Archive for September, 2009

Morris Dees — SPLC Founder and Klan Lawyer

September 18, 2009

On pages 84-85 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice*, SPLC founder Morris Dees brags about accepting $5,000 dollars from the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to represent one of their members in federal court.

On May 20, 1961, when a busload of black and white Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, they were met with what Time magazine described as “An idiot, club-swinging mob of about 100…” The idiot leading the mob was one Claude Henley.

Klansman Claude Henley at “work”

More photos of Henley’s handiwork from LIFE magazine here (pages 22-25)

In 1962, with an arraignment in federal court hanging over his head, Henley went to visit Morris Dees at his law office. Dees says that he was on the verge of agreeing  to represent the Klan thug for $500 dollars until Henley mentioned that another lawyer had wanted $15,000 to take the case. Dees seized the moment and said he would do the job for “only” $5,000.

(It should be mentioned that in 1962, $5,000 dollars was the median income for a family of four. To put it in perspective, that sum would be worth roughly $42,000 in 2018 dollars.)

Dees took the case, and despite the appearance in Life magazine of a photograph of Henley attacking a photographer during the riot, Dees had no trouble getting Henley off scott-free.

Dees wrote that after the Henley case he had an epiphany and had arrived at a “turning point.” Apparently, not to the point of turning the money over to the victims or to charity, however. Dees cashed the Klan’s check and kept the money.

Perhaps even more damning is that within pages of describing his work for Claude Henley, Dees writes that he and his partner closed their law office soon after in order to devote their full attention to their hugely successful mail order business.

Dees, who made his first million while still in law school, didn’t need the Klan’s money.

And with that kind of money behind him, Henley was far from indigent. Also, given the substantial sum involved, one has to wonder if the Montgomery Klan simply picked Dees out of the phone book at random, or if they had prior dealings with him in the past?

Anyone who has read much SPLC propaganda knows that one of their favorite spin techniques is to smear individuals based on the most tenuous of past associations. By all SPLC definitions, Morris S. Dees is a Klan lawyer.


*A Season for Justice: The life and times of civil rights lawyer Morris Dees,” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.)

SPLC Public Relations Guru: Mark Potok

September 8, 2009

Most Americans are completely unaware of the role professionally crafted press releases play in modern media. With shrinking news staffs and 24 hours-a-day news cycles, most news outlets find themselves with a lot of blank newsprint/airtime/website space to fill every day.

Many of these sites could not survive without PR press releases, which arrive in their e-mail pre-formatted, spell checked and pre-edited.

All the media outlet has to do is copy and paste, and voila! Instant content. Some will go as far as to slap a fig leaf on the release, in the form of a local “reporter” byline and maybe a local reference or two, but most won’t perform even the most rudimentary fact checks before passing the press release on as “news”.

In effect, special interest groups get to write their own “news” articles about themselves. The Southern Poverty Law Center is no exception. The SPLC sends out print and video press releases on a regular basis via paid public relations firms like PRNewswire, USNewswire, and Taylor Media Services (TMS).

These press releases are then picked up by news aggregators like the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters, which pass them along to their thousands of customers without checking a single fact. In fact, at this point, the press release, written by the special interest groups themselves, now picks up an AP or Reuters byline, giving the entire bogus document a patina of credibility.

Now, if you’re going to write your own news articles you’ll want to have them written by a pro, especially when there are hundreds of millions of donor dollars at stake. The SPLC hired former freelance reporter Mark Potok.

Potok has been writing PR copy for the SPLC for a dozen years, despite having no legal or law enforcement background. He must be doing something right as the SPLC’s “Endowment Fund” tallied over $200 million donor dollars in 2007, (although it too was a victim of the current recession and now languishes at a mere $151 million.)

For his modest efforts, Potok is compensated with more than $143,000 donor dollars each year, according to page 40 the SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990. For that kind of money, it’s little wonder Mr. Potok sees “hate groups” behind every rock and tree. There’s gold in them thar “haters”.

So efficient is Mr. Potok in promoting the SPLC’s latest fund raising “news stories” that almost everything you read, see or hear about the SPLC will have been written, in part or in total, by Mark Potok or a member of his staff.

When you read that the SPLC is a “premier civil rights watchdog” or that Mark Potok is a “civil rights expert,” you’re reading the words of Mark Potok. Every press release Potok writes will include a similar reference, conferring an air of authority to whatever denunciations or smears he is uttering at the time.

Is this illegal? No. All special interest groups and money making organizations do it. The problem with such a system is that 99% of the public have no idea that the vast majority of “news” they consume is actually skillfully crafted advertising copy.

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