Posts Tagged ‘Julian Bond’

SPLC — Another “Honorary” President?

June 6, 2019

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

Enter SPLC “Interim President” Karen Baynes-Dunning.

Baynes-Dunning

Karen Baynes-Dunning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0643

“And two letters, drafted in your name…”

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

Bond Fee

“Your fee for September, 1971 is enclosed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0653

“…it’s not a real Board…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You heard it here first, folks.

 

 

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Lecia Brooks for President!

November 29, 2018

In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy spoke of a metaphorical torch being passed to a new generation and the benefits that such an infusion of new ideas and life experience would bring to the country. Sadly, JFK’s untimely murder in Dallas in 1963 cut short the promise, but not the premise, of such a bold proposal.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center draws ever closer to its fiftieth anniversary in 2021, and basks in the glory of its most profitable year to date (2017), we believe it is time for the company’s Old Guard to consider stepping aside to make room for its own “new generation.” To “go out at the top” of their game, as it were.

A recent article written in the Washington Post Magazine, by David Montgomery, noted that SPLC founder, Morris Dees, who is now 81 years old, “doesn’t come into the office regularly anymore…” Dees, who first became a millionaire in 1964 and lives in a 20-room mansion on a 300-acre compound with his fifth wife, still pays himself $358,000 donor-dollars a year.

It’s not as though a much-deserved retirement would leave Mr. Dees destitute. As his publicity agency notes, the “Legendary Civil Rights Activist” maintains a lucrative public speaking side-gig, charging between $10,000 and $20,000 a pop.

Dees Fees

One low-end speaking engagement a month, or even a high-end gig every other month, would certainly keep the wolves away from the doors of Casa Dees.

SPLC President, Richard Cohen, who presumably keeps the store open in the absence of Mr. Dees, turns 78 in a couple of months, has also had a very good run and is equally deserving of well-earned rest. Mr. Cohen has been making public speaking appearances more frequently in the past few years, and could certainly fall back on that in the unlikely event he has been frittering away his $350,000 donor-dollar annual paychecks.

The third, and by far the youngest member of the triumvirate of “old white guys” who have been running the SPLC for the past few decades, has already left the stage. Mark Potok, whose titles at the company have included Director of Intelligence and Senior Fellow, was the public face and voice of the Southern Poverty Law Center for twenty years, until he was quietly and unceremoniously pushed out in early 2017.

Mr. Potok has since embarked on his own public speaking and consulting career, though it’s doubtful his fees are making up for the $150,000-a-year he was making at the SPLC.

Potok was replaced as Director of Intelligence by Heidi Beirich, who also has a long career at the SPLC. Although Ms. Beirich holds a PhD and two Masters degrees, she doesn’t have the public presence of the Old Boys. Dr. Beirich’s voice doesn’t resonate indignation as well as her predecessor and she has been known to go off-script in public interviews. That being said, she excels at behind-the-scenes research and would continue to make money for the company in that regard.

This brings us to the most logical choice for a new president for the SPLC: Lecia Brooks.

lecia_brooks

Lecia Brooks

Lecia Brooks has been with the company since 2004 and has held two concurrent directorships at the SPLC for over a decade, a feat none of her colleagues can claim. Ms. Brooks is articulate, highly intelligent, and more importantly, Black, female and gay. She would bring a diverse world view and lived experience to the position far beyond anything Messrs. Dees and Cohen could conceive of.

In addition to her posts as Outreach Director and director of the SPLC’s Civil Rights Memorial Center, Ms. Brooks was once allowed to helm the company’s “Teaching Tolerance” unit, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom. After several months, Ms. Brooks was asked to yield the post to the highly-diverse, Maureen Costello.

Costello

Maureen Costello

Lecia Brooks’ lack of a law degree in no way diminishes her candidacy for SPLC president. As Morris Dees wrote in his 1991 autobiography, his choice of Civil Rights icon Julian Bond to be the company’s first president, had more to do with fundraising than hate-fighting.

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

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

Not only did Bond lack a law degree, in 1971 he had only recently returned to college in Atlanta to resume his pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in English, which had been long-delayed by his civil rights work during the 1960s.

In fact, Bond continued to live in Atlanta, some 200 miles from SPLC headquarters in Montgomery, throughout his “honorary” presidency. As the Julian Bond Papers collection at the University of Virginia indicate, all Bond had to do was sign the fundraising letters written in his name by Morris Dees. Documents in that collection refer to Mr. Bond’s monthly “fee,” rather than his “salary.”

Fast-forward 47 years and the SPLC finds itself in a very different financial situation. Not only was 2017 the company’s most profitable year to date, with receipts exceeding $136 million (compared to a meager $50 million for 2016), the SPLC’s cash-on-hand “Morris Dees Legacy Fund,” 98% of which is designated as “unrestricted” in use, bulged to more than $433 million.

As journalist Ken Silverstein noted in his November 2000 article for Harper’s magazine, The Church of Morris Dees, :

Back in 1978, when the Center had less than $10 million, Dees promised that his organization would quit fund-raising and live off interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million, a sum that, one 1989 newsletter promised, would allow the Center “to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising. ”

The SPLC hit the $100 million mark in 2002, the $200 million mark in 2007 and the $300 million mark in 2010. Surely, with $433 million in cash in the bank, fundraising is the last thing President Brooks would need to worry about.

As we recently noted, the SPLC only spends an average of 4% of its annual budget on “legal case costs,” while spending up to 41% a year on fundraising. If you strip that 41% burden (as well as the very expensive supporting infrastructure) out of the annual operating budget, the SPLC could keep its doors  wide open for the next 17 years without asking for another dime.

Naturally, Progressives would continue to donate to the company, if for nothing more than the bumper stickers, coffee mugs and tote-bags that would allow them to signal their superior virtue, but President Brooks could focus her attention on the civil rights law, the “poverty law,” for which the SPLC was founded in the first place.

How about it, Mr. Dees? Mr. Cohen? Will you pass the torch to a new generation? To an eminently qualified candidate who not only shares your values and goals, but who also represents the very people you claim to serve?

You’ve done what you set out to do, gentlemen. Go out at the top.

SPLC Executive Suite: 47 Years of “Whites Only”

April 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

“Inside, no blacks have held top management positions in the center’s 23-year history, and some former employees say blacks are treated like second-class citizens.”

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

Equal treatment

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

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

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

2017 Execs

2017 salaries

2016 and 2015

2014 and 2013

2012 and 2011

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

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

lecia_brooks

Lecia Brooks

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

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

“The Law Center’s ambitious new project, Teaching Tolerance, which is designed to promote racial and cultural justice throughout America’s schools, is produced by an eight-member all-white staff according to the Law Center.”

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

Costello

Maureen Costello

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SPLC 2014 — All White Execs Since 1971

April 28, 2014

Once again the Southern Poverty Law Center has released its annual IRS Form 990 and once again the form shows that the SPLC’s executive suite is as lily-white as when Morris Dees opened for business in 1971.

The SPLC’s 43-year record of no minorities at the top stands unbroken because it stands unchallenged. To date, Watching the Watchdogs seems to have a monopoly on exposing the total lack of diversity at “the nation’s leading civil rights organization.”

It’s a dirty job, as they say…

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Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $349,843
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $354,727
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $189,769
Mary Bauer — Outgoing Legal Director — $190,509
Teenie Hutchinson — Secretary — $168,487
Wendy Via — Development Director — $183,118 (+$16,358)
Mark Potok — Senior Fellow — $163,315

David Utter — Director — Miami – 
$162,642

Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s Former COO for the second year in a row! His paltry $148,385 is down nearly $86,000 donor-dollars from last year’s $234,309.

At this rate he’ll have to give up not working at the SPLC altogether.

Wendy Via scored the only solid raise last year, though her $16k boost was less than the $19,582 raise she got the year before.

And once again, the SPLC’s most highly educated team member, Dr. Heidi Beirich, failed to make the list of top-paid “key employees” even though she’s taken over Mark Potok’s role as primary propagandist.

Same job, different pay. That’s gotta be galling…

Sorry Dr. B. Better luck next year!

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve been pointing out this hypocrisy for five years now and not a single journalist or media outlet has picked up the story. Or maybe not so hard to believe.

And as usual, we expect the same questions we get every year about Julian Bond and the SPLC’s board of directors. In an effort to conserve electrons, we will simply redirect the reader to last year’s post on the Caucasian Crusaders that does a pretty good job of explaining how Morris Dees only hired Mr. Bond as an “honorary president” so he could use Bond’s name on fundraising materials and how the Montgomery Advertiser exposed the SPLC’s rubber-stamp board as far back as 1994.

That post explains it all in text, images and video.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we’ll have something new to report next year, that the white millionaire owners of the SPLC will finally begin to practice what they preach, but please, don’t anybody hold their breath.

 

SPLC — 2013 — Still No Minorities at the Top After 42 Years

March 22, 2013

Last week, Watching the Watchdogs examined the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “hate map” fundraising tool and broke the amazing, astounding, unprecedented news that for the first time in history the number of alleged “hate groups” designated by the SPLC’s Public Relations chief, Mark Potok, (something even the FBI cannot do…), actually DECLINED!!

While this inconceivable turn of events left many investigators gasping in amazement, a quick head-count of the SPLC’s top executives reveals a caucus as Caucasian as it was the day Morris Dees opened the doors of the company in 1971. There are still some unbroken traditions that one can count on in this mad, mad world.

This seeming incongruity was brought to the attention of Mr. Dees 19 years ago by journalists Dan Morse and Greg Jaffe in their week-long exposé in the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, in 1994.

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Dan Morse noted in his article, “Equal treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership“:

“Inside, no blacks have held top management positions in the center’s 23-year history, and some former employees say blacks are treated like second-class citizens.”

Last week the SPLC released its IRS Form 990 tax return for 2012, listing the names and compensation packages for its top executives (see pages 7-8). And the winners are:

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Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $340,923
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $344,771
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $185,102
Mary Bauer — Legal Director — $168,819
Teenie Hutchinson — Secretary — $162,644
Wendy Via — Development Director — $166,760 (+$19,582)
Mark Potok — Senior Fellow — $162,206  (
+$10,814)
David Utter — Director — Miami — 
$158,013

And a new (white) face for 2013:
Sheila Bedi — Deputy Legal Director —  $129,893

Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s Former COO, $234,309 (+$4,428).  If anyone knows of a public photo of Mr. Toohey, please pass the info along to Watching the Watchdogs.

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And what was Morris Dees’ response to Morse and Jaffe’s observations? “It is not easy to find black lawyers. Any organization can tell you that.” Not to get nit-picky, Mr. Dees, but lawyers make up only about half of the SPLC’s highest paid executives. Apparently, it’s not easy to find black accountants, administrators, computer experts or public relations people in 2013, either.

Conspicuously absent from the latest monochromatic rogue’s gallery, yet again… is Dr. Heidi Beirich, the SPLC’s new “Intelligence Director.” Dr. Beirich replaces “Senior Fellow” Mark Potok as the chief fundraiser and go-to media “expert.” Beirich and Potok both started working at the SPLC in 1999, both are public relations pros, though Dr. Beirich boasts two Masters degrees and a Doctorate to Mr. Potok’s B.S. in Poli-Sci, yet Dr. B has yet to be paid as much as her male counterpart.

Beirich

Also missing from the list is Lecia Brooks, the SPLC’s Outreach Director and highest paid minority, though not as highly paid as her white colleagues. In fact, when the Form 990 included salaries as paltry as $70,000, (they are a “non-profit” after all), our Ms. Brooks was nowhere to be found. As Outreach Director, Lecia Brooks’ primary concern is fundraising and she has no influence over the running of the company.

Hopefully, she got a 5-digit raise like the SPLC’s other prime fundraisers, Mark Potok and Wendy Via. It was a record-breaking year, after all.

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Lecia Brooks does hold one unique distinction, though. She was allowed to serve as “Interim Director” of the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” program for several months. As Dan Morse noted in his 1994 “Equal Treatment” article:

“The Law Center’s ambitious new project, Teaching Tolerance, which is designed to promote racial and cultural justice throughout America’s schools, is produced by an eight-member all-white staff according to the Law Center.”

“Teaching Tolerance” continued to be led by “whites only” until 2009, when Ms. Brooks was tapped to keep the seat warm during the interregnum until her successor could be selected, the highly diverse Maureen Costello:

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No report on the all-white nature of the SPLC’s leadership would be complete without mentioning the company’s first president, Julian Bond, and its diverse Board of Directors. As Dan Morse pointed out in his 1994 article, “Friendly board: friends, associates fill board,” the SPLC’s board consists of friends and cronies of Morris Dees who rubber-stamp whatever is put before them by Dees. Some of the board members Morse mentioned in 1994 are still on the board today, as is at least one lingerie mogul.

All of the board members are unpaid, which is not unusual in the so-called “non-profit” sector, and almost all of them are located hundreds or thousands of miles from Montgomery. In short, they may be diverse on paper, but they are not highly paid and they have no influence on the day-to-day operations of the SPLC. It’s a classic case of “brownwashing” to dupe the donors.

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And as we’ve mentioned numerous times, Morris Dees wrote in his autobiography, A Season For Justice, that he only offered Julian Bond the “largely honorary position of president” in exchange for the use of Bond’s name on the SPLC’s first fundraising letters. Last year, Watching the Watchdogs produced short video for Youtube that describes the history of the all-white leadership of the SPLC, Teaching Tolerance, the Bond paid endorsement and the rubber-stamp Board of Directors.

The only thing more difficult to believe than the fact that an alleged “civil rights” group headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, sitting literally in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s own Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, could remain lily-white at the top for more than 40 years is the incredible fact that well-meaning people sent the SPLC more than $40 million donor dollars last year.

What could that money have done for real charities closer to home?

SPLC — 2011– Forty Years of White Supremacy

February 6, 2011

Richard Cohen

Meet the dedicated men and women of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Presented here, according to the SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990,  are “the nation’s leading civil rights group’s” top eleven, highest paid executives, their titles and compensation packages and any significant changes in their base salaries from the previous year:

Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $340,818
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $344,809
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $184, 469
Rhonda Brownstein — “Outgoing” Legal Dir.– $137,256 (-$29,942, Ouch!)
Teenie Hutchinson — CFO — $156,623 (+$4,598!)
Wendy Via — Development Director — $148,537  (+$11,244!)
Mark Potok — Intelligence Director — $147,276  (
+ $7,310!)
Mary Bauer — Dir. Immigrant Justice — $258,669 (+$119,063!!)
David Utter — Director — Miami — $137,256


Not shown are Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s COO, $225,765 (+$118,233!!!) and IT Chief Thomas Brinkman ($135,060). If anyone knows of a public photo of Mr. Toohey or Mr. Brinkman, please pass the info along to Watching the Watchdogs.

If you examine the photos closely, you may note a surprising coincidence: ALL of the SPLC’s highest paid executives are white.

Some people may find it odd that a civil rights organization, headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, the very birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement and home to Rosa Parks, would be run by white millionaires, but that’s nothing compared with the fact that in its entire 40 year long history, the Southern Poverty Law Center has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of power.

As long ago as 1994, Dan Morse, an investigative reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser noted the lack of diversity in the SPLC’s executive suite, and the situation has not changed whatsoever in the 17 years since.

(Dan Morse, “Equal Treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership,” Montgomery Advertiser, February 16, 1994.)

“Inside [SPLC headquarters], no blacks have held top management positions in the center’s 23-year history, and some former employees say blacks are treated like second-class citizens.”

The article continues:

“I would definitely say that there was not a single black employee with whom I spoke who was happy to be working there,” said Christine Lee, a black graduate of Harvard Law School who interned at the Law Center in 1989.”

In his defense, SPLC founder Morris Dees offered the following statements:

“There ain’t no plantation mentality. If that was the case, I don’t know what the blacks would be doing in the positions they are…” In 1994, when Dees made this eloquent statement, the SPLC’s highest paid African American employee was in charge of the mail room, where she had worked for the previous 20-plus years.

“It is not easy to find black lawyers. Any organization can tell you that.” This could be true. After all, NFL and NBA team owners made the exact same observation for decades when explaining why there were no black head coaches, right?

Supporters of the SPLC will often point to the diverse “Board of Directors” posted on the SPLC’s web site as proof of inclusion at the top:


A veritable rainbow of diversity and multiculturalism, however the IRS Form 990 indicates that the board members are unpaid volunteers, which is not uncommon among such boards in the corporate world. The real question is how much influence does the board have over SPLC policies and practices?

During the same week-long investigative report of the SPLC, Dan Morse noted that most of the board members were old friends and cronies of Morris Dees who regularly rubber-stamped whatever the maestro put before them. Some of the board members in Morse’s 1994 report are still on the SPLC board today.

(Dan Morse, “Friendly Board,” Montgomery Advertiser, February 19, 1994.)

“Well, what about Julian Bond and Lecia Brooks?” say the die-hards, “They’re African Americans.”

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

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

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

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

Dees does not mention any money changing hands, so it is quite possible that Mr. Bond was eager to lend his good name to two white lawyers from Montgomery, of whom he had never heard, for free. Whether Mr. Bond was paid or not, he held no real power at the SPLC. (Bond gets two paragraphs in Dees’ 335 page memoir and is never heard from again…)

This is a classic case of celebrity endorsement and nothing more. If Bond held no power as “honorary president,” one has to wonder how much he now wields as an honorary board member?

As for Lecia Brooks, whose title of Outreach Director probably makes her the highest paid minority at the SPLC, it appears that she is neither highly paid, nor in an executive, decision-making position. Page 7 of last year’s IRS Form 990 also listed the SPLC’s highest paid executives, including Michael Toohey, whose paltry $73,454 salary was the lowest on the list.

While Mr. Toohey received a six-digit raise since then, Ms. Brooks did not make the list, meaning her salary was less than $73k, or roughly half of what the next tier of (white) execs were pulling down.

We won’t denigrate the intelligent, talented and dedicated Ms. Brooks with the term “token,” but a highly paid executive in a position of power she clearly is not.

One last note on the hypocrisy of Morris Dees. Below is a Google Map snapshot of the SPLC’s multi-million dollar “Poverty Palace,” in downtown Montgomery, marked with a letter “A.” In the same photo, at the top right, and ironically, nearly in the shadow of the SPLC, is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King’s first church.

For forty years now, the executives of the Southern Poverty Law Center have been able to look down on Dr. King’s church from their penthouse suites. For forty years whites have remained supreme at the SPLC. Somethings just never change in Montgomery.

 

SPLC — “Whites Only” 2010

August 19, 2010

Richard Cohen

Meet the dedicated men and women of the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to its most recent IRS Form 990, these are the SPLC’s top ten, highest paid executives, their titles and compensation:

Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $344,490
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $348,420
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $189,166
Rhonda Brownstein — Legal Director — $179,806
Jeff Blancett — Former COO (two years in a row!) — $159,301
Teenie Hutchinson — Chief Financial Officer — $155,414
Wendy Via — Development Director — $140,428
Mark Potok — Intelligence Director — $143,099
Jennifer Holladay –Strategic Affairs — $137,900
Mary Bauer — Director Immigrant Justice — $141,484

Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s current COO, $89,975 (the only 5-digit salary on the list). If anyone knows of a public photo of Mr. Toohey, please pass the info along to Watching the Watchdogs.

Does anyone else notice a disturbing pattern here?

NOT ONE of the SPLC’s top ten, highest paid executives is a minority, and certainly not an immigrant!

And yet, “the nation’s leading civil rights organization” preaches incessantly about the never-ending threat of White supremacists and routinely smears anyone who believes in enforcing existing immigration laws as “racist” and “nativist.”

This situation is hardly new. In 1994, the Montgomery Advertiser, that city’s leading newspaper, reported the exact same demographic situation!

(Dan Morse, “Equal Treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership,” Montgomery Advertiser, February 16, 1994)

Earlier this year, the SPLC posted a “diverse” Board of Directors on their web site:


A veritable rainbow of diversity and multiculturalism. Oddly enough, once Watching the Watchdogs initiated a campaign to point out to the Media that all of the esteemed board members, with the exception of Joseph Levin, were unpaid volunteers, the SPLC dropped the images from their web site. Coincidence, no doubt.

Of course, some will say that these “directors” play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of the SPLC, but after reading Morris Dees’ cynical anecdote about how he came to hire Julian Bond as the SPLC’s first “honorary President,” one has to wonder how much influence Mr. Bond wields as an honorary, unpaid Director?

The SPLC even promotes an annual “Mix it Up at Lunch Day,” where, according to their PR press release, “Thousands of schools are set to challenge social and racial boundaries” as their students agree to “take a new seat in the cafeteria” and sit with people of different races and backgrounds.

How exactly do the millionaires who run the SPLC “mix it up”?? Do they “challenge social boundaries” by eating lunch with the 5-digit salary peons? Or racial boundaries by having a sandwich with the janitors and landscaping crew?

And if this situation isn’t ironic (read: hypocritical) enough for you, here’s another picture to ponder:

This Google Maps photo shows downtown Montgomery, Alabama, the cradle of the American Civil Rights Movement and hometown of Rosa Parks. At center left is the SPLC’s multimillion dollar “Poverty Palace,” (marked with the letter “A”), and at top right, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King’s home church at the start of his career.

The millionaire hypocrites at the SPLC can literally plot their next “racists are everywhere” fund-raising project with a view of Dr. King’s home church from their penthouse windows.

The last remaining “Whites Only” sign in Montgomery hangs on the door of the SPLC’s senior boardroom.

Diversity at the SPLC

October 22, 2009

One would naturally assume that any entity that bills itself as “a leading civil rights organization” in all of its press releases would be one of the most diverse outfits around, right?

A look at the top officers at the Southern Poverty Law Center paints a very different picture. According to pages 11 and 40 of the group’s most recent IRS Form 990, none of the SPLC’s top ten players are minorities.

Name and Compensation

Richard Cohen — President/CEO                                $351,648

Teenie Hutchison — Chief Financial Officer                  $155,144

Joseph Levin — General Counsel                                $191,756

Morris Dees — Chief Trial Counsel                              $346,919

Jeff Blancett — Former Oper. Officer                          $185,305

Rhonda Brownstein — Legal Director                           $179,983

Thomas Brinkman — Security & IT                             $142,359

Wendy Via — Development Director                            $140,469

Mark Potok — Intelligence Director                             $143,206

Mary Bauer — Immigrant Justice Prog.                        $141,111

The Form 990 also includes the names of a few token minorities, such as Julian Bond and David Wang, but they serve only as unpaid “advisers” and have no real responsibility.

Otherwise, it reads like the directory of any New York law firm.

In 1994, the local newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, ran a series of articles on the SPLC, including one in which former black employees describe a “plantation mentality” that drove them from the nation’s “leading civil rights group.”

What is left is a decidedly non-diverse team of key players who establish policy and make all of the important decisions. Not very southern and certainly not impoverished.

To paraphrase the late Leona Helmsley, it would seem that SPLC founder Morris Dees believes that diversity, like paying taxes, “is for the little people…”

Julian Bond and the SPLC

August 31, 2009

As Morris Dees points out in his 1991 autobiography, “A Season for Justice: The life and times of civil rights lawyer Morris Dees,” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), the first thing his fledgling organization needed was a steady supply of cash.

In 1971, with Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s donor list of 700,000 self -identified liberals in hand, Dees prepared the first SPLC fund raising request for mass mailing.

Dees realized that in order to persuade people to donate money to a completely unknown cause he would have to have a famous “name” which donors would recognize. To this end, Dees turned to famed civil rights activist, Julian Bond, whom he had never met, and offered him the “largely honorary position” of president of the SPLC.

This classic marketing technique, celebrity endorsement or testimonial, worked as planned and Dees got his first 500 donors.[1]

Julian Bond, who would later go on to head the NAACP, likes to claim that he was a co-founder of the SPLC in his literature, however, there is little evidence that he played any role beyond lending, or possibly renting, his name to Dees. Bond only receives three short paragraphs in Dees’ book and is not mentioned again anywhere in the remaining 200 pages.

Although Dees does not mention any money changing hands, it’s highly unlikely, though not impossible, that Bond would agree to endorse an unknown start-up group he had never heard of for free. The SPLC’s current president, Richard Cohen, is compensated more than $350,000 a year. [2]

To this day, both Bond and the SPLC play up Bond’s meaningless figurehead “presidency” in their press releases.


[1] Dees, Morris S., 1991, A Season for Justice: The life and times of civil rights lawyer Morris Dees,” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), p. 132

[2] SPLC IRS Form 990, p. 40 (http://www.splcenter.org/pdf/static/SPLC990_2007.pdf)


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