Posts Tagged ‘fund raising’

The SPLC’s Outright Telemarketing Scam

February 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

2011:  -$212,214

2012:  -$869,686

2013: -$1,156,765

2014:  -$1,130,680

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Other SPLC: (The Civil Rights One)

February 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Our criteria for a “hate group,” first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.” (2008 Potok interview)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

“And I would say as a general matter, it is extremely unusual these days for an organization to plan and carry out a criminal act where mainly for the reason that they are so likely to get caught. So what we really see out there in terms of violence from the radical right is by and large what we would call lone wolves, people operating on their own or with just one or two partners. As opposed to, you know, being some kind of organizational plan.” (www.npr.org, October 30, 2008) [Emphasis added]

And:

“Still, [Potok] said the public should remain vigilant about the activities of hate groups, even though individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America. (www.courier-journal.com, July 21, 2009) [Emphasis added]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your consideration,”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Fundraising2010

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Fundraising2011

Fundraising2012

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SPLC — Feel the Love

January 22, 2015

Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center re-posted a news item on its “Hatewatch” blog.

Man Described as ‘Doomsday Prepper’ Dies in Fiery Standoff with Police,” reads the lurid headline.

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The article describes a recent event where an apparently mentally unstable man allegedly went on a shooting spree from inside his mobile home after his girlfriend moved out on him earlier in the day.

Ted Lancer allegedly began shooting indiscriminately around 10:30 PM, police were called, and Lancer allegedly set his mobile home on fire and shot himself 45 minutes later.

A tragedy? Yes. A terrifying event for the neighborhood? Indisputably. A life-and-death situation for the police and other First Responders? Without a doubt.

A “hate incident” worthy of a place on the “Hatewatch” blog? Think about it.

There are no reports that Mr. Lancer made any racist remarks or threats against any groups, or that he was a Nazi, Skinhead or Klansman. His neighbors all appear to be white working class people in the news footage.

All we have is one neighbor claiming he was “a doomsday prepper,” which, if it is even true, is not a crime and certainly not a “hate crime.”

Another neighbor swears he heard “3,000 rounds of ammunition” cooking off in the subsequent fire. Shouldn’t law enforcement have an opportunity to examine the scene and present statements based on actual evidence?

“It’s not clear if the gunman, who was firing at his neighbors’ homes, actually fired at officers who responded, Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Dawson told Hatewatch.”

Despite author Bill Morlin’s hyperbolic claims of a “fiery siege,” it doesn’t look like the police even fired their weapons during the 45-minute standoff. They simply had to keep their heads down like everyone else until the fire consumed the last of the ammunition.

So where’s the “hate”?

We asked Mr. Morlin this question in the Comments section of his article, but apparently our post was found lacking by the moderators.

What’s really mind-blowing are the comments posted by the SPLC’s “anti-hate” preaching followers.

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At least one SPLC follower had the humanity to lament the loss of the man’s dog.

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According to the SPLC’s infamous “Hate Map” fundraising tool:

All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

It seems pretty obvious to us that smarmy comments about “home-schooled” “chrischuns” are specifically designed malign entire classes of people, yet the moderators on the “Hatewatch” blog had no problem at all accepting this blatantly hate-filled vitriol.

Remember, every single comment on the blog is approved by the SPLC.

A sad, sick man is dead and, as usual, the fundraisers at the Southern Poverty Law Center want to peddle it to their “Progressive” donor base.

Vaya con dinero, SPLC. Whatever turns a dollar.

SPLC — Where the Money Goes, Part 2

January 5, 2015

As mentioned in an earlier post, the winter holidays have given us some downtime with which to reflect upon the Southern Poverty Law Center’s audited financial statements from 2006 to 2013. Having no accounting training beyond what we got as a college freshman years ago, we freely admit that spreadsheets, etc., are not our strong point, and so we ask our readers to look at the numbers and see what they think.

Is there a CPA in the house?

Obtaining the SPLC’s financial information is simple enough, as we described at the end of that previous post. Interpreting the numbers is the tricky part.

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Above is a breakdown of SPLC expenses through the end of Fiscal Year 2013. With the help of the Internet Archive’s cantankerous Wayback Machine, we were able to obtain the same information going back to 2006, and it is only after one compiles the numbers that patterns, and questions, begin to emerge.

For example, below is a compilation of postage costs claimed by the SPLC over the eight year period and using the same headings as the audited report.

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Looking at the numbers for 2013 in particular, we can almost justify Development (Read: “Fundraising”) spending the better part of a million dollars on postage, because many of the SPLC’s mostly elderly donors still prefer snail-mail, but we’re having a really tough time understanding how Legal Services could rack up more than $400,000 in postage, and that’s down $80 grand from the previous year! Have they never heard of e-mail?

And that $400k is just a little more than half of what Management spent in postage last year! Is the management of the SPLC still using stone tablets to communicate? What gives?

Given the high labor costs associated with producing hieroglyphics and cuneiform, that might explain the SPLC’s printing expenses.

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According to this, Management actually outspent both Legal Services and Fundraising, respectively, on printing costs. What the heck are the all-white managers at the SPLC printing with all of those tax-free donor dollars? And what, for that matter, is Legal Services printing to the tune of $422,000 dollars?

The SPLC doesn’t charge their clients for services rendered, so it can’t be for billing.

To make things even more confusing, Printing costs are a completely different category from Lettershop expenses?

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Finally, we see Fundraising, er, Development, getting the lion’s share.

“Well,” you might say, “Hate is on the rise and these are necessary expenses. Plus, it takes money to make money, so Development needs to spend these donor-dollars on fundraising.”

Business must be booming at the SPLC, which has nearly doubled in size since 2006, from 139 employees to 271 on the payroll in 2013, according to the IRS Form 990s.

If salaries are any indication of where the job growth occurred, it would have to be in the Legal Services sector, whose payroll jumped by a whopping 123% since 2006, compared to a rather anemic 39% for Fundraising.

Such an unprecedented bolstering of the legal team can only mean that the dedicated lawyers of the Southern Poverty Law Center are slogging it out in the courts more than ever, right?

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Oddly enough, Legal Case Costs have pretty much remained flat for the past eight years, as shown above, despite the more than doubling of Legal Services salaries.

So where is all that money going? How can SPLC Management justify $779,000 for postage in 2013?

At current First Class postage rates that would work out about 30,580 letters every week, and you know that the SPLC gets a greatly reduced nonprofit postage rate. Who could they possibly be writing to?

As with most SPLC mysteries, the answer is fairly simple.

The only plausible explanation is that the bookkeepers at the SPLC are probably engaging in an old accounting technique known as Joint Costs Allocation.

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA):

“[Joint Costs Allocation] focuses on expenses associated with certain joint activities, which in part serve a fund-raising function, but also have elements of program services or operations.

For instance, the expenses associated with an educational mailing that also includes an appeal for donations might be jointly allocated between program services and fundraising expenses.” [Emphasis added]

How does it work?

“Joint costs allocation is unfortunately an area where NPOs [Nonprofit Organizations] sometimes use questionable financial practices, such as arbitrarily dividing up and spreading most or all of their actual fundraising and/or operations costs in their financial reports among their various program services in order to make it appear that they have very low fundraising and overhead costs.” [Emphasis added]

And what’s the problem with it?

“That contrasts with legitimate accounting procedures for accurately assigning a particular program service (or fund or grant) its true share of the operations and overhead costs.” [Emphasis added]

And here’s what the American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch has to say about the procedure:

“In nonprofit financial reporting, the funds spent on telemarketing, direct mail, or other solicitation activities that also include an “action step” or “call to action” are referred to as “Joint Costs.” Charities often use joint costs as a way of inflating their reported charitable program spending and deflating their reported fundraising costs. [Emphasis added]

Although the use of this accounting “trick” is often perfectly in line with the accounting rules for the reporting of joint solicitation costs (AICPA SOP 98-2), these rules allow for many interpretations and judgments that can produce questionable results.[Emphasis added]

Questionable results. Perfectly legal. Inherently scuzzy.  Remember this the next time you write a check out to the SPLC.

You think this is a one-off aberration? Check out what the SPLC claims for “Office Equipment” expenses versus Legal Case Costs to see where your donor dollars really go.

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To those of you who believe your donor-dollars actually go toward “fighting hate” and “civil rights” law we only ask that if you have any legitimate explanation for the bizarre numbers we’ve cited, please share them with us.

If an average of $898,000 a year for office equipment and $711,000 for Management postage costs sound like legitimate expenses, we’d like to hear from you. As always, we remind our readers to never take our word for it. Look at the SPLC’s own documents and come to your own conclusions, and please share them with us.

If the Southern Poverty Law Center is actively obfuscating on such primary documents as their own audited financial reports, what else can they be “exaggerating”? You tell us.

UPDATE – 1/12/2015: In addition to exposing the SPLC’s all-white Executive Suite and Teaching Tolerance’s all-white leadership, Ken Silverstein’s landmark article in the November, 2000, Harper’s Magazine, “The Church of Morris Dees,” also noted the SPLC’s fast and loose fundraising figures.

You can find the full-text of “The Church of Morris Dees” on our home page. Just click the “Watching the Watchdogs” banner at the top of this page.

“In response to lobbying by charities, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1987 began allowing nonprofits to count part of their fundraising costs as “educational” so long as their solicitations contained an informational component.

On average, the SPLC classifies an estimated 4 7 percent of the fund-raising letters that it sends out every year as educational, including many that do little more than instruct potential donors on the many evils of “militant right-wing extremists” and the many splendid virtues of Morris Dees.

According to tax documents, of the $10.8 million in educational spending the SPLC reported in 1999, $4 million went to solicitations. Another $2.4 million paid for stamps.”

Book Review: “For the Kingdom and the Power”

January 3, 2015

We recently had the opportunity to read Dale Laackman’s debut book, For the Kingdom and the Power: The Big Money Swindle that Spread Hate Across America (June, 2014, S. Woodhouse Books), which deals with the phenomenal growth of the “new” Ku Klux Klan in America during the 1920s.

Two things drew our attention to this title. First was Mr. Laackman’s recent appearance on CSPAN’s “Book TV” and the second was a glowing endorsement by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s own PR Guru, Mark Potok, which appears on the Amazon.com link cited above.

Most of us have seen dated photos of thousands of Klansmen marching through Washington, DC, in  1925, and read about a Klan membership in the millions during that time, but Mr. Laackman goes beyond the simple knee-jerk visuals and gives a more in-depth review of the actual events on the ground.

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The opening line of Laackman’s book reads: “This is not a book about the Klan,” and indeed, it is not. This is a book about a pair of shrewd Public Relations experts who saw an opportunity to glom onto a growing movement and make a ton of money, regardless of the racist messages and criminal activities committed by many of that group’s members.

The Modern Ku Klux Klan was founded in Georgia in 1915 by one William Joseph Simmons, who described his group as a modern day successor to the organization created by Nathan Beford Forrest immediately after the Civil War. Forrest’s Klan was designed to terrorize blacks and deny them their civil rights by any expedient means, including murder. Simmons’ Klan wrapped itself in a patina of honor, duty and patriotism, and sought to continue Forrest’s war on blacks, as well as Jews, Catholics and all other “aliens.”

Simmons created his organization completely from scratch, including the bylaws, rules and rituals for the governance of each Klan unit. What Simmons possessed in creativity, however, he completely lacked in business acumen. By 1920, Simmons was nearly broke and membership in his KKK was somewhere in the 3,000 range.

Enter Edward Young Clarke and Elizabeth “Bessie” Tyler, two natural-born promoters who had recently joined forces to create their own, rather successful Southern Publicity Association in Atlanta. Tyler’s son-in-law had joined the Klan and had mentioned Simmon’s business difficulties to Clarke and Tyler, who immediately saw an opportunity to apply modern public relations techniques and skim off a large slice of the profits for themselves. They met with Simmons and struck a deal whereby the Southern Publicity Association would undertake the promotion of the KKK in exchange for 80% of all new member fees. To Simmons, who was on the verge of losing everything for which he had worked, even a paltry $2 dollars a head for new members sounded like the deal of a lifetime.

To make a long story short, the PR partners produced amazing results almost immediately. Within a year, Klan membership had swelled to over a million and would peak at nearly 5 million three years later. The movement had spread far beyond the South into all corners of the country and boasted important members from local police and government officials to governors, congressmen and senators. Clarke and Tyler became fabulously wealthy overnight, not only from membership fees but from a monopoly on the production of Klan regalia and supplies.

Laackman provides key insights into the popularity of the Klan, especially in the early 1920s, when membership in all kinds of fraternal organizations was at an all time high. It is important to remember that these groups, including the Elks, Freemasons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Eagles, Moose, Ruritans, Grange, etc., served as important networks in the days long before Linkdin and Facebook. These groups provided a venue for men to meet and interact in ways that they rarely would in the course of their day-to-day careers and lives. They all promoted patriotism and religious values, as well as the advantages of the Capitalist way of life.

Most of the members of the new Klan held membership in more than one fraternal organization, and most were unaware of the violence underlying this latest group. To most, the Ku Klux Klan was just another organization, as shown by the equally rapid decline in membership after a series of highly publicized newspapers stories broke on the criminal and financial workings of the Klan, especially the roles played by Clarke and Tyler. Laackman gives membership numbers of 3,000 in 1920, 5,000,000 by 1925, back down to 5,000 by 1930.

While some, like the SPLC’s Potok, point in their fundraising propaganda to the Klan’s peak membership in 1925 as proof positive of the natural racism inherent in all white Protestant men, the numbers show that most of the membership did not agree with the Klan’s violent tendencies and abandoned the group as quickly as they had joined.

We won’t give away the fascinating details of this rapid rise and fall, or the many intrigues surrounding the key players. Laackman’s book does a very good job describing the events and is worth the read. We recommend it.

The one complaint we do have with For the Kingdom and the Power is a tendency to be unnecessarily verbose in sections, which often have only tangential connections to the main story.

For example, no recounting of the modern KKK would be complete without mentioning the famous/infamous 1915 film, Birth of a Nation, which painted the original Klan in an extremely favorable light. Laackman gives a good accounting of the film, including its use of many groundbreaking cinematic techniques, but not before giving us two paragraphs on Thomas Edison’s invention of the film camera and projector, followed by two pages on the early life of director D.W. Griffith.

A discussion of anti-Catholicism in 20th century America is preceded by a chapter on Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn  and the Reformation.

In recounting the life of Bessie Tyler, Laackman gives us the address of the home where she was born, as cited by the US Census Bureau (“Militia District 469, Cooks (east part), Fulton, Georgia, enumeration district 0028, household ID-114″). Even in historical non-fiction there is such a thing as too much information.

In these cases, we suspect the padding has less to do with any pedantic inclinations on the part of the author and more to do with a minimum page or word count requirement set by the publisher. It is a minor irritant in the course of the book as a whole.

Another fascinating aspect of the book is how easily one could take Laackman’s recounting of the PR techniques practiced by the Southern Publicity Association in promoting the savagely racist KKK and compare them to those used by alleged anti-racist organizations today.

It’s little wonder that the SPLC’s Mark Potok calls For the Kingdom and the Power “a splendid book,” noting that “Dale Laackman shows how the group’s exponential growth was driven almost entirely by an unlikely pair of public relations experts who turned out to be consummate swindlers.” Mr. Potok, no doubt, recognizes many of his organization’s own PR ploys in the course of the text.

If Mr. Laackman is looking for material for his next splendid tome, we can provide him with a trove of data on how groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism routinely exploit the fears of good people to further their own aims.

Given that Mr. Laackman has received an endorsement from Mr. Potok, and has cited the SPLC’s dubious numbers in his first book, the odds of such a follow-up tale are remote at best.

If you change your mind, Mr. Laackman, you know how to reach us!

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 http://www.splcenter.org 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 — Mark Potok Interview

July 14, 2014

Recently, we discovered an extensive interview on the Internet Archive with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s public relations chief, Mark Potok, in which he discusses the origins of the SPLC, its mission and its tactics. You can find the audio files to the interview here.

We’d like to highlight some of Mr. Potok’s more interesting comments, but, as always, we remind the reader to not  simply take our word for it. Any time you select excerpts from a larger work you run the risk of cherry-picking, or taking things out of context, and we’re certainly not professional transcriptionists here at Watching the Watchdogs. Listen to the interview and come to your own conclusions.

As to the origins of the interview, it was recorded and posted on the Internet Archive by Bill Holiday, a high school teacher from Vermont. A number of students, and at least one other teacher, are asking Mr. Potok questions about his work. The interview apparently takes place at the SPLC’s Montgomery headquarters, and several references in the conversation seem to date it to the first half of 2008.

In Track One, Mr. Potok explains the origins of the name of the organization:

“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.”

“People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is.” Interesting. One wonders how many donors are under the impression that a “poverty law center” might actually be in the business of defending poor people, no? Why change the name just because the mission changed? You don’t just toss out a multimillion dollar brand name for the sake of accuracy. More on this to follow.

Track Two includes an astonishingly candid assessment of how some critics view the SPLC:

“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.”

Well, Mr. Potok, you took the words right out of our mouth. Since 2009, Watching the Watchdogs has been documenting exactly this kind of behavior by the SPLC, and you have summed things up nicely. We have reported numerous times on the fact that there is no legal definition of “hate group,” and that you pretty much make them up as you go along.

Your “Hate Map” fundraising tool includes hundreds of alleged “hate groups,” (again, per your own definition), but you provide no information on these groups that researchers could use to verify their existence. In fact, you couldn’t even bother to make up locations for more than 200 of them. In 2012, you added 20 chapters of something called the “Georgia Militia” to that state’s “hate map,” but you couldn’t locate 18 of them!

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And the “Hate Map” is the keystone to all SPLC fundraising, Mr. Potok. You promote it widely in the Media as being factual and accurate, even after admitting directly to Watching the Watchdogs that your numbers are “anecdotal,” “a very rough measure” and the result of “an imperfect process.”

The donors believe your numbers, Mr. Potok, and that’s why they sent you nearly $37 million donor-dollars last year, and that figure does not include the nearly $36 million dollars in tax-free interest generated by the $281 MILLION in cash in the SPLC’s bloated “Morris Dees Legacy Fund.”

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And so, Mr. Potok, you really do hype up these minor threats, provide absolutely no documentation for your claims and then very successfully make a lot of money from it. I believe the term you used was “scam.” What would you call it?

In Track Five, Mark Potok relates the details of an event where a Klansman named Jeff Berry gives an interview to a news crew, then, thinking better of it, demands the tape of the interview from the crew at shotgun-point. Potok says the police did nothing in response to the reporter’s complaint and then makes an insensitive joke about gang rape.

“About a year later… well, we sued very quickly… well, it was shortly after that, and we easily won a judgment against Berry. You know, this was absolutely false imprisonment, right? I mean, it was a felony crime.”

A felony crime, Mr. Potok? Just for holding someone at shotgun-point? Oddly enough, On page 101 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice,  your boss, SPLC founder Morris Dees, writes with great relish about holding a man at shotgun-point. He even makes a little joke about it at the end.

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Was this not a felony crime too, Mr. Potok? Was this not also false imprisonment? Or are you willing to overlook the crime because the felonious perp signs your $3,000 dollar-a-week paychecks? Just a modicum of consistency would be SOOOO welcome here, Mr. Potok.

In Track Eight, Potok discusses what he labels “Nativist Extremist” groups and their failure to resort to traditional political means to achieve their objectives.

“These are groups that don’t merely say… that don’t target the policy… In other words, they don’t simply say ‘Immigration should be lower… because of whatever reason,’ right? ‘It’s bad for the economy or the environment or, you know, whatever… depresses wages in this country, therefore we’re going to write our congressmen or hold a rally or a parade or whatever.’ In other words, you know, engage in some kind of democratic action, right? Some kind of effort, you know, to have laws changed or whatever it is.”

The irony here, as we’ve pointed out time after time, is that while Mr. Potok denigrates these groups for allegedly not engaging in “some kind of democratic action,” the legend on his “Hate Map” fundraising tool clearly states that:

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

 While we continue to be amazed that a so-called “civil rights group” would deliberately conflate six of the most fundamental democratic civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities,” here we find Mr. Potok damning people both for participating and allegedly not participating in these activities. No contradictions there, Mr. Potok.

Track Nine covers the SPLC’s criteria for designating its “hate group” brand name:

“Our criteria for a “hate group,” first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological. So we look at a group and we say, ‘Does this group, in its platform statements, or the speeches of its leader or leaders… Does this group say that a whole group of people, by virtue of their group characteristics, is somehow less?'”

“It’s strictly ideological.” No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking.” Even the most rudimentary reading of SPLC fundraising materials and press releases, (redundant, we know..), finds repeated examples of you lumping conservatives and Christians as part of a diabolical “radical right” and anyone who believes that this nation’s existing immigration laws should be enforced and respected is immediately smeared as a “nativist.”

Labeling and name-calling are one of the eight central pillars of the propagandists’ stock and trade, Mr. Potok, and you have mastered them all. 

And the suckers sent him over $100,000 dollars a day last year, every day. No wonder he doesn’t want to change the name of the company. “Civil rights” doesn’t get any better than this.

A slightly longer quote from Track Ten, but it really is telling:

“Let me just say one other thing while I’m thinking about things to say. A lot of our criticism… let me think about how to say this… If there were just… if these groups just operated on the margins of the margins of society and ran around saying, you know, ‘We should kill all the Jews, we should kill all the gay people,’ and that was sort of all there was to it, yes, they would be scary in the sense that, every so often one of them goes off and kills somebody, but, you know, but would it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?

I mean, first of all, it’s not a message that flies very far…’Let’s kill all the Jews. Let’s, you know, build new gas chambers,’ or whatever. But the reality is, and especially since the immigration debate has become sort of the centerpiece of their world, is that their propaganda is getting out way beyond their little fringe world.”

“[W]ould it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?” On this point, Mr. Potok, we can agree. We may find many of the messages produced by some of these groups to be patently offensive and despicable. The problem arises when self-appointed vigilantes like you and the SPLC come along and decide who gets to speak, based on your own extremely nebulous criteria.

Once you start abrogating the civil rights of one group simply because you don’t like what they have to say, it’s only a matter of time before all groups are threatened by this same lynch-mob mentality.

As for the nature of the threats these alleged groups pose, Mr. Potok, please remember that not very long after you gave this interview in your office you made the following statements:

“And I would say as a general matter, it is extremely unusual these days for an organization to plan and carry out a criminal act where mainly for the reason that they are so likely to get caught.

So what we really see out there in terms of violence from the radical right is by and large what we would call lone wolves, people operating on their own or with just one or two partners. As opposed to, you know, being some kind of organizational plan.” (October 30, 2008, NPR.org,  Assessing White Supremacist Groups in the US)

“Still, [Potok] said the public should remain vigilant about the activities of hate groups, even though individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America. (www.courier-journal.com, July 21, 2009)

And speaking of ideology, Mr. Potok, if your goal in life was simply to debate those people with whom you disagree, it would be one thing. But to rake in tens of millions of dollars a year in the process of stifling any discussion whatsoever is dubious, at best.

Potok continues:

“I think our more major concern has been, especially recently, is how this propaganda has been put into the mainstream and is now treated like fact.”

 

 And this, Mr. Potok, is precisely how your “Hate Map” and other fundraising propaganda work. You broadcast these spurious claims to the donors and the media, and everyone takes you at your word. Few, if any, will perform even the most rudimentary fact checks, not that you provide much for them to actually check.

Track Twelve deals with the origins of the SPLC and its mission; at least in the good old days:

“It started with two lawyers, Morris Dees and Joe Levin, and they came from here [Montgomery] and that’s why we’re here, and they are still… here. So, you know, it was a very, very small non-profit law firm and it did some of that… yes… defending people who were accused… black people who were accused of things they hadn’t done, and so on.

But, you know, the cases tended to be… I mean, they were classic civil rights cases. In one of our early cases, had as a tactic, we sued the Alabama Highway Patrol, right, the State Police here because it was a 100% lily-white police force. You can imagine what the thinking on that is, right, I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

“I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

And we agree with you wholeheartedly once again, Mr. Potok. It a bad thing when an organization that purports to serve a diverse population is run by all whites, especially in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement. It really does send a message.

That being said, this year, once again, Watching the Watchdogs pointed out that for the 43rd consecutive year, the top leadership of your organization is as “lily-white,” to use your phrase, as it was on the day that Dees and Levin opened for business in 1971.

“So, it was very important to the lawyers here to desegregate the Alabama Highway Patrol, and in fact they won, like, a very important judgment that… they’re… I don’t know if this is still true, but at least a couple of years ago they were the most integrated police force in America. Right here in Alabama… twenty-five percent… which is, you know, something.”

Wouldn’t it be “something” if the SPLC’s Executive Suite was integrated and twenty-five percent of its highly paid top executives were from diverse backgrounds? Mr. Potok, just how thinly do you think we can spread the term “ironic” before it rightly morphs into “hypocritical”?

“I don’t know if that answered your question. We did a lot of different kind of cases that were all over the, kind of, civil rights map. There was a lot of death penalty defense work done here in the early years. We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.”

“We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.” That’s a rather dubious explanation, Mr. Potok. If anything, genuine civil rights groups like the Innocence Project, which actually do work with the poor, and on a fraction of your bloated budget, have demonstrated that the need for this kind of legal work has never been greater.

If you are no longer in the poverty law business, you really need to change the name of your company and just be honest with your donors.

And finally, from Track 13, Mr. Potok cuts to the chase and lays out what his company’s agenda really is:

“We see this political struggle, right? And it’s very different from what Teaching Tolerance does, right? I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them. Not to send them to prison unfairly or not take their free speech rights away… but as a political matter, to destroy them. And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

“We see this as a political struggle, right?” If that’s the case, Mr. Potok, and the SPLC is little more than another PAC, then stop hiding behind the sham that your company is somehow a civil rights organization. It’s doubtful your donations will decline, and they may even increase.

“I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them.”

So, Mr. Potok, you’ve already stated that the SPLC isn’t interested in criminality or potential for violence, it is, as you say, “all about ideology,” and yet you have the gall to claim that you’re not trying to take their free speech rights away?

If it’s all about ideology, Mr. Potok, and these groups aren’t advocating crime or violence, then isn’t what they’re saying, regardless of how offensive many people may find it, protected free speech? And yet, you’re dying to “destroy” them?

These groups aren’t breaking any laws, but you want to silence them because you don’t like what they say. Isn’t that textbook vigilantism, Mr. Potok? Taking the law into your own hands because you don’t like the way the democratic system works?

You said the exact same thing in 2007 at a luncheon in Michigan, in this grainy video. The crowd laughed and cheered. They’re all psychopaths, you said, and you can’t wait to “destroy” them.

 

“And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

Well, Mr. Potok, we cannot agree more about the efficacy of that technique. Watching the Watchdogs will continue to “track” your company, making meticulous notes of your comments, press releases and financial statements and report them to the public at large.

Unlike your office, though, we will continue to cite all of our sources and we will not take a dime for our efforts… as opposed to the nearly $2,000,000 donor-dollars you’ve earned for your efforts since 2001.

And rather than lead our readers to preconceived conclusions, which is, after all, the textbook definition of propaganda and the basis of your position at the SPLC, Mr. Potok, we will continue to urge people to look at the documentation for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

We’ll keep putting the evidence out there in the hope that someday we can make it “stick.”

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]

Click image to enlarge (Source: www.splcenter.org)

Click image to enlarge (Source: http://www.splcenter.org)

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. (www.sanluisobispo.com, 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.


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