of Homeland Security, which seems every bit as gullible as the donors.

If you simply cannot resist writing out a donation check to the SPLC, make it the Student Press Law Center, the one that a) genuinely could use your donation, and b) is actually fighting for your civil rights.

The SPLC’s “Lone Wolf” Lunacy and the DHS

February 16, 2015

In its latest fear-mongering fundraising foray, the Southern Poverty Law Center has finally come out and stated the obvious: It’s not so-called “hate groups” that pose the greatest threat of violence today, it is the “lone wolf” lunatic.

As it turns out, an even greater threat to the American public is the extent to which the SPLC has insinuated itself into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an alleged source of reliable data. More on this to follow.

First, let’s have a look at “Age of the Wolf,” a “report” written by SPLC staffer Ryan Lenz and edited by Public Relations Chief Mark Potok.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

The “report” is filled with the usual “may-might-could” fundraising alarums familiar in Mr. Potok’s writing and repeats a point he made as far back as 2008:

“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.” (www.npr.org, October 30, 2008) [Emphasis added]


“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) [Emphasis added]

Individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America, but that has not prevented Mr. Potok from issuing his highly lucrative “hate group” “Hate Map” every year.

As we’ve demonstrated numerous times on this blog, and as Mr. Potok even admitted to us personally on video, the “Hate Map” is a fundraising tool and, in Mr. Potok’s own words, “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.”

Potok continues to designate “hate groups” to populate his “Hate Map” because that is where the money is.

The media regurgitates his meaningless numbers without ever performing even the most rudimentary fact checks, Potok’s Progressive donor base gets agitated and out come the checkbooks. Works like a charm every time.

What is most troubling about “Age of the Wolf” is that it reinforces a dangerous trend we first reported on back in 2012. The report is full of soft, nebulous bogey-words such as “extremist,” “Right-wing” and “far right,” which are largely subjective terms intentionally skirting  legal definition as much as possible. They frighten the donors without risking litigation.

The problem comes with the frequent use of the term “domestic terrorist,” which actually does have a legal definition, even though Mr. Potok largely ignores it in his report.

While the FBI does not, cannot designate “hate groups,” the DHS has every right to investigate any potential source of “terrorism” and, as we’ve seen in the past, doesn’t necessarily bother with a lot of Constitutional niceties in the process.

Being branded a “hate group” by the SPLC carries a stigma. Being branded a “terrorist” has legal repercussions.

“Age of the Wolf” concedes the obvious repeatedly, with such provisos as:

 “Analyzing terrorism comes fraught with pitfalls. There is no hard and fast agreement on what constitutes a terrorist action. What if the attack has a political dimension, but is carried out by someone who is clearly mentally ill? [Emphasis added]

Is a rampage killing spree terrorism or simply an eruption of personal hatreds? Does the murder of three police officers responding to a domestic disturbance count, even if the killer does have a long history in the police-hating anti-government movement?”

 Obviously, to a veteran fundraiser and fear-monger like Mr. Potok, the answer to those questions is a resounding “Close enough!” to warrant inclusion in a list of incidents in the report.

The FBI has a rather more stringent, three-pronged definition:

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

  1. Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

  2. Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

  3. Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.”

An event has to meet all three requirements before the FBI considers it a possible terrorist act, but the incidents on Mr. Potok’s list tend to focus mainly on the first and third criteria, while leaving the second characteristic pretty much up for interpretation.

Such broad interpretations are key to Mr. Potok’s standard M.O., whereby he breathlessly claims to have collected thousands of “hate incidents,” not hate crimes, most of which often do not pan out under closer examination. These are nothing more than standard Potokian fundraising hyperbole, designed to separate the donors from their dollars.

The serious part of “Age of the Wolf” comes at the end of the report in the “Related Studies” section.

To boost the credibility of his claims, Mr. Potok cites six recent studies that discuss domestic terrorism. Potok states:

“In recent years, a number of studies from sources inside and outside of federal government have warned of the threat of increased violence from the radical right, with many specifically addressing lone wolf attackers inspired by ideologies of hate and other extremism. What follows is a description of several of the studies.”

What Mr. Potok neglects to mention, however, is the incestuous relationship between the authors of these reports and his own Southern Poverty Law Center. Even more troubling is that several of them were funded by the DHS.

Before we delve into Mr. Potok’s reports, a quick word about a separate 2014 report Watching the Watchdogs stumbled upon two weeks ago.

In “The Relationship Between Hate Groups and Far-Right Ideological Violence,” published in the academic Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, JCCJ, (which you can download here), the four authors examine “whether the presence of hate groups increases the likelihood of serious ideologically motivated violence committed by far-rightists.”

That wording alone was enough to set off alarm bells, but reading further into the abstract, we read that:

“We test the relationship using data from the Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) for the dependent measure, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the hate groups measure, and various other sources for additional variables.”

As Mark Potok has already explained to us in person, his “hate group” statistics are “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.” How then, we wondered, could any serious study incorporate such shoddy data and come up with academically rigorous results?

After all, we had already reported on a similar “study” published by the Social Science Quarterly in 2012 that attempted to use Mr. Potok’s fundraising propaganda to prove the correlation between the presence of a Walmart in any given county with the subsequent appearance of a “hate group” on Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” in that same county a decade later. This was junk science at its worst.

In the days before “Age of the Wolf” was posted, we had already emailed each of the four authors of the JCCJ report to ask them why they used SPLC numbers in their report. The wording to all four authors, Amy Adamczyk, Jeff Gruenewald, Steven M. Chermak, and Joshua D. Freilich, (remember these names), was identical and, we thought, quite civil and polite:

“Prof. _____, I have just read your 2014 article “The Relationship Between Hate Groups and Far-Right Ideological Violence,” in which you, Adamczyk, Chermak, et al, state in the abstract that you included data from “the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the hate groups measure.”

Could you or one of your colleagues explain the methodology for vetting the SPLC’s data? I’m also interested in the working definition of “hate group” your team used for the study, as I was unable to find it within the text.

Thank you for your consideration,”

Ten days later and we’ve yet to hear anything from any of the authors. As we soon discovered, there seems to be a very good reason for the silence.

As for the funding for the article, “This research was supported by the Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through START.”

START is the National Consortium for the Studies of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, “established in 2005 as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, tasked with utilizing state-of-the-art theories, methods, and data from the social and behavioral sciences to improve the understanding of the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological impacts of terrorism.”

START was funded by an initial $12 million grant from DHS to complete projects in the research areas of terrorist group formation and recruitment, terrorist group persistence and dynamics, and societal responses to terrorist threats and attacks.”

All four academics associated with the JCCJ report are members of the START team and therefore dependent on the DHS for much of their funding.

Of the six reports cited by “Age of the Wolf,” five of them were co-authored by Chermak and Freilich of the START team and four of the reports cite the SPLC as a principle source of “hate group” data.

As for the other primary source of data for the JCCB report, the Extremist Crime Database (ECDB)it was created by START members Chermak, Freilich and Gruenewald. And who financed this impartial resource? “Part of this research was supported by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS)… and …[START].”

So, at the end of the day, we have Mark Potok’s “Age of the Wolf” fundraising screed, which cites multiple reports by several START researchers, who cite Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” hogwash in their reports to the DHS, which is the primary source of funding for START.

Just as Mr. Potok’s “hate group” label is worth millions to the SPLC, it certainly appears that DHS funding is worth millions to START. What would happen to that funding if the START researchers determined that Mr. Potok’s numbers were lacking in credibility?

Impartial? You be the judge. Incestuous? Cue the banjos.


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