Archive for April, 2018

SPLC — 2018 Telemarketing Scam

April 25, 2018

Earlier this month the Southern Poverty Law Center released its IRS Form 990 tax return, noting that the company took in a staggering $136,373,624 dollars in Fiscal Year 2017 (leaving a paltry “non-profit” of $76,589,303 for the year) and the already-bloated Endowment Fund exploded from $319 million for 2016 to $432 million for 2017, 99.17% of which is “unrestricted” in use.

Page 39 of the document breaks down what the company paid third-party telemarketers for the year. As usual, the amount paid to the telemarketers far exceeded the amount of money raised over the phone in the name of “fighting hate.”

2017 Telemarketers

The SPLC paid four third-party telemarketing companies $3,177,807 donor-dollars to raise only $1,801,207 donor-dollars on its behalf.

This leaves a shortfall of $1,376,600.

As usual, this means that not only did every dime raised from unsuspecting first-time donors go directly to the telemarketers, but thousands upon thousands of longtime donors got tapped to pick up the shortfall without ever realizing it.

How many people does it take to mop up a seven-digit deficit? At $100 dollars a pop, 13,766 loyal, longtime donors. At a more reasonable $25 dollar donation, just over 55,000 suckers.

How can a private advocacy group afford this kind of horrific hemorrhaging year after year? It’s quite simple. The SPLC takes a minor financial hit each year to get the names and addresses of thousands of proven first-time donors. They feed this information into their own huge, uber-efficient in-house fundraising machine and the future donations will roll in for years, if not decades, to come. As the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.”

Granted, the SPLC is not the only non-profit to engage in this kind of thing, and all donors have a responsibility to ask any telemarketers how much of their donation will actually reach the organization in question.

We at Watching the Watchdogs feel that the public ought to see the real numbers and see for themselves where their money actually goes.

The “Financial Information” page on the SPLC website makes the claim that “During the last fiscal year, approximately 68% of our total expenses were spent on program services.”

That’s a noble goal, and when you look at Line 16b on Page 2 of the Form 990, you see that the company spent 21% of those expenses on out-and-out fundraising. When you add in the $12 million in “joint costs,” those fundraising costs attributed to other departments (“Management” spent just over $1,000,000 on postage, for example) found on Line 26 of Page 11, however, you find that the SPLC spent 41% of its budget on fundraising right off the top.

When you figure in salaries, facilities costs and all of the other expenses of running a company with more than 300 employees, it’s pretty hard to see how 68% of expenses went to “program services.”

In the long run, most of the donors don’t really care. They each have their own concept of “fighting hate” and their canceled donation check or SPLC bumper sticker allows them to virtue signal to the world how wonderful they are.

In short, the donors are buying a product that the Southern Poverty Law Center is only too happy to sell them.

Caveat emptor.

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SPLC Executive Suite: 47 Years of “Whites Only”

April 15, 2018

This month the Southern Poverty Law Center released its tax records for 2017, revealing staggering revenues in excess of $136 million (compared to $58 million for 2016), and a bloated cash-on-hand endowment fund approaching half a BILLION dollars.

We’ll take a closer look at those numbers in upcoming posts. While profits at the company are at levels never seen before, there is one glaring statistic that has remained steadfastly unchanged since the Nixon Administration.

In 1994, Dan Morse and Greg Jaffe, two reporters from the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, published an 8-day exposé of the company. Amazingly, the reporters discovered that 23 years after opening its doors for business in 1971, there were no minorities among the top leadership of the “nation’s leading civil rights organization.”

The headline for the lead article in the series reads: “Equal Treatment? No Blacks in Center’s Leadership”

“Inside, 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 noted that the handful of Black attorneys hired in the company’s early days had all quit, some citing a “plantation mentality,” and that the only African-American in any position of authority managed the mail room, where she had worked for the past 20-odd years.

Equal treatment

Fast forward to November 2000, when Ken Silverstein noted in his landmark article for Harper’s Magazine, “The Church of Morris Dees,” that nothing had changed since Morse and Jaffe’s articles had been published.

When we first read these surprising claims in 2009 we were astonished and set out to discover if the SPLC had ever gotten around to practicing what it so profitably preached. Using the company’s IRS Form 990 tax returns, (which can now be found on the ProPublica website, going back to 2001), we found that the Executive Suite of the Southern Poverty Law Center was just as white in 2008 as it had been in 1978, 1988 and 1998.

Here we are in 2018 and the SPLC’s monochromatic streak remains unbroken:

2017 Execs

2017 salaries

2016 and 2015

2014 and 2013

2012 and 2011

Our clumsy Photoshop fumbling aside, it becomes readily apparent that SPLC founder Morris Dees has no intention of integrating Executive Suite any time soon.

Perhaps the most glaring exception from the annual “highest paid” officer list is Lecia Brooks, who joined the SPLC in 2004 and currently holds TWO directorships at the company simultaneously, something no other officer has ever done.

lecia_brooks

Lecia Brooks

Ms. Brooks has NEVER appeared on the “highest paid” list, even when the salaries listed dipped to a paltry $70,000 a year. Meanwhile, her all-white co-Directors, even the company’s head secretary, have been pulling down six-digit salaries for decades.

Among Ms. Brooks’ highly paid co-Directors is Maureen Costello, who runs the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” wing, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom. In that same 1994 Montgomery Advertiser article that noted no Blacks at the top, Morse and Jaffe noted this interesting factoid:

“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.”

While Teaching Tolerance does not publish the names of its rank-and-file staff, its Directors have always been whites, since its founding in 2004, except for a brief interregnum in 2010, when Lecia Brooks was allowed to keep the seat warm until the highly diverse Ms. Costello could be hired.

Costello

Maureen Costello

In closing, it is worth noting that many long-time SPLC donors and watchers may recall that the company’s first president was Julian Bond, the legendary civil rights activist from the 1960s. “Julian Bond was Black,” they’ll say, “So Morris Dees does hire minorities for top positions!”

As usual with Mr. Dees and the SPLC, a closer look at the facts tells a different story.

On page 132 of his 1991 autobiography, “A Season for Justice,” (reprinted verbatim in 2003 as “A Lawyer’s Journey“), Dees writes about the earliest days of the SPLC when he was preparing to mail out the very first of that organization’s fund-raising appeals, (using the 700,000-plus names on the donor list he received for “volunteering” to serve as finance manager for George McGovern’s presidential bid.)

Dees had made his millions in direct-mail marketing, not law, and he knew how to write a successful sales pitch:

“Before we could ask for money, we had to establish credibility. We needed a prominent figure whose presence would announce the center’s values and promise. Julian Bond seemed the perfect choice.”

“I had never met Julian Bond. My friend Chuck Morgan… working for the ACLU… arranged a meeting in Atlanta. When I told [Bond] about our hopes and plans, he agreed to serve as president of the Law Center, a largely honorary position.”

A memo from 1971 in the Julian Bond Papers collection at the University of Virginia indicates that the “honorary president” was paid a monthly “fee” (not “salary”) of $1,000 a month in exchange for his signature on fundraising letters written by Morris Dees in Julian Bond’s name.

Bond had returned to college in Atlanta in 1971 and remained there throughout his entire honorary presidency, a good three-hour drive from Montgomery on today’s highways.

Julian Bond was a paid celebrity endorser and no more, as noted by the fact that Bond gets exactly two paragraphs in Dees’ 335-page memoir and is never heard from again.

Julian Bond had no more to do with running the Southern Poverty Law Center than Michael Jordan has with running Hanes.

You have to hand it to Morris Dees, though. He’s managed to keep his Head Office lily-white for nearly fifty years. Even the NFL and NBA couldn’t pull that off.

 


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