Posts Tagged ‘Lecia Brooks’

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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SPLC — Whither Lecia Brooks?

February 28, 2019

[Update: 6/01/19. The Return of Lecia Brooks! We have just discovered that Ms. Brooks is back to work at the SPLC in the role of “Chief Workplace Transformation Officer,” who “serves both the SPLC’s leadership and the staff to build a workplace culture of inclusiveness and ensure a sustainable infrastructure that supports the SPLC’s ongoing focus on diversity and equity.”

We wish Ms. Brooks well in this new position, with its title that only a Public Relations officer could love, though we have to worry about the sustainability of a job built around “transformation,” which by definition, ought to have a definite beginning and a quantifiable end point.

This is not an “ongoing focus.” Either the SPLC promotes minorities at the same rates and levels as its mostly white leadership or it does not.

On the other hand, such a temporary landing pad would serve nicely to segue Lecia Brooks into the role we first suggested back in 2018, as President of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Time will tell.]

[Update: 3/23/19. Thanks to information provided by a reader, we now know that Lecia Brooks has relocated to the Equal Justice Initiative, (EJI.org), also of Montgomery, shortly before SPLC Founder Morris Dees was fired from the Southern Poverty Law Center. We wish her great success in her new endeavor.]

Has long-time Southern Poverty Law Center star Lecia Brooks left the auditorium? As we have noted on numerous occasions, Lecia Brooks was the only member of the company’s leadership staff to hold TWO concurrent directorships, one as Outreach Director and one as Director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center.

We have also noted that despite wearing two leadership hats, Ms. Brooks, who is Black and a lesbian, has NEVER been included among the company’s highest paid officers on annual IRS Form 990 tax reports.

A recent review of the SPLC’s “Leadership” page as of a week ago shows Ms. Brooks among the white millionaires who run the company:

Lecia1

February 20, 2019

And yet, one week later, Ms. Brooks is nowhere to be found, and her “About” page has been taken down as of this writing. Thanks to the magic that is the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine it is possible to find that page from a week ago, which notes that she had joined the company in 2004.

Lecia2

February 28, 2019

And a new face has appeared on the latest “Leadership” page, that of Tafeni English, who is now listed as the Director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center. No mention is made of a new Outreach Director as of this time, nor are there any press releases on the SPLC website or online media mentioning the retirement of Ms. Brooks, who was one of the SPLC’s premier ambassadors.

Tafeni1

[Update (3/15/19) In a surprising palace coup, SPLC Founder Morris Dees has been fired by company president Richard Cohen for “improper conduct.” Leaked internal emails hint that Dees may have engaged in sexual misconduct and racist hiring/promotion policies. A yet-unnamed Black female attorney left the company recently, citing similar complaints. At any rate, two weeks after Lecia Brooks was airbrushed from the “Leadership” page, the Old Man himself is now conspicuously absent from the Politburo portrait gallery and his “about” page has been closed. Stay tuned for more news.]

March-15-2019-Leadership _ SPLC

March 15, 2019

[Update: an article in the Mankato (MN) Free Press from February 21, 2019, identifies another new face, Kate Chance, as the SPLC’s “Outreach Manager.” Whether the “manager” reports to, or ultimately replaces, the “director” is unclear at this time.]

Kate Chance

Kate Chance, Outreach Manager

The last time we saw a Pravda-esque “unpersoning” of this magnitude was in mid-2017, when the SPLC’s long-time Director of Intelligence, Mark Potok, was unceremoniously dumped after 20 years of highly lucrative service to the company.

Because Mr. Potok had been the face and voice of the SPLC for so many years, and his name was on so many articles and press releases, the company could not easily air-brush him into the Memory Hole, so they simply replaced his “Director of Intelligence” title with “former employee” for many months. Considering how much money Mr. Potok had brought into the company’s coffers over 20 years, the SPLC didn’t seem especially appreciative.

And now Lecia Brooks seems to be gone, after nearly 15 years with the company with no mention of her departure whatsoever. We certainly hope that it wasn’t anything that we at Watching the Watchdogs might have said. Last November we posted an op-ed that suggested that maybe it was time for the SPLC’s senior (literally…) leadership to consider “passing the torch” to a new generation by retiring while at the top of their game.

Lecia Brooks, who most represents the people the SPLC purports to serve, seemed the perfect choice as new president of the company, at least to us.

Hopefully the geriatric white male millionaires who run the SPLC didn’t take out their displeasure at our suggestion on Ms. Brooks. Time will tell.

 

 

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 — Cashing in on Charlottesville

August 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOFII’s view

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

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

Merits

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

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

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

One wonders what Heather Heyer would have made of that?

SPLC 2016 – Celebrating 45 Years of “Whites Only” at the Top!

March 4, 2016

Spring is in the air, which means it’s time to have a look at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest financial reports.

While there have been some significant events surrounding the company’s bloated Endowment Fund, (to be examined in a future post), and the usual deck chair shuffling on the “Hate Map” fundraising tool, (also to be explored shortly), Watching the Watchdogs has determined that, once again, the Senior Executive Staff of the SPLC is all white, just as it has been every single year since the company opened for business in 1971.

Not a lot of other multi-million dollar companies can claim an unbroken 45-year streak of whites at the heights. Even the NBA and NFL had to give in eventually.

So, according to the SPLC’s tax return for the fiscal year ending October 31, 2015, its IRS Form 990, posted on the company’s website, here are the senior execs for the year:

2015 Execs

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If they look vaguely familiar, it’s because these are the same people from the previous fiscal year. The only thing that has changed are their salaries:

2016 Salaries

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Looks like a little something extra for everybody, except poor David Utter, for some reason.

A couple of minor notes are in order. Wendy Via is enjoying her fourth consecutive raise in the $19,000 to $20,000 range. It seems that Development (read: Fundraising) is as good as ever.

Jerri Katzerman and Lisa Sahulka are newcomers to the company, as we mentioned last year, and so they are being eased into their actual salaries gradually.

Ms. Sahulka in particular only pulled down $53,000 in her first year as Chief Operating Officer, a fraction of her predecessor’s pay. Michael Toohey earned $148,000 that year as COO, and $234,000 the year before that. Not bad for a guy who quit the company the year before! Expect Ms. Sahulka to get another generous pay bump this year.

Last year marked the debut of Heidi Beirich into the ranks of the company’s highest paid officers, though she has been with the company as long as Public Relations Guru Mark Potok, doing pretty much the same job. Wonder why his raise was $5,000 more than hers?

And we’ve included Maureen Costello for the second year, even though her salary is unknown and she is not listed on the Form 990 as one of the highest paid execs. Ms. Costello heads up the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance department, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom.

In 1994, two reporters from the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, noted that not only were there no minority executives at the Center, but that Teaching Tolerance was staffed entirely by whites at that time. You can read the full text here.

Equal treatment

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Though the staffing at Teaching Tolerance has hopefully diversified over the decades, the leadership has remained completely white, except when Lecia Brooks was allowed to sit in temporarily as a caretaker until Ms. Costello could be hired, a position not even mentioned on Ms. Brooks’ company bio page.

With nearly 300 employees, more than $54,000,000 in revenues for each of the past two years, and more than $302,000,000 in cash-on-hand, what possible excuse can Messers Dees, Levin and Cohen make for keeping minorities out of the company’s Executive Suite for FORTY-FIVE consecutive years running?

We can only think of one reason, and it stinks…

Employees

 

Teaching Tolerance… SPLC Style

January 4, 2012

The Southern Poverty Law Center has got to be one of the most ironic places on the planet. It’s incredible enough that not one of “the nation’s leading civil rights organization’s” top executives is a minority, and that this deplorable situation has existed for the entire 40-year history of the SPLC, so it’s probably not much of a shock to learn that the SPLC’s “educational outreach” division has been led by “whites only” for 19 of its 20-year history too.

Teaching Tolerance” created in 1991 “is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children,” according to the current TT web site.

An earlier iteration of the TT homepage, from 1998, claims:

In 1991, Teaching Tolerance began supporting the efforts of K-12 teachers and other educators to promote respect for differences and an appreciation of diversity.

Oddly, the term “diversity” has been removed from the organization’s current mission statement all together, perhaps because there was so little diversity to be found at Teaching Tolerance.

In 1994, Dan Morse of the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, first noted the lack of black executives at the Center. He also noted that all eight staff members of Teaching Tolerance were white, as well.

The Advertiser ran a follow-up story two-years later, noting that nothing had changed in the SPLC’s Executive Suite. Teaching Tolerance does not publish the names of its staffers, so we do not know if there have been any changes in demographics since 1996, but if a review of the company’s directors is any indication, it’s still business as usual at the SPLC.

Teaching Tolerance’s first director from its inception in 1991 was Sara Bullard:

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Ms. Bullard was followed by Jim Carnes, sometime around 1997:

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Mr. Carnes was succeeded by Jennifer Holladay, who served as Director from roughly 2002-2008:

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When Ms. Holladay received a six-digit promotion in 2009, she was replaced by interim Director Lecia Brooks:

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Ms. Brooks served for about a year before becoming Director of SPLC’s Civil Rights Memorial Center, a position that does not appear among the six-digit salaries of the SPLC’s top executives.

Ms. Brooks kept the seat warm during the interregnum, making way for Teaching Tolerance’s current director, Maureen Costello:

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So much for diversity at Teaching Tolerance.

Ironically, (there’s that word again…), one of Teaching Tolerance’s flagship efforts is its annual “Mix it Up at School Day,” which encourages K-12 kids to sit with someone new in the school cafeteria. A noble and worthwhile experiment without doubt, but one has to wonder with whom do the all-white executives of the SPLC and Teaching Tolerance mix it up? “Do as we say, not as we do…”

One final note, the Teaching Tolerance home page brags about the many awards garnered by its “teaching materials”:

“Our teaching materials have won two Oscars, an Emmy and more than 20 honors from the Association of Educational Publishers, including two Golden Lamp Awards, the industry’s highest honor.

As noted in an earlier WTW post, the Association of Educational Publishers is a public relations outfit. Non-profits are encouraged to join the association in order to “stand out in a crowded marketplace” and “maximize your ROI [return on investment]”

According to the AEP, “Industry awards are surefire way to give your product and your brand a one-up over your competitors.

Your membership in the AEP entitles you to a 50% discount on entry fees for the awards! You actually have to pay cash, (from the donation pot, no doubt) to “enter” the contest against other “entrants” who also paid for the privilege of “competing.” Now there’s a wide field of contenders. What if no one else paid to enter your particular event? Instant winner!

Well, the TT page does call it “the industry’s highest honor, and that’s pretty much what Teaching Tolerance is all about… maximizing ROI for the white millionaires who run the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Teaching Tolerance does not list its editorial staff on its web site and never has, (for obvious reasons, no doubt). Therefore the names and dates for this post had to be gleaned from archived publications and web sites, mostly created by the SPLC.

If anyone knows of any errors or omissions in the Teaching Tolerance timeline presented here, please notify Watching the Watchdogs and we will correct the matter immediately.


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