Archive for the ‘2. Public Relations Techniques’ Category

SPLC — Putting the Hype in Hypocrisy

June 19, 2019

In recent days the Internet has been buzzing breathlessly with the news that rapper 21 Savage cut a check for $25,000 to the Southern Poverty Law Center in appreciation for its work to get him released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention in February.

The rapper, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was brought to the US legally in 2005 by his British parents, who, like millions of other illegal immigrants, simply overstayed their visas. Abraham-Joseph was picked up while driving in Atlanta on February 3.

The SPLC and several other organizations lost little time jumping on the bandwagon to free the famed rapper. Free publicity such as this is just too good to pass up. Apparently, their efforts paid off and 21 Savage was released from detention and, to show his gratitude, wrote a check for $25 grand to the SPLC and the hype machinery ground into full gear.

According to its most recent online tax forms, the SPLC took in $110 million dollars in 2018, on top of $130 million in 2017. The company’s assets now exceed half a billion dollars.

The SPLC takes in $301,000 in donations a day, or $25,000 every two hours, all day, every day of the year.

According to one source, 21 Savage is worth at least $8 million. His check for $25,000 represents .3% of his fortune and a micro-fraction of what he would have paid an immigration lawyer.

To put it into perspective, the US Median Household Income for 2018 was $61,372. Three-tenths of one percent of that figure comes to $184.11. Big deal.

The money means nothing to either party, but that didn’t stop the SPLC from making claims that the pittance will somehow “provide vital resources for detained immigrants.”

21 Savage

“Vital resources” for a company with $500 million in cash on hand.

Even more ironic, (a term that is synonymous with SPLC), is the fact that the Law Center recently cooked up a new category of “hate group” product with which to terrorize and outrage its Progressive donor base: Male Supremacy.

“Male supremacy is a hateful ideology advocating for the subjugation of women,” according to the SPLC.

“Male supremacy misrepresents all women as genetically inferior, manipulative and stupid and reduces them to their reproductive or sexual function — with sex being something that they owe men and that can or even should be coerced out of them. Driven by a biological analysis of women as fundamentally inferior to men, male supremacists malign women specifically for their gender.”

Sounds nasty, no? As it turns out, even a casual review of 21 Savage’s rap lyrics reveals dozens of “songs” that denigrate women as “bitches” and “hoes,” describe the joys of feeding said bitches date rape drugs and giving them the slapping around they richly deserve. (We soon lost count of the number of references to “n*gg*s, drugs and murder lacing the artist’s creations.)

No male supremacy there. The SPLC scooped up the misogynist’s check and even posed for propaganda photos with it. No hypocrisy there.

But then again, this is the same “civil rights advocacy” company that makes money on the sale of every copy of the “I am So Sick of White Guys” coloring book. It says so right on the front cover.

Sick-of-White-Guys-book

“10% of all sales will be donated to the SPLC”

No hypocrisy there either.

 

SPLC — Another “Honorary” President?

June 6, 2019

In the aftermath of the recent scandals that rocked the Southern Poverty Law Center this past March, in which SPLC founder Morris Dees was fired after decades of alleged sexual misconduct and long-time president Richard Cohen quit (or jumped ship) after taking full responsibility for ignoring Dees’ alleged conduct for all those years and also for perpetuating a corporate culture in which minorities were never promoted to senior positions, it became clear that some serious public relations work was required before the donors started asking questions and expressing doubts.

Enter SPLC “Interim President” Karen Baynes-Dunning.

Baynes-Dunning

Karen Baynes-Dunning

For the PR-savvy fundraisers at the SPLC, Ms. Baynes-Dunning represents the perfect stopgap measure. According to her company bio, Ms. Baynes-Dunning is a lawyer, a former juvenile court judge, and has 25 year’s worth of high-level experience in the non-profit sector.

Most importantly, Ms. Baynes-Dunning is not an old white male. She serves, from a public relations standpoint, as the ultimate “Anti-Dees.” She combines the best qualifications of her two predecessors without the negatives: Richard Cohen, who is a lawyer, but white, and genuine Civil Rights icon, the late Julian Bond, who was black, but not a lawyer.

While Julian Bond was a figurehead president, as we shall explore shortly, President Cohen was the real brains behind the SPLC for years and genuinely does bear full responsibility for the company’s policies. After Morris Dees was unceremoniously ejected from the company he created, several current and former staffers publicly stated that Dees’ alleged inappropriate behavior was a well-known in-house secret, including a March 21, 2019 article in the New Yorker by staff writer Bob Moser.

Richard Cohen and the SPLC Board of Directors had to be aware of these claims, but did nothing for decades.

In 1979, Dees’ second wife, Maureene Buck Dees, who was seeking a divorce from Dees, filed court papers that accused him of various sexual infidelities and what many would consider “peculiarities” unfit for publication here. Maureene Dees also accused Morris of slipping into her 13-year-old daughter’s bedroom one night to present the girl with a vibrator.

(A somewhat choppy mechanical transcript of the document can be found on the Internet Archive site here, though several more legible iterations can be found online at websites of varying credibility. The content of the texts are identical)

Again, Cohen and the Board had to be aware of these allegations, but did nothing. The fact that Mr. Dees recently divorced his fifth wife might have suggested that the man has “issues” when dealing with women.

Cohen and the Board turned a blind eye because Dees, who told the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper that he hadn’t tried a case in over a decade and had not participated in the day-to-day running of the SPLC for years, was a fundraising superstar.

Richard Cohen kept Dees on the payroll at his full $350,000 salary for years for doing little more than making the occasional phone call to big donors. The Board of Directors approved. And the whole time, the SPLC, with hundreds of millions of donor-dollars in the bank, continued to send out dire fundraising letters like clockwork.

It seems far more likely that Karen Baynes-Dunning  who had only been serving on the company’s Board of Directors for about a year before being promoted to “interim president,” is destined to  serve as a mere token, in the mold of the SPLC’s first president, Julian Bond.

After opening the SPLC in 1971, millionaire mail-order magnate Morris Dees realized that raising money for the company was his first priority. Dees wrote in his 1991 autobiography:

“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.

When I told [Bond] about our hopes and plans, he agreed to serve as president of the Law Center, a largely honorary position” (Dees, A Season for Justice, p. 132).

“Honorary” President Bond spent his entire administration in his hometown of Atlanta, a good three-hour drive from SPLC headquarters in Montgomery. Internal documents held in the Julian Bond Papers archive at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, show that Bond’s primary presidential function was to sign fundraising letters crafted by Dees in Bond’s name.

IMG_0643

“And two letters, drafted in your name…”

In return, the “president” of the company received a monthly “fee” of $1,000, as opposed to an actual salary. President Bond had no more to do with the running of the SPLC than Michael Jordan had with the running of Haynes. They were both simply spokesmodels for the brands.

Bond Fee

“Your fee for September, 1971 is enclosed.”

Karen Baynes-Dunning serves much the same function. As a black woman, she can act to deflect some of the heat of the recent scandals while giving lie to the serious charges that the revered civil rights institution doesn’t promote people of color.

We at Watching the Watchdogs have reported on this most incongruous charge and have posted photo galleries of the SPLC’s all-white Executive Suite every year for nearly a decade, which include transcripts of the 1994 week-long exposé of Dees and the SPLC in the Montgomery Advertiser that originally broke the news of “No blacks in Center’s leadership.”

Ironically, or perhaps “strategically” is a better term, Interim President Baynes-Dunning’s first official article for the SPLC deals with some of the same damning charges currently leveled at the company, racism and misogyny. In this instance, though, Baynes-Dunning turned her righteous anger toward the US Treasury Department’s recent decision to to delay the release of a new $20 bill featuring an image of famed abolitionist, Harriet Tubman.

The choice of topics could not have been safer and its (unverifiable) claim that the decision by the Trump Administration “clearly seems to be undergirded by racism and misogyny” is guaranteed to agitate the almighty donor base.

Any comment including the Bogie-Man-in-Chief, even blatant speculation, is guaranteed to bring in the donor-dollars, and that is the primary function of all SPLC presidents, “honorary” and otherwise.

These policies are the result of the bigotry and hate toward women and people of color that has seeped into mainstream thinking and policy development.”

Well, if anyone should know about policies that result in bigotry toward women and people of color, it would have to be the SPLC. They have an unbroken track record of 47 years behind them of doing just that.

The odds are very strong that this press release was written by a company PR hack under Baynes-Dunning’s name. It includes several safe, boilerplate fundraising tropes, such as “For nearly 50 years, the SPLC has been working tirelessly to develop “underground railroads” for children, youth, families, and communities…

The original release of the article also included a saccharine “reach for the stars” quote at the end, allegedly attributed to Harriet Tubman, which was obviously anachronistic to anyone speaking from the 19th century. Tubman biographer, Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, has traced the origins of the smarmy quote back to 2007, nearly a century after Tubman’s death.

The bogus quote has since been trimmed from the article currently residing on the SPLC website.

Baynes-Dunning’s company bio also indicates that she is the president of Baynes-Dunning Consulting, LLC, of Greenville, SC, and, in the age of instant Internet communication, has even less need to set foot in Alabama than Julian Bond did.

Additionally, the Montgomery Advertiser articles (linked above) exposed the SPLC’s Board of Directors, on which Baynes-Dunning had served only for a year, following the death of board member emeritus, Julian Bond,  as a rubber-stamp, populated with Morris Dees’ cronies. One of them, Dees’ divorce lawyer, Howard Mandell, who was mentioned in the 1994 exposé, is still on the board today.

In February, 1972, Julian Bond admitted in a letter to North Carolina politician Martha Clampitt McKay that It’s no consolation, I’m sure, but it’s not a real Board, in that it has no decision making ability, and is purely advisory.

IMG_0653

“…it’s not a real Board…”

The Montgomery Advertiser exposé came to the same conclusion 22 years later.

Considering the Board turned a blind eye to Dees’ alleged sexual harassment activities for decades, it’s unlikely that an “interim president” plucked from their ranks will become a permanent fixture around company headquarters.

If so, if the most junior member of the Board possesses all of the attributes needed to run a half-billion-dollar corporation, in the manner of a Richard Cohen, why bother with the “interim” status? Why not appoint Karen Baynes-Dunning to the presidency of the SPLC and be done with it?

More likely, Ms. Baynes-Dunning’s temporary status is more of a sign of a second “honorary” president, to keep the seat filled until the heat blows over and a new, more experienced president can be selected.

Last November, we put forth a proposition that Messrs. Dees and Cohen had accomplished their missions and should step down “at the top of their game” and pass the torch to a new generation, one that more resembled the people the SPLC purports to help. We suggested the new president of the SPLC should be long-time company director, Lecia Brooks.

Lecia Brooks, who is black and a lesbian, had been with the company for 15 years and was the only SPLC staffer to hold TWO concurrent directorships, for more than a decade, though she had NEVER been listed among the company’s highest paid executives.

Since the SPLC presidency is more about fundraising than law, (the lack of a JD was no impediment to the Bond Administration), Brooks, who had been SPLC Outreach Director for a decade was a perfect choice. She was certainly well known to the Almighty Donors.

About a week before the defenestration of Morris Dees in March, Lecia Brooks disappeared from the SPLC website and was all but airbrushed from the archives. She later turned up at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), also of Montgomery. No explanation of her departure was given, and no word of thanks for her years of service.

Last week we noticed that our Ms. Brooks had quietly returned to the SPLC, probably in April, in the new role of “Chief Workplace Transformation Officer,” which was no doubt created in response to the Dees/Cohen debacle.

At that time, we surmised that the role of a “transformation officer” certainly implies a sense of a definite transformational beginning and ending. Either the SPLC reforms its discriminatory and predatory practices or it does not. It sure sounds “interim” to us. Surely someone of Ms. Brooks’ experience would not give up a new job at the EJI to return to the fold for a temporary gig.

On June 4, 2019, (yesterday, as of this writing), Lecia Brooks gave testimony before the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which seems a bit odd for a “Workplace Transformation Officer” but exactly mirrors the kind of spurious “testimony’ President Richard Cohen has been giving Congress for years.

The “testimony” includes all of the standard SPLC propaganda claims about “hate groups” and “Alt-Right extremists,” and could have been written for Cohen months ago and simply updated for Brooks. We have been debunking those claims for nearly a decade now, and we once again warn of the dangers of this kind of unvetted fundraising propaganda entering the Congressional Record as “fact.” The claims do not hold up to even the most rudimentary examination.

While we are not in the prediction business, it sure looks like Lecia Brooks is being groomed for the post of president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. She checks off a lot of boxes, public relations-wise, is a “name” familiar to the donors, in the mold of Julian Bond, and most importantly, she can be relied upon to do what is asked of her.

You heard it here first, folks.

 

 

SPLC — Morris Dees and the Klan

April 2, 2019

The recent sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandals rocking the Southern Poverty Law Center have brought an oft-told legend about SPLC founder Morris Dees back into the spotlight, but there is more to the tale than the carefully polished version put forth by the Center’s public relations office.

That legend recounts how Morris Dees won a $7 million judgment against the United Klans of America in 1987, for the brutal murder of a young Black man, 19-year-old Michael Donald, bankrupting the UKA and essentially “bringing the Klan to its knees.” The money from that settlement allowed Michael’s mother, Beulah Mae Donald, to move out of public housing and buy her own home.

These facts are all accurate, but they gloss over a much larger story of greed, revenge and exploitation that requires a little background history to fully understand. Ironically, the best source for that history comes from none other than that “Modern Day Atticus Finch,” Morris Dees, himself.

In 1961, Morris Dees was a fledgling lawyer, struggling to establish a law practice in his hometown of Montgomery, AL. Dees’ law and business partner at the time was his fellow law school chum Millard Fuller. Dees writes in his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice, that it was tough for two novice lawyers to compete with older, more established law firms in the city, as might be expected.

On May 20, 1961, a Greyhound bus carrying Black and White Freedom Riders was attacked at the Montgomery bus depot by what Time magazine described as “An idiot, club-swinging mob of about 100…” One of the idiots leading the mob was one Claude Henley, a local used car salesman and known Klansman.

Thanks to photos appearing in Life magazine (see pages 22-25 here ), Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s Department of Justice was able to identify Henley and brought federal civil rights violation charges against him.

Henley

Claude Henley kicking a news reporter on May 20, 1961

With an arraignment in federal court hanging over his head, Henley went to visit his old friend 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 1961, $5,000 dollars was the median income for a family of four. To put it in perspective, that sum would be worth over $42,000 in 2019 dollars.)

Dees wrote in his autobiography, “Later, when Claude Henley asked me to defend him, I didn’t think twice,” (Season, p. 84). In fact, Dees believed the violent photos of Henley in Life magazine would work in his favor as it would establish that his old friend was outside the bus station attacking reporters and not Freedom Riders.

Long story short, Dees went to bat for Henley and in 1962 the Klan thug walked out of RFK’s federal courthouse scot-free. Henley’s victims got nothing, least of all justice, but Morris Dees collected his $5,000 fee all the same.

Dees’ law partner, Millard Fuller, who later went on to found Habitat for Humanity, wrote in his autobiography that the Dees’ fee was paid by the Klan. Arguably, the Klan money was possibly the largest legal fee Morris Dees ever collected, as by 1962 he and Fuller had pretty much shuttered the law office to concentrate on their thriving mail order business. Fuller wrote that by 1964 their company bookkeeper informed the partners that they were worth a million dollars each.

Fast forward a few years, Dees and Fuller had parted ways by 1966 and Dees had sold the mail order business in 1969 for $6 million, (over $41 million in 2019 dollars), and by 1971 had founded the Southern Poverty Law Center with a 28-year-old lawyer named Joe Levin.

The SPLC spent the first decade of its existence taking on real civil rights cases and defending death row inmates, the exact kind of thankless, low-profile “poverty law” work for which the organization was founded, and which, to a lesser extent, it still practices today. Early in the 1980s, however, Morris Dees discovered that there was a lot of money to be made by taking on the Ku Klux Klan.

“The money poured in,” according to Randall Williams, a journalist hired by Dees in 1981 to form Klanwatch, a unit of the SPLC specifically designed to promote the SPLC’s work against the Klan. In a 1988 cover story in The Progressive magazine, Williams recounted,

“Everybody, it seems, was against the Klan. We developed a whole new donor base anchored by wealthy Jewish contributors on the East and West Coasts, and they gave big bucks.” In particular, Williams noted, “Our budget shot up tremendously—and still, we were sometimes able to raise as much as $3 million a year more than we could spend.”

Dees’ success against the Klan came largely from filing civil suits against local chapters, whereby the defendants had to provide for their own legal defense. Being rural and poor, most could not afford counsel and attempted to defend themselves in court. Being largely uneducated and semi-literate, most failed in the attempt.

These successes drew the ire of the Klan, and in the summer of 1983 there was an arson attack on SPLC headquarters. Dees wrote in his autobiography that he was, quite naturally, furious, and called his old friend Claude Henley into his office for a chat. When Henley arrived, Dees dialed up United Klans of America Imperial Wizard Bobby Shelton, on the speakerphone.

Below is Dees’ account of what happened next. CAUTION: Mr. Dees has a fondness for expletives:

shotgun

Granted, as the sole survivor of the alleged conversation, we only have Morris Dees’ word for it, but the exchange does raise some important questions. Why would Dees have the phone number of an Imperial Wizard on file? Why was he on a first name basis with Shelton? Why did Dees choose Henley to act as interlocutor?

Dees mentioned that Bobby Shelton was also named in the Freedom Rider suit. Millard Fuller said the $5,000 fee was paid by the Klan. Does it stand to reason that Bobby Shelton issued the payment to Morris Dees in 1962?

[It is interesting to note that, even in Alabama, pointing a loaded shotgun at someone, even a Klan thug, is a felony. Under Alabama state law, (Statute: AL § 15-3-1 et seq, to be precise), while most felonies have a mere 3-year statute of limitations, “Any felony involving the use, attempted use, or threat of, violence to a person” has NO such limitation. In essence, Morris Dees’ self-serving braggadocio is a published confession to a felony crime, and so Mr. Dees is still liable to arrest and prosecution.]

All this brings us to 1987 and the Michal Donald murder case. Late on the evening of March 21, 1981, 19-year- old Michael Donald was walking home alone in Mobile, AL, when he was approached by two men in a car, Henry Hays, 26, and James “Tiger” Knowles, 17.

Hays and Knowles, both members of the local United Klans of America chapter, had learned earlier that night that the trial of a black defendant, Josephus Anderson, charged with killing a white policeman, had ended in a mistrial when the jury, composed of eleven blacks and one white, could not reach a unanimous verdict. Incensed, the two men went into Mobile in search of a black person to murder in revenge for the perceived failure of the court system. Michael Donald was simply a convenient victim.

Sighting Donald, who was out buying cigarettes for his sister, the men pulled up to the sidewalk on the pretense of asking directions to a local club. When Donald approached the car, he was forced into the back seat at gunpoint and driven to an isolated location. After a struggle, with Donald literally fighting for his life, the two managed to knock the young man unconscious and cut his throat with a razor knife.

Hays and Knowles then put Donald’s lifeless body in the trunk of the car and drove back to Mobile, where they tied the corpse to a small tree across the street from the home of Bennie Hays, Henry Hays’ father. The elder Hays was the leader of the local Klan unit, UKA 900, and his son was eager to show off his handiwork. Had a larger tree been available across the street, Hays would have hung Donald’s corpse from a branch.

After considerable foot-dragging by the Mobile police department, including a false lead that some have called a deliberate red herring, Knowles and Hays were arrested, but it was only the persistence of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Figures and extensive investigation by the FBI on civil rights violations grounds that brought Hays and Knowles to trial in 1984, two-and-a-half years after the murder.

“Tiger” Knowles was persuaded to testify against his friend Henry Hays in return for leniency, and in short order, both men were convicted of the murder of Michael Donald by an all-white jury. Henry Hays received the death penalty and Knowles was sentenced to life in prison. Hays was only the second white man to be executed for the murder of a Black man in Alabama history. Even in the heart of Alabama, the slow wheels of justice had finally turned.

Morris Dees wrote in his autobiography that he attended the Hays trial as a spectator, in 1984, and returned to Montgomery determined to bring a civil suit against the United Klans, Bennie Hays and his old nemesis, UKA founder and Imperial Wizard, Robert “Bobby” Shelton.

“I didn’t know whom we would sue or exactly what our theory would be, but that really didn’t matter. This was the most gruesome racially motivated murder in almost twenty years. We’d find something.”

Dees added one more, rather telling comment that never makes it into the “bringing the Klan to its knees” legend reprinted in the media:

“One more factor motivated me: The torching of the Center had made my battle against the Ku Klux Klan personal as well as philosophical,” (p. 214).

This stunning confession that Morris Dees was essentially going on a fishing expedition to exact revenge against Bobby Shelton is worth considering and alters Dees’ “white crusader” image entirely.

To his credit, Morris Dees was among the first to use common tort laws in local courts, which was rather innovative at the time. As mentioned, in a civil suit the defendants are entitled to the best legal representation they can personally afford, or go without. Unlike a criminal case, where plaintiffs must prove their case “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” in a civil suit one need only provide a “preponderance of evidence,” which is a much lower bar to surmount. Additionally, in a civil suit there are no double-jeopardy limitations, so if your first suit doesn’t succeed, you may simply try, try again.

Dees was faced with a couple of hurdles in crafting his suit. First off, the actual murderers, Hays and Knowles were locked away forever, rendering them “judgement proof.” This led Dees to widen the pool of defendants in an innovative attempt to prove “vicarious guilt,” in which the people named in the suit had never been criminally charged with any connection to the actual murder.

The crucial piece of the puzzle was finding a plaintiff who had the legal standing to sue the United Klans. That meant Michael Donald’s 66-year-old mother, Beulah Mae Donald, who had already endured the ordeal of the criminal case against Hays and Knowles a few years earlier.

Some media accounts claim that Mrs. Donald sought out Morris Dees’ help, but Dees confirms that it was he who sought out Mrs. Donald through her family attorney, Michael Figures, the brother of the assistant U.S. attorney, who had reopened the murder case in 1984 (p. 223).

Dees wrote that he warned Mrs. Donald that there was very little chance of receiving much in monetary damages, noting that “Winning money for Mrs. Donald was not my principle aim” (Ibid).

If winning money for the victim’s mother was not Dees’ principle aim for suing the UKA, what was? Justice had ultimately been served with the conviction of the murderers. Mrs. Donald was not actively seeking damages from Hays or Knowles (her final words to them at the end of the trial were of forgiveness), it was Morris Dees who had actively sought her out. Mrs. Donald’s heath had suffered from the criminal trial and the local Klan thugs seemed content to simply distance themselves from the convicted murderers. Why stir up trouble?

In short, the most likely motive behind Morris Dees’ civil suit against the UKA was the personal revenge he wrote of in his autobiography, not to mention the righteous sensation it would cause among the SPLC’s donor base, even if he lost. As Dees was going to try the case himself and any additional legal costs would be borne by the Center, his financial investment in the suit was less than minimal. Morris Dees had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

And so it went. Morris Dees got his civil suit against the UKA. Of the multiple defendants cited, only Imperial Wizard Bobby Shelton had the wherewithal to afford an attorney. Dees won a $7 million judgment against the UKA, which had to surrender its only tangible asset, its “national headquarters.” The rest is history, except few in the media seem interested in following that history. Here is a thumbnail version:

  • Sale of the UKA’s building brought in only $52,000, or less than one percent of the $7 million judgment.
  • Ken Silverstein noted in Harper’s magazine in 2000 that while Mrs. Donald only received $52,000 from the loss of her son, the SPLC garnered over $9 million dollars from direct mail fundraising appeals that included a photo of Michael Donald’s bloated corpse. Mrs. Donald never saw a dime of that money.
  • Morris Dees authorized the SPLC to advance Mrs. Donald the $52,000, interest free, until the sale of the building could be finalized. Dees contended that the building was worth far more but that the price had been suppressed by the notoriety of the civil suit. If this were the case, why didn’t Mr. Dees offer to buy the building at a fair price and simply hold onto it until it could be sold at a fair market value? He was, after all, a multimillionaire. Why wouldn’t he want Mrs. Donald to receive the full price?
  • The money Mrs. Donald received in the judgment rendered her ineligible to remain in the public housing unit where she had spent much of her adult life. At 66, she had to buy her first home on her own.
  • Morris Dees made sure to be back in Mobile for a photo-op of him handing Mrs. Donald the keys to her new home personally, as a Great White Savior.
  • After the civil suit, Morris Dees returned to Montgomery, leaving Mrs. Donald on her own in Mobile, to live among her angry Klan neighbors.
  • Beulah Mae Donald died less than a year after moving into her new home. Dees wrote, “The pain of losing her Donald was too much for her heart to bear.” (p. 332) Arguably, since she had lost “her Donald” more than six years prior, the strain of a second courtroom drama, confronting the Klansmen who murdered her son on a daily basis, probably had more to do with Mrs. Donald’s heart condition. Recall, it was Morris Dees who persuaded her to bring the suit.

Perhaps the most damning evidence that Morris Dees simply exploited the murder of Michael Donald and then used his mother, Beulah Mae Donald, in a crass fundraising scheme, came a few years later.

A 1991 article in People magazine featured an interview with “Bubba” Dees, the “wily Alabamian” who “uses the courts to wipe out hate groups.” During the interview, Dees revealed that he had recently been in contact with Tiger Knowles, one of Michael Donald’s confessed murderers:

“A few weeks ago, Dees accepted a collect call to his office from James “Tiger” Knowles, one of the men doing time for the Mobile lynching.

‘What you doin’ callin’ me collect, boy,’ Dees laughed. ‘You done escaped or something?’

Tiger was calling to get Dees’s [sic] advice on a book he’s writing. ‘You get a contract, I’ll look at it for you, Tiger.

Did I treat you right in my book?’ Dees asked.”

Considering Dees referred to the Donald murder in his autobiography as “the most gruesome racially motivated murder in almost twenty years,” Mr. Dees appeared to be on very congenial terms with the surviving murderer. Why would he even accept a call from Tiger Knowles and why would he laughingly offer to help him? Was this the “season for justice” Dees spoke of in the title of his book?

Morris Dees got his revenge on Bobby Shelton. His company made millions of dollars in donations at the time and the legend of “bringing the Klan to its knees” was born, which has no doubt brought in additional millions.

Dees ultimately staged several other show trials, based on the success of the Donald case. The plot seldom varied. Dees would file a vicarious liability civil suit against a “hate group,” a sympathetic jury would find against the often unrepresented defendants, huge judgments were decreed with the plaintiffs lucky to receive pennies on the dollar. Morris Dees, master direct mail salesman, would exploit the fundraising potential of each case to raise millions for the SPLC, of which the victims received nothing. Each time, Dees’ legend grew just a little larger.

Now that the media has finally been forced to look more closely into the claims of racism and sexual misconduct against Morris Dees, maybe it’s time to flip a few flat rocks and examine the personal conduct and fundraising methods of this “Great White Savior.”

 

 

“The SPLC is Lying to Us”

December 3, 2017

We came across this excellent YouTube video not long ago. The video’s creator, who identifies herself as Annette Rivers and an experienced fact checker, uses great imagery and well reasoned dialog to expose how the Southern Poverty Law Center (and by extension, other major Hate Industry players) manipulates the “facts” for fundraising purposes.

Ms. Rivers manages to sum up in nine minutes what we at Watching the Watchdogs have been trying to explain for nine years.

Thank you, Ms. Rivers, for showing us how fact checking should be done in the 21st century. Well done!

SPLC Cashes in on Las Vegas Massacre

October 4, 2017

As of this writing, it has been three days since the shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 dead and over 500 wounded and what does the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” have to say about the tragedy?

Nothing.

There’s not a single word on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website about the massacre. The only reference to “Paddock” on the site is from 2014 and refers to the traditional animal enclosure used by ranchers and farmers and not the alleged Vegas gunman.

Compare that with at least 52 references to Charlottesville since August 12, including the crass announcement that the company was cashing in on the death of Heather Heyer, as Watching the Watchdogs noted.

Why the silence on the greatest mass murder of Americans in the 21st century? Because the victims were mostly white and were attending a Country music concert. Suffice it to say that there were probably few SPLC donors in the crowd.

Before you reach for your wallet to step into the SPLC’s fundraising breach, note that media sources are reporting that MGM Resorts, the mega-corporation that owns the Mandalay Bay hotel from where the alleged gunman opened fire has stated that:

“The company, [MGM Resorts CEO, Jim Murren] vowed, would match employee donations to: the Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Anti-defamation League, Human Rights Campaign, Council on American Islamic Relations, Asian Pacific American Advocates and the League of United Latin American Citizens.”

Talk about “virtue signaling.” “We couldn’t do anything to prevent a deranged lone-wolf from murdering people, so we’re going to send money to “advocacy groups” that also couldn’t do anything to prevent a deranged lone-wolf from murdering people.”

And so, another multi-million dollar mega-corporation that couldn’t even acknowledge the deaths and woundings of hundreds of white Americans will receive even more millions for its lack of action.

The SPLC’s Morris Dees must be rubbing his hands in glee.

SPLC — Whither Mark Potok?

August 31, 2017

It is a dark day at Watching the Watchdogs. A short while ago we were reading an article about a black musician who was fighting racism by befriending white nationalists when we read the following words: “Mark Potok, an expert on extremism formerly with the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

FORMERLY with the SPLC? WHEN did that happen? HOW could that happen? And why wasn’t it a major news item? For millions of people, Mark Potok has been the public face and voice of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the brains behind the insanely lucrative annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool for nearly two decades.

It would nearly impossible to estimate how many millions of donor-dollars Mr. Potok has brought into SPLC coffers over the years.

And now he’s gone? Without so much as a “So long, Mark. Thanks for everything!” from Morris Dees or Richard Cohen?

We immediately turned to our favorite sleuthing tool, the Internet Archives’ cantankerous Wayback Machine to see if we could pinpoint Mr. Potok’s untimely departure.

As of February 20, 2017, Mr. Potok was still listed as a “Senior Fellow” on the SPLC website.

Mark Potok _ Senior-Fellow-Feb-20-17

As of now, Mr. Potok’s biography page, if you can find it, refers to him as “Former Employee.” No “Former Senior Fellow,” or “Senior Fellow Emeritus,” as SPLC co-founder Joe Levin and the late SPLC celebrity spokesman Julian Bond got upon their retirements.

Potok Former Employee

Potok was still listed on the “Leadership” circle page on the site in February.

Feb-22-2017-Leadership _ Southern Poverty Law Center

Today, his picture has been removed from the page with all of the subtlety of an old-time Pravda airbrushing.

8-31_14-Leadership _ Southern Poverty Law Center

In fact, Mr. Potok’s bylines on the hundreds of hit pieces he wrote for the company now refer to him as “Former Employee.”

Potok-byline

Potok’s Facebook page has one cryptic note from March: “Left Job at Southern Poverty Law Center.” No mention of “retiring” or “exploring new opportunities.” Not even a “wants to spend more time with his family.”

Potok Left SPLC

Twenty years of faithful, profitable service and the man is kicked out without so much as a thank you or a Fare-thee-well. What happened?

Apparently Mr. Potok has his own website now, where he is offering his “expertise” on the open market. “I’m an expert on the radical right who spent 20 years at the SPLC.”

Potok Keynote Speaker

While there is no denying that Mr. Potok was a master craftsman of fear-mongering and the smear while at the SPLC, it seems unlikely that he will find another gig that pays anything near the six-digit salary Dees and Cohen have paid him for years.

Potok990

Potok’s website includes several testimonials regarding his career, but the only one from the SPLC comes from retiree Joe Levin. There is no sign of Dees or Cohen to be found anywhere.

Potok Testamonials

What a sad end to a brilliant career. Here was a man who could find unfettered access to every form of media and every leading news outlet with the snap of his fingers. Cut down in his prime at the very dawn of the company’s Golden Era.

With Donald Trump in the White House and Nazi-wannabees holding torchlight processions in Charlottesville, Mr. Potok’s best material ever would have all but written itself. The money is pouring into the SPLC so fast these days that there will no doubt be fat raises for all of the white millionaire proprietors.

Just last week alone, Mo Dees found a way to cash in on the death of Charlottesville protester Heather Heyer. Every tragedy has a silver lining at the SPLC.

It only goes to show the extent of the SPLC’s transformation from “civil rights organization” to “advocacy group.” There are tens of millions of donor-dollars at stake and it’s quite possible that veteran Mark Potok is no longer the “face” of the company that will best appeal to fickle Millennial donors. Maybe he was back-stabbed by ambitious co-workers or somehow crossed his overlords.

For now, we’ll just have to wait until somebody spills the beans. If anyone knows the story, and that includes Mr. Potok himself, please let us know.

There is an old German term, Schadenfreude, which translates more-or-less to “joy or happiness felt at someone else’s misfortune.” Let the record show that we at Watching the Watchdogs take no pleasure at Mark Potok’s departure. While we have spent much of the past decade chronicling his various fear and fundraising campaigns, as a life-long student of communication, rhetoric, persuasion and propaganda, you just have to admire the man’s mastery of the arts.

Though we’ll never agree on much, unless Mr. Potok has a tell-all book up his sleeve, we sincerely tip our hat to a true legend of the art of persuasion.

The man deserved better.

Even if your former colleagues have abandoned you, Mark Potok, we offer you a heartfelt “Fare-thee-well” and we look forward to writing about your work in the future.

“I think a lot of people feel, ‘Oh, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, they find, you know, the two hundred Nazis running around the country, they build them up into great big groups, they make a big deal about it and then ask for your money,’ right? In other words, it’s kind of a scam. You hype up this little tiny threat into something scary, uh, and then go and try to make money off of it.”

Mark Potok speaking to Bill Holiday in 2008, Track 2.

 

SPLC — Cashing in on Charlottesville

August 19, 2017

While the violence and death at last week’s “Unite the Right” riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a national tragedy and a source of horror for most Americans, it follows as surely as the night follows day that the Southern Poverty Law Center would find a way to make money off it.

It was only a few weeks ago, in June, when the SPLC was writhing under some of the most negative media coverage it had possibly ever seen, in the wake of the GuideStar debacle. Reliable media allies such as Politico and the Wall Street Journal were openly criticizing GuideStar, a leading rating agency of non-profit organizations, for adding the SPLC’s spurious “hate group” label to dozens of its entries.

[The Politico article is one of the best exposés of the SPLC written in decades and well worth a read.]

Then came Charlottesville. The violent idiots on both sides of the fighting were right out of Central Casting and a godsend for the SPLC. Images of torchlight parades across the University of Virginia campus were tailor-made for the endless barrage of fundraising tweets, press releases, and, no doubt, fundraising letters. The cash has been pouring in ever since. The company will probably have to open several more off-shore bank accounts to house it all.

All of that paled in comparison to the tragedy of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer’s death after being struck by a car that careered into a crowd on Saturday afternoon. Video footage of the incident gives an impression that the act may possibly have been intentional, and the driver of the car, James Fields, Jr., who was identified marching with white nationalists earlier in the day, is currently being held on charges of second-degree murder and several other counts.

Once Heyer’s name was released on the following day she was immediately canonized by the media and the Left, for their own financial and political purposes, but none of them could hold a candle to the Southern Poverty Law Center when it comes to monetizing murder.

Less than a week after Heyer’s death, the SPLC announced that it was “honoring Heather Heyer at Civil Rights Memorial Center.”

“Like the civil rights martyrs whose names are inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial, Heather took a stand against hate and bigotry and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the SPLC, which built and maintains the memorial.”

Will Heyer’s name be immortalized on the SPLC’s “Martyr’s Monument,” a black granite disc designed by Vietnam Veterans Memorial artist Maya Lin? Well no, that monument cost the perpetually cash-strapped SPLC $5,000,000 in 1989 (nearly $10 million in today’s dollars.)

Instead, the SPLC is going to honor Heyer on its less-static and infinitely more economical “Wall of Tolerance.” Longtime Watching the Watchdogs readers may recall our 2016 investigation of the Wall of Tolerance fundraising scam. We found that, like the lucrative “Stand Strong Against Hate” map scam that preceded it, the Wall of Tolerance was little more than a fundraising tool designed to recruit new donors.

While invoking the names of the “civil rights martyrs,” the Wall of Tolerance scam is built solidly upon the age-old persuasion technique of “reciprocity,” in which an organization sends out free gifts to potential donors in the expectation that the recipients will feel obliged to make a donation. Many readers may remember receiving packs of return address labels from various veteran’s groups. It’s a simple, cost-effective method that has been around for decades.

In the Wall of Tolerance scam, prospective donors receive a suitable-for-framing certificate from the SPLC thanking them for joining the ranks of the civil rights martyrs by supporting the company in its never-ending “fight against hate.” In addition to the certificate, the recipient will be memorialized forever on the “Wall of Tolerance,” a 20-by-40-foot Jumbotron screen at SPLC headquarters, where hundreds of thousands of names drift autumn-leaf-like across the screen “as the gentle rain from heaven.”

Recipients, honored to be included among such auspicious company, feel obligated to send along a little something in appreciation. Others can add their names simply by passing along their personal contact information to the Fundraising Department.

As our report noted, at least one honoree, Marcus Epstein,  had the dual honor of having his own page on the SPLC website that denounced him as a racist. Oops!

SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, was hugely impressed by the elegant simplicity of the Wall of Tolerance:

SOFII’s view

The Southern Poverty Law Center, who launched this campaign, is a hugely impressive organisation with a long and well-deserved reputation for effective donor development.

Though we don’t have the results, we think we can presume that this direct mail capital appeal must have worked really very well.

Merits

This is one of the most moving and long-lasting donor involvement campaigns in the USA and represents some of the best that the direct marketer’s art can produce.

It cost the SPLC nothing to add Heather Heyer’s name to the Wall o’ Tolerance Jumbotron but the tax-free donor-dollars will be rolling in by the truckload for weeks and months.

Incidentally, Lecia Brooks, who is quoted above in the Heyer press release, holds two concurrent Directorships at the SPLC. One of the few African-Americans in the SPLC hierarchy, Double-Director Brooks has never been named among the company’s highest paid executives.

One wonders what Heather Heyer would have made of that?

SPLC — Why is the “Hate Map” Static?

August 31, 2016

This week has seen repeated online headlines reading that “White Lives Matter has been designated a ‘hate group'” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), broadcast from a number of media sites, some of them major players, here, here, here, here, here and here.

What most news outlets, from the New York Times to Time magazine to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution neglect to mention is that is that the SPLC won’t actually get around to adding White Lives Matter to its “Hate Map” fundraising tool until February, 2017. But six months from now, WLM is going to have a place on the Wall of Shame, by golly.

This raises the question, and admittedly, such heresy borders on flagrant “journalism,” as to why the SPLC’s “Hate Map” is static in a world of dynamic websites?

The oft-repeated photo accompanying the SPLC’s polished press releases, dutifully reprinted in online media sites across the board, shows a handful of neo-Nazi wannabes desperate to get a rise from the media, as the local populations have shown little interest in WLM’s blather.

WLM.png

There they are, America, the existential threat that ought to keep your eyes wide open at night and your checkbook wide open by day. Think about it.

So to get back to the uncomfortable question, why IS the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool static when every media website, social media outlet or even private blog, such as our own Watching the Watchdogs dynamic? It makes no sense, unless you follow the money.

The SPLC releases its annual “Hate Map” every spring, purporting to identify all “hate groups” across the nation on a state-by-state basis from the previous year. Oddly enough, there is no legal definition for “hate group,” so the “groups” listed are purely at the whim of the SPLC, which receives no external oversight or review.

In short, we KNOW the “groups” listed on the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool, which include t-shirt shops, one-man blogs and an Italian restaurant outside Pittsburgh, really, really are “hate groups,” because they tell us so.

If knuckleheads like White Lives Matter are such a threat, why won’t the SPLC post them on the “Hate Map” today? Why wait six months?

Well, it’s like this. The “Hate Map” is a fundraising tool, and as such it always refers to the previous year. The current SPLC “Hate Map” actually refers to existential threats from 2015. A little late to take up arms against the outrageous slings and arrows from last year, the “Hate Map” serves an important fundraising purpose. Media outlets from the New York Times, NPR, Time Magazine and the BBC will pick up the SPLC’s bogus “hate group” numbers and repeat them verbatim, ad nauseum, without ever performing even the most preliminary fact checks on the company’s claims.

If the SPLC were actually to create a dynamic tool the company would have to deal not only with scrutiny when it added “groups” to the “Hate Map,” but when they just as arbitrarily removed “groups” from the tool.

Case in point: In February, 2015, the SPLC designated 40 “hate groups” to New Jersey, giving it the fourth highest total in the land. This unsubstantiated claim led Mark Pitcavage, Intelligence Director for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to publicly challenge the reliability of the the numbers his brothers-in-arms at the SPLC were putting forth.

“According to Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the 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]

After being publicly humiliated by the ADL, the SPLC reduced its “hate group” count for New Jersey from 40 to 21, due largely to the arbitrary removal of 13 chapters of the AC Skins skinhead group that the company swore was a threat to all that we hold dear in 2015.

AC skins

The beauty of the “static map” system is that even though the ADL debunked the SPLC’s New Jersey claims in March of 2015, the reduction to the “Hate Map” didn’t come until February, 2016, resulting in a full year of fundraising. That one year delay resulted in uncounted donor-dollars wafting their way into the SPLC’s already bloated coffers.

If the “Hate Map” served any purpose beyond agitating the company’s mostly elderly, mostly Progressive donor base, it would be accurate up to the minute.

This friends, is why the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool only comes out once a year. It’s not about identifying “threats,” it’s about gulling the gullible. Give early and often and we’ll tell you all about it next year.

 

Where is the “Center for the Study of Hate” on the San Bernardino Massacre?

December 8, 2015

One of the first posts Watching the Watchdogs made back in 2009 dealt with Prof. Brian Levin’s one-man “Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism” at California State University at San Bernardino.

We described how the “center’s” phone number went to a different department, how the “center’s” website hadn’t been updated since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and how the “center’s” email address was Brian Levin’s own free AOL email account. We could find not one single academic article produced by the “center” that was not authored by “B. Levin.”

In short, there was no one at the “center” for the Director to direct. It was a classic case of a “letterhead” center that existed only on paper.

We even contacted the California State University at San Bernardino to ascertain how much funding the “center” received from the state and learned that it was merely in the hundreds of dollars. This was not “funding” but merely petty cash reimbursement.

As we stated in 2009, these facts in no way diminish Prof. Levin’s credentials as a researcher. His work on the plight of the homeless in the San Bernardino area is peerless, the man does not need a paper “center” to bolster his bona fides. Prof. Levin has the goods.

And yet, despite the recent horrific attacks in the man’s own back yard, there is absolutely NOTHING about this massacre on the “Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism” website.

Brian Levin mouths the usual platitudes in the local press, but as usual, the “center’s” website reflects nothing, even of a horrific “hate” event in its own back yard.

It should be duly noted, as we said in 2009, Prof. Levin, unlike his dubious mentors at the Southern Poverty Law Center, has in NO WAY attempted to make money from his paper “center.” The views expressed are solely those of Brian Levin.

Prof. Levin, Watching the Watchdogs has pleaded with you for years, give up this sham, this spurious “center” and address these very real threats on your own as a man. Tear up this paper “center” and speak up for yourself. You do not need this dubious crutch to bolster your sincere claims.

 

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:

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

.

March 11, 2014, now you don’t:

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

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.


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