Archive for the ‘Fund-raising’ Category

SPLC — Where Have “Potok’s Pinheads” Gone?

October 30, 2015

As part of our ongoing effort to “track” the public relations and fundraising tactics of the Southern Poverty Law Center it has recently come to our attention that one of the most cynical and dubious features of the company’s website is conspicuously absent.

We first reported on the SPLC’s “Stand Strong Against Hate” map in November, 2009, the brain child, no doubt of the company’s Senior Fellow and Public Relations Chief, Mark Potok.

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In exchange for nothing more than your first and last name, zip code and email address, you too could become a digital pinhead on Mr. Potok’s map, “adding yourself as a voice of tolerance.”

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What Mr. Potok has yet to explain is how turning over all of your contact information to him fought “hate” whatsoever. Not to worry, even if Mr. Potok couldn’t use your information to “fight hate,” no doubt the boys in the Fundraising Department could.

Please note the handy button on the lower right that would allow you to “report” any suspicious activities anonymously, right after you enter your name, zip and email info.

We reminded readers of Mr. Potok’s cynical data-mining in a post about the SPLC’s $8 million dollar telemarketing racket as recently as January 2015, where the “Stand Strong” map was still standing strong and welcoming new pinheads with outstretched hands.

A recent review of the SPLC’s revamped website, however, failed to turn up any trace of this blatant fundraising tool. Clicking on the original URL takes one to the company’s home page. The Internet Archive’s cantankerous marvel, the Wayback Machine, hasn’t seen the “Stand Strong” map since September, 2015.

Granted, it’s only October, as of this writing, and maybe the map will turn up again. We’d like to see it returned, as it has served exquisitely as a visual aid for the SPLC’s fundraising tactics. Even the most devoted Potok-o-phile is always at a loss to explain just how giving up your private information “fights hate,” and in an age where even the most secure websites are vulnerable to hackers, what could a real “hate group” do with that information?

More likely, though, the “Stand Strong” map is yet another reminder of how the SPLC is rebranding and retooling to meet the fundraising realities of the 21st century. The precipitous decline of the Mr. Potok’s longtime flagship, the infamous “Hate Map,” is the most obvious sign that marketing ploys that once worked so well and for so long with the company’s original blue-haired donor base cannot stand up against the Age of the Internet and the scrutiny of web-savvy donors.

This is, no doubt, the reason why the SPLC dropped all pretenses of being a “non-profit civil rights organization” in February, 2014. The real money, in this day and age, is in “advocacy,” where no correlation between civil suits and civil rights is required.

The SPLC’s revamped website has been a bit of a mess lately, so if anyone should locate the “Stand Strong Against Hate” map later on, please pass the info along to us. A watchdog couldn’t ask for a better bone to chew.

We miss Mr. Potok’s Pinheads already.

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.

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 SPLC’s Sketchy Telemarketing Tricks

January 27, 2015

Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees claims on his company’s website that he is a sound financial steward of the millions of tax-free dollars his donors send him each year in the sincere belief that they are somehow “fighting hate” by doing so.

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Unbeknownst to tens of thousands of donors a year, however, is the fact that millions of their donation dollars never reach the SPLC’s coffers. Let’s look at the numbers:

First, the Good News: According to the SPLC’s tax returns, (shown below), over the past three fiscal years, third-party telemarketers raised $5,156,337 toward the SPLC’s worthy goal of “fighting hate” in America.

The Bad News: The SPLC actually paid $5,750,295 to the telemarketers over those three years, for a net loss of $593,958 donor-dollars!

One telemarketing firm, Grassroots Campaigns, of Boston, charged Mr. Dees an incredible $3,883,469 to raise $1,644,804, for an astonishing loss of $2,238,665.

Not only did Grassroots keep every dime they raised from well-meaning donors, they completely wiped out the $1,644,804 turned over to the SPLC by all of the other telemarketers combined AND scooped an additional $593,958 out of the existing SPLC donor pot!

The Other Good News: “Sound Steward” Morris Dees could not be happier with the results.

How can Mr. Dees condone this rampant hemorrhaging of desperately needed donor-dollars? To recycle the old vaudeville punchline: “He’ll make it up in volume.”

It’s simple. Dees isn’t hiring these telemarketers to “raise money” for the SPLC, regardless of what they say in their scripted telephone pitch. He’s paying them to identify new donors to feed into his own uber-efficient, in-house fundraising machine.

Think about it. As the SPLC’s IRS Schedule G returns indicate below, the measly $427,000 the SPLC received from the external telemarketers after expenses in 2010 represents a mere 1.3% of the $32 million Mr. Dees’ in-house fundraisers raked in that year.

That’s chump change, like a five-dollar bill you find in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in a while.

The real money will come from future donations from these people over the coming years, of which the SPLC gets to keep 100%.

It’s a beautiful system when you think about it because it not only makes millions for the SPLC down the road, but it’s paid for entirely by the gullible donors themselves!

“Sound stewardship” doesn’t get any better than this.

The downside is that the tens of thousands of well-meaning donors who ponied up the $5.7 million donor-dollars to pay the telemarketers genuinely believed that their money was actually going toward “fighting hate,” rather than padding out Mr. Dees’ donor list.

To be fair, the SPLC isn’t the only one playing fast and loose with the donor-dollars. A 2012 news report in the Pittsburgh Tribune explains that even the best third party fundraisers only turn over about 45 cents on every dollar they raise but many others keep as much as 97% of the take.

Obviously, the donors have no idea how little of their money actually gets to the non-profits they support.

For smaller charities and non-profits even a paltry 3% return is better than nothing.

The Tribune article even interviews Grassroots’ own National Canvass Director, Wes Jones, who claims the donor-dollars paid to his company are justified because organizations like the SPLC are actually buying “a huge amount of visibility and new supportersand their contributions over the next few years will substantially exceed the cost of the effort.”
[Emphasis added]

Non-profits such as the ASPCA and Amnesty International are cited in the article as saying they were pleased with Grassroots’ work, even when it cost them millions out-of-pocket. They too are far more interested in the donor information Grassroots collects.

When you think about it, Morris Dees paid less than $600,000 for $5.1 million dollars worth of proven donor information. That’s less than 9 cents on the dollar. Not a bad return on investment, especially when it is the unwitting donors who are footing the bill and will continue to contribute for years or decades to come.

So how many trusting donors got absolutely nothing for their donations? At $100 apiece, which seems like an unusually high number for first-time donors, that “only” comes to 57,000 suckers. At $50 dollars a head, 114,000 donors were duped, and the more modest the donation the larger the number of people who were deceived.

The SPLC has a long history of making the most of Progressive altruism. Watching the Watchdogs reported back in 2009 on the SPLC’s laughable “Stand Strong Against Hate” map.

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In exchange for nothing more than your name, street and e-mail addresses, you too can “stand strong against hate.” In 2009, that personal information would earn you a digital pinhead on his map with your first name and last initial.

Mr. Dees doesn’t explain exactly how your personal information “fights hate,” but no doubt his formidable fundraising team makes very good use of the data and there’s nothing stopping them from selling it to other non-profits.

According to the map, thousands of Progressive pinheads have signed up for the cause.

It all sounds rather cynical to us.

So what do we make of Mr. Dees’ sketchy telemarketing deals? They’re not illegal, and apparently “everybody” in Non-Profit Land is doing it.

The donors are still getting a warm-and-fuzzy tingle and the fantasy that they are somehow “fighting hate,” which, after all, is pretty much all they would get if they delivered the money directly into Mr. Dees’ hands.

Maybe it’s a win-win-win situation after all.

Below are the SPLC’s telemarketing records from the past three available fiscal years. Look at the numbers for yourselves, do the math and come to your own conclusions as to whether the donors are getting a fair deal.


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SPLC — $106 Million Dollar “Non-Profit”

December 26, 2014

The holiday break allowed us some free time to peruse the Southern Poverty Law Center’s audited financial statements from 2006 to 2013, and, as usual, there were some interesting numbers that never make it to the SPLC’s never-ending fundraising letters.

NOTE: All of the financial data posted here comes directly from the SPLC’s own audited financial statements, as found on their own website. We’ll show you how to find the reports at the end of this post.

The most interesting financial factoid gleaned from reviewing the audits is that, since 2006, the SPLC has generated more than $106 million, tax-free dollars than was required to run the company.

Investopedia defines “profit” as:

“A financial benefit that is realized when the amount of revenue gained from a business activity exceeds the expenses, costs and taxes needed to sustain the activity. Any profit that is gained goes to the business’s owners, who may or may not decide to spend it on the business.”

Or to put it more succinctly:

Profit = Total Revenue – Total Expenses

Rocket science this is not.

The SPLC’s revenues come mainly from two sources: Tax-free donations and tax-free interest earned on their $283 million dollar “endowment fund.”

For the fiscal years 2006 through 2013 the SPLC’s Total Expenses (Operating Costs) looked like this:

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Compare this total with the SPLC’s Total Revenue (Donations + Interest) for the same period:

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And when we do the math (Kids! Try this at home!):

Total Revenue:   $371,486,581
Total Expenses:  $265,226,395

Total Profit:        $106,260,186

Not a bad chunk of change. Divide the Total Profit by the eight years inclusive and it averages out to $13,282,523 a year.

That’s over $13 million a year more than it costs to run the company AND includes a $19.3 million dollar hit the Company took in FY 2007/2008 when so many charities and nonprofits were devastated by the Madoff scam.

(Note: Listing here does not imply that the SPLC was involved with Madoff, we merely note the coincidence in timing.)

Donors ought to be curious as to why they continue to receive fundraising letters from Morris Dees and Mark Potok, but most won’t. They believe the SPLC’s fundraising propaganda because they desperately want to believe it. You can show them that the SPLC spent a mere 4.4% of the $265 million in Operating Costs on Legal Case Costs and they won’t blink an eye.

The SPLC is selling a fantasy and most of their customers are fully satisfied.

As always, we strongly urge our readers NOT to take our word for it. All of the SPLC’s financial documents through 2002 are available through the Internet Archive’s wonderful Wayback Machine.

Simply enter the URL into the Wayback Machine and select a year. Keep in mind that the SPLC posts their financials in March, and those refer to the previous fiscal year.

Click on any date highlighted with a blue dot and then click on the “Who We Are” link at the top left corner of the homepage. Scroll down to the Finances link to find the audited reports and the IRS Form 990’s, both of which are veritable troves of information.

The Annual Reports are less forthcoming, but are usually a hoot to read.

Read the numbers for yourselves and please let us know if you come up with figures that are different from ours.

SPLC 2014 — The “Hate Group” Bubble Pops!

March 9, 2014

It’s no secret that America has witnessed a decline in manufacturing over the decades. Apparently the Southern Poverty Law Center’s manufactured “hate groups” are no longer immune to market forces either. Their latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool, purporting to identify the SPLC’s list of “hate groups” for 2013 indicates a 6.6% decrease from the previous year.

While 6.6% may not seem like much in the real world, it is nearly unprecedented in the history of the SPLC. Considering the fact that there is no legal definition for “hate group,” the SPLC’s Public Relations Chief, Mark Potok, has simply manufactured as many as he needed each year to maintain the organization’s ongoing fear campaign. Last year he lowered his “hate group” count by half a percent voluntarily and now a second, much larger cut. What gives?

Since the “supply” of hate groups has never been a problem for Mr. Potok, we can only assume that the recent downward trend represents a collapse in “demand” for his dubious product.

[NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, last year we remarked that the 2012 decline in “hate groups” was the first in SPLC history, but as Mr. Potok’s own graph below indicates, there was a mysterious, and short-lived,  14% drop recorded in 1999. We stand corrected. WTW]

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Mr. Potok acknowledges the drop in his annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” screed, but as we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, his claims of “spectacular growth” since the election of President Obama have never held much water.

“After four years of spectacular growth driven by the 2008 election of President Obama and the nearly simultaneous collapse of the economy, the radical right in America saw its first significant decrease in 2013.”

2009: The first full year of the Obama Administration and the worst year of the Great Recession returned “spectacular growth” of .6%

2010: Mr. Potok adds 70 new “hate groups” to his map, but at the same time the number of “homeless hate groups,” those Mr. Potok cannot locate on any map, including his own, jumped by 99, for a net loss of 2.9%

2011: Mr. Potok adds 16 new “hate groups” to his Hate Map for a mighty increase of 1.6%. That same year Mr. Potok states: “But Potok said the [Ku Klux] Klan has disintegrated. “There is no Klan now,” he said, only a collection of squabbling organizations. (, March 23, 2011)

Doesn’t it seem a little odd that Mr. Potok would proclaim the disintegration of the KKK at the height of his alleged “hate group” boom? Or maybe “bubble” is a more accurate term. After a “spectacular growth” of -.6% for the first Obama Administration, Mr. Potok’s “hate groups” went into the visible decline of the past two years. The market can only absorb so much.

“Ah, well,” will say the Faithful, “There are still 939 “hate groups” on the Hate Map, [940, by our count, there’s one skulking in Alaska– WTW], which obviously proves that Mr. Potok and the SPLC are on to something!” Well, not so much.

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If you paste Mr. Potok’s “hate group” data into a spreadsheet, which you can download here, you’ll find some glaring “irregularities.”

If you sort the spreadsheet by Location (Column C), you find that Mr. Potok has no idea where 220 of his 940 groups are hiding. We know they are really, really there because Mr. Potok says they are really there. That’s 23% right off the top. THIS is “hard data”?

Let’s take New England, for example, sorted by State (Column D):

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Mr. Potok designated 32 “hate groups” for New England but he has no idea where 20 of them are hiding. That’s 33% off the top for Massachusetts, 66% for Vermont and New Hampshire (IHM and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are located in the same building in flyspeck Richmond, population 1,100 and change), 80% for Connecticut, and an incredibly ridiculous 100% for Maine and Rhode Island.

Again, friends… THIS is hard data?

Observant readers will note that while Mr. Potok fastidiously assigned every New England state its own chapter of the Klan, he doesn’t seem to know where any of them are located.

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In all fairness to Mr. Potok, it should be noted that the Loyal White Knights are an entirely new Klan group and the problem of locating them goes far beyond the rocky shores and granite hills of New England. Of the 51 chapters of the Loyal White Knights Mr. Potok has assigned to the entire United States, he is not able to locate 36 of them, or 70%.

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No wonder they call themselves “The Invisible Empire.”

Granted, it’s not just new Klan groups that are hard to find. Mr. Potok has misplaced entire groups of Neo-Nazis:

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White Nationalists:

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And more Racist Skinheads than you can imagine:

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And even when Mr. Potok does assign a city or town to one of his designated “hate groups” it still gives us absolutely no evidence that most of these groups even exist.

In 1998, respected investigative journalist Laird Wilcox, who describes himself as a Liberal, pointed out this lack of verifiable evidence in his seminal work, The Watchdogs.

When the SPLC releases their list, either in print or on the Internet, it fails to contain actual addresses that might be checked by journalists or researchers. Several listings refer to “unknown group” and the name of a city or town.” — The Watchdogs, p. 79

Mr. Wilcox set the standard for identifying Conservative and right-wing groups through a series of guides he published through the 1990s:

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Mr. Wilcox engaged in actual research and fact-checking, something no one in the modern media will bother to do, to provide usable information that could be cross-checked, verified or debunked:

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Mr. Wilcox even did something unthinkable, by Mr. Potok’s standards: He documented Progressive and left-wing groups as well as the Radical Right:

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The Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t really see much of a problem with the Radical Left. As Mr. Potok explained to Madeleine Morgenstern a couple years ago, “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”

And why would they be? There’s not nearly as much money in it.

Granted, many of the entries in Mr. Wilcox’ guides give little more than a P.O. box, but even that information is useful in helping the public and the Media judge the real potential threats of Mr. Potok’s alleged “hate groups.”

If Laird Wilcox could come up with this much information working on a shoe-string budget and using 1991 technology, why can’t Mark Potok do the same using the Internet and the SPLC’s hundreds of millions of cash on hand?

The simple fact is that he doesn’t have to. Visit your favorite online news aggregator and do a simple keyword search for “hate groups” and you’ll receive hundreds of recent hits, all referring to Mr. Potok’s Hate Map fundraising tool and very, very few contesting his spurious claims.

Last year, well-meaning donors believed Mr. Potok’s phony numbers and sent the SPLC $37,503,858 donor-dollars, or just over $103,000 every single day. This is why Mr. Potok, who is a public relations guy and not an attorney, received an annual compensation package in excess of $163,000 last year.

It makes no difference if Mr. Potok designates 800, 900 or 1,200 “hate groups” in a given year. His gullible donors will swallow any line he feeds them and Media will never say a word.

SPLC 2013 — Another Year of Record “Non-Profits”

February 24, 2014

Spring is in the air which means that the Southern Poverty Law Center is releasing its financial numbers for the previous year. This year is no exception and the first reports out of this venerable “non-profit” indicate that… wait for it… business has never been better.

According to the SPLC’s own bookkeepers, the SPLC’s bloated “Endowment Fund,” aka “The Morris Dees Legacy Fund” earned nearly $36 MILLION in tax-free interest in 2013. Don’t take our word for it. You do the math:

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Here, let’s do the math together:

–  $245,280,476

Let’s not be coy here, $35.8 MILLION is a sweet chunk o’ change for any outfit, especially for an alleged “non-profit.” This number does not include the $36,765,041 in tax-free donations the SPLC took in from well-meaning donors last year (roughly $4,200 every hour). In fact, last year’s $35.8 million is almost double what the bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2012.

So what exactly is the purpose of the “legacy fund”? According to the SPLC’s annual report, “The SPLC builds for the future by setting aside a certain amount of its income for an endowment, a practice begun in 1974 to plan for the day when nonprofits like the SPLC can no longer afford to solicit support through the mail because of rising postage and printing costs.”

Got that? The “legacy fund” was created to offset the costs of printing and mailing fundraising materials. Let’s take a closer look at those costs. First off, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the advent of the Internet and email has greatly reduced the cost of sending a message to potential donors. Just ask the nearly-bankrupt U.S. Postal Service.

Next, let’s look at just how much of the SPLC’s annual budget goes toward fundraising. According to, the white millionaires who run the SPLC spend about 31% of their annual budget on fundraising. For you donors, that means that for every $100 dollar check you send the SPLC, they spend $31 dollars getting you to send the next hundred dollar check.

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For 2013, that 31% came to $12,379,629. Over all, the SPLC reports that its operating costs for 2013 were $39,678,300.

Subtract the SPLC’s fundraising costs from that and it cost them $27,298,671 to keep the doors open in 2013.

Subtract that $27 million from the $35.8 MILLION in interest the SPLC’s bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2013 and you’re left with a “non-profit” of $8,544,326.

If the purpose of the “legacy fund” is to generate funds in excess of annual operating costs it has achieved it’s goal in spades.

But the fundraising continues.

In 1995, SPLC founder Morris Dees promised his donors:

“The Law Center will continue to raise money until it reaches $100 million, Mr. Dees said.  The charity could then operate off the interest from investments.  “We believe that will make it so we won’t have to (stay) in this tough business of raising money to keep our programs going,” Mr. Dees said in a recent speech to a Montgomery civic club. In the meantime, Mr. Dees said he must raise money for current operating costs.”

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In 2002, the SPLC’s “Endowment Fund” neared the $100 million mark, but the fundraising continued. By 2007, the fund had topped $200 million, but the fundraising continued. In fact, Mr. Dees has spent the last few years hiring several high-priced fundraising professionalsto join our growing major gifts team.”

Mr. Dees  obviously has no intention of “living off the interest.” In 2013, the SPLC hired a new “Planned Giving Officer” tasked with the ghoulish job of getting the nearly-dead to sign over some of their assets to the SPLC. No wonder Mr. Dees calls it his “legacy fund.”

That same year, Mr. Dees advertised for a “Development Associate,” whose “primary job functions” included:

“Provides friendly and courteous customer service to SPLC’s best donors”

Really? Some SPLC donors are better than others? Those are Mr. Dees words, not ours. Our guess is your puny 3- and 4-digit donor checks don’t quite gain you access to the Winner’s Circle. What is it the guy said about “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth?”

It sure seems like Mr. Dees has every intention of staying in the “tough business” of gulling the gullible no matter how many tax-free millions his “legacy fund” generates.

Think about that the next time you cut a check to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Your donor dollars could do a whole lot more good closer to home. Do the math. We did.

SPLC — Anatomy of a Marketing Ploy

January 26, 2014

As mentioned in an previous post, the master fundraisers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have targeted the LGBT community in their latest marketing scheme. A little digging, very little digging, reveals just how flimsy this campaign really is from the get-go.

Visit the SPLC’s homepage and click on the “LGBT Rights” link on the left.

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The LGBT Rights page makes the following claim: “Our work on LGBT issues spans decades.” Really?

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If the SPLC has been fighting the good fight for the LGBT community “for decades,” why did they not even have an LGBT Rights page until 2011? Certainly there must be dozens of important LGBT cases to which the SPLC can point with pride.

Fortunately, the SPLC keeps a meticulous list of all of their court cases which one can access easily from their home page.

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They even provide a handy drop-down menu that sorts the cases by type.

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Sorting by LGBT Rights returns a total of 8 cases, which seems rather skimpy for a civil rights law firm that has been in business for nearly 43 years. Scrolling down to the oldest case, Hoffburg v. Alexander, we do indeed find that this case goes all the way back to 1980. Hoffburg, it turns out, wasn’t even the SPLC’s own case. It was an appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Glancing up, however, we find that the next time the SPLC went to bat for the LGBT community was in 2011!

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Apparently, there were no cases of anti-LGBT civil rights violations worthy of the great institution’s note for 31 years!

In this case, the SPLC threatened to sue a high school if it didn’t allow two female students to march in a pep rally as the school’s Snow King and Queen. Fighting the good fight doesn’t come much harder than that.

Scrolling up the list, we find that it was only a few months after the pep rally case that the SPLC threatened to sue the same school district.

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The SPLC claims it was contesting a “gag policy” that prevented teachers from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom. The actual policy read that teachers could discuss LGBT issues at an age appropriate level, if the subject was germane to the class work and remained entirely neutral on the subject, neither endorsing or denigrating it.

Neutrality wasn’t good enough for the civil rights center, and so, having as much spare cash on hand as any other public school system facing a multimillion dollar law firm, Anoka-Hennepin simply gave in. Another hard fought legal battle that never went to court.

Higher up the list, we find Hill v. Public Advocate, the simple copyright infringement case of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photo was used in a Colorado political flier without their permission, or that of their photographer, who holds the copyright. None of the plaintiffs are indigent, the case is being handled by one of the premier intellectual property law firms in the business and the term “civil rights” never appears once in the complaint.

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Soon after Hill, the SPLC jumped on another non-civil rights case, Ferguson v. JONAH. In this case, a group of gay Jewish men in New York City are suing an organization that promised to “cure” their homosexuality.

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This is a classic fraud suit, no different than thousands of similar suits filed every day, and the case is being brought forward by one of the best fraud law firms in NYC, none of the plaintiffs are poor and, once again, the term “civil rights” never appears once in the actual complaint.

If there are no civil rights issues in these otherwise cut-and-dried civil suits that are being handled by some of the best lawyers in the business, what exactly does the SPLC bring to the table?

In a word: Publicity.

In return for this free publicity, the SPLC’s master Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok, can claim that his outfit is out there fighting for gay rights.

The most recent case, as of this writing and described in a previous post, is a perfect example of Mr. Potok’s cynical marketing ploy.

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In this case, Mr. Potok and Co. are suing a poor, mostly Black junior high school where a 16-year old 8th grader named Destin Holmes claims she was verbally and mentally abused because she is a self-described lesbian.

Let’s be crystal clear here, nobody, in any of these cases, deserves to be subjected to any form of discrimination by anyone at any time or any place. Those of us who have been through junior high are still all too well aware of the juvenile stupidity that goes on in those institutions, by both the students and the staff, and that in no way explains or justifies it.

Obviously, this is a bad situation that demands immediate investigation, but is bringing a federal law suit against one of the poorest performing schools in one of the poorest performing states the best way to fix the system?

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Or is it little more than another classic Potok-ian publicity stunt?

Ironically, the complaint against Magnolia Junior High makes no mention of the fact that, while 78% of the student body is non-white, and both the principal and assistant principal, who have been named as defendants, are African American, Ms. Holmes is white.

Can anyone imagine the SPLC overlooking those facts if the races were reversed?

Again, no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, but when you look the SPLC’s paltry LGBT cases, almost all of which only date back to 2011, how much bang are the donors getting for their donor bucks?

There was one major anti-gay organization that appeared to have flown below the SPLC’s radar for over a decade. In 2000, the Boy Scouts of America went to the U.S. Supreme court to protect their right to actively discriminate against gay Scouts and Scout Leaders (Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale), something it had done since its inception in 1910.

In 2002, the BSA issued a press release reaffirming its belief that “an avowed homosexual” lacked the “moral character” to be a Scout or Leader.

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The Southern Poverty Law center completely ignored this blatant anti-gay discrimination for over a decade. You will find no mention of the BSA’s discrimination on the SPLC’s web site until 2012, and, even then, that has to be possibly the most tepid response to a genuine “hate-group” in the SPLC’s entire history.

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SPLC co-founder Joe Levin was wheeled out of retirement to announce that “Twelve years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center stopped participating in the Montgomery, Ala., United Way Campaign because the organization chose to fund the Boy Scouts of America.”

That was it? One of the “largest youth-serving organizations in America,” whose primary mission is to build the characters and mold the minds of millions of American boys, actively discriminates against gay men and boys for a century, and the best the SPLC, that bastion of LGBT rights, can come up with is to stop donating to the United Way and say absolutely nothing about it for twelve years??

But wait… it gets even better… Joe Levin continues:

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“DOESN’T INTEND TO ENCOURAGE BIGOTRY”??? Mr. Levin, the BSA took its case to the Supreme Court of the United States precisely to preserve its perceived right to discriminate. It doesn’t get any more intentional than the US Supreme Court!

Notice the softball language Mr. Levin uses when dancing around the hard facts: “Embraces anti-LGBT prejudice” and “Doesn’t intend to encourage bigotry.” Where is the SPLC’s patented “Hate Group” brand? The term never even appears in Mr. Levin’s pathetic apologia. Where was the SPLC’s multimillion dollar public relations machine for all those years? Can you imagine the pressure that could have been brought to bear against the BSA’s blatant discrimination?

[Update: On May 15, 2014, Joe Levin explained to MSNBC why the SPLC still doesn’t designate the Boy Scouts as a “hate group”:

“We don’t list the Boy Scouts (as a hate group,)” said Levin. “We only do that if we have a group that’s propagating known falsehoods associated with a particular person or group – in this case, the LGBT community. The Boy Scouts haven’t really done that.”

Of course not, Joe. Apparently, the BSA simply smeared all gays as immoral by accident.]

As it turns out, the BSA did reverse itself on its gay Scout policy effective Jan. 1, 2014. That decision was made based entirely on the protracted negative publicity campaign carried on by dozens of real LGBT support groups and major media outlets. The BSA’s Supreme Court decision still stands, but they finally gave in when public opinion turned on them and said that enough was enough. It was a movement in which the Southern Poverty Law Center’s role was precisely and exactly nothing.

And yet the SPLC has been fighting for LGBT rights “for decades,” right?

Well, not so much. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine,” anyone can wander back in time to view millions of websites as they appeared in the past, going back to the year 2000. It can be slow, and sometimes cantankerous, but it’s always free and a little patience can pay off big dividends.

In 2009, the SPLC issued a downloadable version of its latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool (Note: the “Hate Map” always reflects the previous calendar year):

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A closer look at the icon key reveals an astonishing fact. There were no anti-LGBT “hate groups” as late as 2009. Not one.

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In fact, the first anti-LGBT “hate groups” do not appear on Mr. Potok’s all-encompassing “Hate Map” until 2011, forty years after the SPLC opened for business.

Furthermore, while the Hoffburg case appears chronologically on the latest version of the SPLC’s case docket list, right between Brown and Wilkins

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Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we find Ms. Hoffburg’s case, the case that allows the SPLC to crow that its “work on LGBT issues spans decades” is conspicuously absent from the 2010 case docket!

2010 Case Docket

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Hoffburg never made the case docket list in more than 40 years because the SPLC didn’t even consider it worthwhile.

Once the white millionaires who run the SPLC decided to target the LGBT community though, Mr. Potok had to come up with something to show that they had not totally ignored the issue since opening shop in 1971. Hoffburg wasn’t much, but no one in the media will follow the simple steps outlined in this post, so no one would ever know the difference.

Well-meaning donors sent Mr. Potok more than $40 million donor dollars in 2012 because they believe him when he cries “hate group” and they believe him when he says how dedicated the SPLC has been to fighting anti-LGBT discrimination “for decades.” As usual, some simple, primary fact-checking of the SPLC’s own documents proves, once again, that Mr. Potok’s claims are meaningless.

Yet again, nobody should suffer discrimination due to their orientation, and any effort is better than none, but suing poor public school districts over pep rallies and yearbook pictures is pretty low-hanging fruit for an alleged “civil rights” law firm with nearly a quarter-billion dollars in cash on hand.

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If you want to contribute to a non-profit that has truly been in the fight against LGBT discrimination you need only do a little homework and ignore Mark Potok’s latest fundraising ploy.

SPLC — Where’s Joe Levin?

January 10, 2014

While doing some research on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website recently, we became aware of an interesting factoid: SPLC co-founder Joseph J. Levin, Jr., seems to have retired, yet he’s still drawing a six-digit salary from the donation bucket.

According to his SPLC bio, which refers to him in the past tense, he stepped down as SPLC President (a position Morris Dees called “largely honorary” in his autobiography) in 2003, and served as board member until 2009, but he continues to draw compensation worth over $185,000 a year.

Odd, that, considering all of the other board members are paid nothing.

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The SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990 tax return lists him as “general counsel” but other clues from the website imply that Joe isn’t around much these days.

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Mr. Levin is conspicuously absent from the SPLC’s list of senior staff, even though he is paid more than half of them (all women, ironically):


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His Board of Directors photo refers to him as “emeritus,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “one retired from professional life but permitted to retain as an honorary title the rank of the last office held.”

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Of course, if he is retired he’d hardly be the first to putter around with a part-time job, so maybe he does legal work for the SPLC on the side. Oddly, the LexisNexis legal database hasn’t placed Mr. Levin in a courtroom since 1991.

What exactly does Mr. Levin do around the office to earn his $3,500 a week?

The SPLC did call on Mr. Levin to issue one of the most pathetic apologies for the Boy Scouts of America in 2012. While the BSA has actively discriminated against gay men and boys since 1910, the best Mr. Levin could do was to gently chide the BSA in 2012 for “embracing prejudice” and “encouraging bigotry” (something Mr. Levin claims that the BSA does unintentionally…).

Mr. Levin couldn’t even bring himself to use the term “hate group.”

As pathetic as it was, it was the first comment the SPLC ever made about the BSA’s blatant discrimination. It seems that a “hate group” isn’t really a “hate group” if many of your donors are former members or the parents/grandparents of current members.

“Fighting hate” is all well and good until it cuts into the bottom line.

Speaking of the bottom line, one would think that the SPLC’s donors would be concerned that so much of their money is going to pay the salary of a guy who doesn’t seem to do much for the company anymore.

Your $100 donation will pay Mr. Levin’s absentee salary for about an hour and ten minutes. Not much bang for the buck when you think about it.




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