Posts Tagged ‘Morris Dees’

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 — Morris Dees and the Klan

April 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henley

Claude Henley kicking a news reporter on May 20, 1961

With an arraignment in federal court hanging over his head, Henley went to visit his old friend Morris Dees at his law office. Dees says that he was on the verge of agreeing to represent the Klan thug for $500 dollars until Henley mentioned that another lawyer had wanted $15,000 to take the case. Dees seized the moment and said he would do the job for “only” $5,000.

(It should be mentioned that in 1961, $5,000 dollars was the median income for a family of four. To put it in perspective, that sum would be worth over $42,000 in 2019 dollars.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shotgun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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 profits from “I Am So Sick of White Guys” coloring book

December 23, 2017

As we have noted uncounted times on this blog, there is no legal or even standard definition for a “hate group.” Even the Southern Poverty Law Center, a company that rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars by selling “hate groups” to Progressives, does not have an actual definition for the term.

Instead, the company cooked up a non-definition that is so broad that anyone could figure out some way to apply it to just about any group they wanted. According to the experts at the SPLC:

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

If those are the SPLC’s only criteria, “attacking or maligning an entire class of people,” then does it strike anyone else as odd that “the nation’s leading civil rights organization,” (at least when it was still in the civil rights business several years ago) is accepting a cash percentage from the sales of something called the “I Am So Sick of White Guys” coloring book?

 

Sick-of-White-Guys-book

 

“Relax,” say the authors. This isn’t maligning an entire class of people… it’s satire! Get it?

Sure we get it. Try swapping out the descriptor “White” from the title with any other color/ethnicity in the Diversity Rainbow and see how much fun it is. Change “Guys” to “Gals” (Chicks dig it when you call them “gals,” btw) and watch the Feminist fur fly. Try it at home, “I’m so sick of One-legged, African-American LGBTQRSTUV Activists!.” Why, the variations just write themselves. No “hate” here, after all. It’s satire, fer cryin’ out loud!

As the co-authors, who are both evil white guys themselves, remind us “Be open to hearing other perspectives or opinion. And don’t be so defensive.” Spoken like true Progressives. Say anything you please, as long as we permit it.

Want to have a real hoot? Swap out the picture of Putin with one of George Soros holding the strings. The Anti-Defamation League, which does not have a good track record with satire, will be all over you like the yellow-tooth stink on an Antifa bandana. There’s too much money at stake, don’t you know?

And speaking of money, catch the note at the very bottom of the cover stating that ten percent of this ten-dollar treasure will be donated to the SPLC. Thank heavens for that. According to this year’s online tax records, the company came into 2017 with less than $320 million in tax-free, unrestricted cash-on-hand. This boon could be a game changer.

Or could it? Let’s say they can sell 100,000 copies of this adult coloring book. The $10 grand sent to the SPLC would barely buy a single hour of Millionaire Morris Dees’ frequent speaker’s “honoraria,” and only then if your group wasn’t composed of evil white males. Otherwise, “No dough? No Mo.”

Let’s be optimistic, though. As the SPLC well knows, there are millions of people out there who are really, really sick of white males. Let’s say these guys manage to sell ONE MILLION COPIES of their magnum opus. That’s $100,000 to the cash-strapped SPLC, a whole lot of moolah in anybody’s book.

Well, in anybody’s book except the SPLC’s bookkeeper’s book. Last year the SPLC paid third-party telemarketers $2,266,887 donor-dollars to raise only $1,271,287 donor-dollars, for a net loss of $955,600. A lousy hundred grand wouldn’t even scratch the surface of such an incredible deficit. Instead, the SPLC will simply redirect the donations of everyone who gave through the telemarketers, as well as another 10,000 to 40,000 rank-and-file loyal SPLC donors.

At the end of the day, what we have here is a perfect example of “virtue signalling.” The authors are merely piling on to a bandwagon that has seen celebrities and major corporations demonstrating how much they hate “hate” by simply sending a check to the SPLC, and that doesn’t include the millions of new individual donors the company will pick up this year. That’s all you have to do. Send a little cash to a company that already has more money than it will ever spend and you can sleep the sleep of the Righteous.

Too bad so much of that money will go to pay the telemarketers and the six-digit salaries of the SPLC’s all-white Executive Suite. No matter. “Hate” was fought, after all.

The SPLC has no problem whatsoever if you want to bash white males (as long as they are not gay, Jewish, or one of the other more recent protected status groups) as long as you a) fig-leaf it as satire (“Can’t you take a joke?”), and b) cut the SPLC in for a slice of the pie. No hypocrisy here. Move along.

Don’t take our word for it. Go the company’s website and search “coloring book” and see if you can find anything that says “The SPLC refuses to accept money from a group that attacks or maligns an entire class of people.”

That would be bad for business.

The SPLC and the DACA Opportunity

November 12, 2017

For the past several months, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been issuing a steady stream of hand-wringing rhetoric over the uncertain fate of hundreds of thousands of migrants who were brought to the US illegally as children by their parents.

Under the Obama Administration, a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would allow the illegals to stay in the country and obtain temporary work permits. To date, there are about 800,000 migrants enrolled in the program, known collectively as “Dreamers,” in reference to the legislation that created the DACA program, the so-called “DREAM Act.”

The Trump Administration has repealed DACA and the enrollees are currently facing the possibility of deportation to their home countries. Naturally, the fundraisers at the SPLC recognize this situation as a prime money-making opportunity and they have been producing a steady stream of emotionally charged rhetoric aimed at their largely-Progressive donor base.

We believe that not only does this situation represent a huge opportunity FOR the the Dreamers and their families, but that the SPLC is uniquely situated to make the transition a success beyond comprehension… if it chose to help.

  1. The first and most important thing to remember is that there are very few actual children among the Dreamers. While brought to this country illegally as children, only 2.5% of the group are between the ages of 15 and 18. The vast majority of Dreamers are between the ages of 20 and 35. One cannot even apply for DACA deferment before the age of 15.

    Heart-rending SPLC fundraising rhetoric of infants being torn from their mother’s bosom are highly exaggerated for emotional impact. It would a simple enough remedy to extend deferment to the youngest cohort until the age of 18.

  2. Another of the requirements for DACA eligibility is an education. A high school diploma or GED is mandatory, and many of the Dreamers have college degrees.

    In fact, the SPLC and other illegal immigration advocates make great political hay by claiming that most of the biggest tech companies created in the 21st century were founded by immigrants. Not “illegal” immigrants, mind you, but pointing out that minor detail is “racist.”

  3. Nearly 80% of the Dreamers are Mexican citizens, some 632,000 in all. Just imagine the effect of returning more than half a million educated, entrepreneurial young adults to that country’s economy. The Mexican government has and has announced that it will welcome the Dreamers home “with open arms!

    According to the LA Times, Mexico’s foreign secretary, Luis Videgaray stated:

    “I don’t know of any country that is willing to ship doctors, accountants, lawyers to another country,” Mexico’s foreign secretary Luis Videgaray told The Times in an interview Tuesday. “That’s just a transfer of human capital. That would be a big win for Mexico to have these young kids that are law abiding, creative, full of energy and well trained. All of them have a high school diploma. And the majority of them are college educated. It would be a big loss to the U.S., to the U.S. economy in particular.”

    “It’s very appealing to have college educated, English-speaking people and many companies in Mexico are looking for that profile of people,” Videgaray said.”

  4. The SPLC and other illegal immigrant advocates are forever touting the need to “bring the illegals out of the shadows.” Mexican DACA enrollees are FULL CITIZENS OF MEXICO. You cannot get much further out of the shadows than that.

    Again, far from being a human tragedy, the DACA situation has all of the makings of a huge opportunity.

So what can the SPLC and other illegal immigration advocates do to help? They can do what they do best: Raise money.

The SPLC currently has $319 million in unrestricted cash-on-hand, and with all of the publicity and donations the company received in FY 2017 there is no telling how much their Endowment Fund will balloon to in February’s tax form releases. But for our purposes, let’s stick with the numbers we have.

  1. What if the SPLC were to donate one third of its bloated endowment fund to resettling the DACA Dreamers? A hundred million will go a lot further in sunny Mexico than it will in the US.Part of that money could go toward resettling the young folks in their old home towns. We know that most have family back in Mexico, because their parents have been sending billions of dollars back home for decades. That’s pretty much the whole point of illegal immigration in the first place.
  2. If the Dreamers are anywhere near as entrepreneurial as the SPLC and other advocates claim, they will be setting up new businesses in thousands of towns and cities across Mexico in no time. In fact, with a US education and an acquired American consumer lifestyle, these people will be creating a huge demand for goods and services in their own home towns.

    Business is liable to be so good that the kids can send for their folks in the US, bringing them “out of the shadows” once and for all.

  3. Since many of the Dreamers are college educated, the SPLC could go one step beyond by endowing the creation of Dreamer business parks, where the bright minds can work together, as on a college campus, or at many high-tech firms in Silicon Valley.

    While the SPLC’s $100 million donation would be great seed money, the company could easily create crowdfunding sites, such as with GoFundMe, where well-meaning Progressives could donate money to the cause, thereby actually DOING something to help the Dreamers besides raging at Donald Trump.

    If there is anything the SPLC knows how to do, it’s raising cash. It only took the company five years to raise that last $100 million. With the huge publicity wave it is riding this year, the next hundred million should accrue in a fraction of that time.

    The SPLC’s public relations machinery is second to none in the non-profit industry. The company has been hiring PR types and fundraisers for over a decade. Headcount at the company has grown from 206 in 2009 to 291 in 2016, and since there hasn’t been a corresponding 41% jump in the number of court cases, these new faces most likely aren’t all lawyers.

    The company will be safe enough with a $200 million cushion in the meantime, and the Dreamers will have the opportunity to completely transform the Mexican economy.

  4. Many of the Dreamers’ parents came to this country poor, illiterate and knowing very little English. While it is possible that some of the Dreamers grew up in an immigrant environment without picking up a single word of their mother tongue, the odds are that these legal immigrants will have a much easier time of adjusting to repatriation.

    The SPLC loves to lament that “Many Dreamers don’t even know their home countries any more.” Well, their parents made the trip to a foreign culture in an unknown land with far fewer advantages and they managed to survive.

    Imagine how much easier the SPLC and the donors could make the transition back home!

So there it is, in a nutshell. Granted, it’s a back-of-the-envelope proposition at the moment, but it undoubtedly has the potential to turn an unhappy situation into a win-win opportunity for all involved.

What do you say, SPLC? Will you embrace this opportunity to make a real difference in thousands, and ultimately millions, of lives? Donating a third of your unprecedented endowment fund will in no way jeopardize the solvency of your company, and you’ll make it all back, and more, within a few short years.

It would sure silence a lot of your critics…

Will you turn your giant fundraising machinery toward a project that will change so many lives, one that will undercut so many of the foundations propping up illegal immigration in the first place? Will you take the lead in giving donors the opportunity to do some real good with their money, rather than paying the six-digit salaries of your all-white Executive Suite and your third-party telemarketers?

Think of the legacy it would create for SPLC Founder Morris Dees. Unlike his past achievements, this one would be beyond criticism. It’s pure Teflon.

Or, will you continue to beat the drums against Trump, that lowest of low-hanging fundraising fruit, because it is guaranteed to rile your Progressive donor base? Will you continue the relentless “hate group” fearmongering campaigns because they reliably bring in the dough?

This is an unprecedented opportunity for the Dreamers, for Mexico and for millions of illegal aliens “hiding in the shadows” in the USA. Your leadership, your largess, would be a game-changer. You could take the lead and make a real difference in the world.

And if nothing else, can you think of a better way to embarrass Donald Trump? Your donors will love it.

 

SPLC Cashes in on Las Vegas Massacre

October 4, 2017

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

Nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPLC — Whither Mark Potok?

August 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potok Former Employee

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

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

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

8-31_14-Leadership _ Southern Poverty Law Center

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

Potok-byline

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

Potok Left SPLC

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

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

Potok Keynote Speaker

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

Potok990

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

Potok Testamonials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man deserved better.

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

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

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

 

Morris Dees: Confessed Felon on the Lam

September 16, 2016

Here’s an interesting tidbit regarding Southern Poverty Law Center Co-Founder and sole owner, Morris Dees. According to Dees’ own words, the man has openly confessed, twice no less, to having committed a violent felony under Alabama law in 1983 and is still at large.

The link to this confession came to us through none other than Dees’ long-time Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok. In 2008, Potok was giving a group of Vermont high school teachers and students a personal tour of SPLC headquarters in Montgomery. During the hour-long interview, the audio file for which can be found here on the Internet Archive, Mark Potok relates the details of an event where a Klansman named Jeff Berry gives an interview to a television news crew, then, thinking better of it, demands the tape of the interview from the crew at shotgun-point. Potok says the police did nothing in response to the reporter’s complaint and so the SPLC stepped in.

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

Absolutely false imprisonment… A felony crime…

This passage got us to thinking about another anecdote we remembered about someone else holding someone at shotgun point. On page 101 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season For Justice, Morris Dees brags about holding a shotgun to the head of his good pal, and best paying Klan client, Claude Henley.

(Interestingly, Mr. Dees repeats the claim on page 101 of his second autobiography in 2003, A Lawyer’s Journey: The Morris Dees Story, which was a page-for-page reprint of Season, with one additional chapter tacked on the end. Most authors would refer to such a reprint as an updated or revised edition of the original title, but Mr. Dees opted to resell the same book under a different title.)

In both autobiographies, Dees writes of inviting friend Henley to his law office after an arson attack on the first SPLC headquarters, which Dees believed was committed by the United Klans of America (UKA). When the unsuspecting Klan thug shows up, Dees dials up Henley’s boss, UKA Imperial Wizard Bobby Shelton, on the speakerphone.

Below is Dees’ account of what happened next. Granted, we only have Dees’ word for it, but why would he lie to us? Twice? CAUTION: Mr. Dees has a fondness for expletives:

shotgun

Admittedly, we know even less about the law than even Mark Potok, but if Jeff Berry holding reporters at shotgun-point is a no-brainer felony, why isn’t the exact same act a felony crime for Morris Dees?

“Ah, well,” some may say, “this is ancient history from 1983 and surely the statute of limitations has long since expired.” In other words, Dees is bragging and making crude little jokes because they can’t touch him, right?

Au contraire! Under Alabama state law, (Statute: AL § 15-3-1 et seq, to be precise), while most felonies have a mere 3-year statute of limitations, “Any felony involving the use, attempted use, or threat of, violence to a person” has NO such limitation.

Clearly, Morris Dees bragging that he threatened to blow Henley’s head off its stump, in thousands of published books, no less, is every bit as viable a felony as if Dees had actually pulled the trigger all those years ago.

The confessed felon has been at large for more than thirty years now. It’s time for the squeaky Wheels of Justice to pull up in front of the Poverty Palace in Montgomery and get this violent individual off the streets.

Is there a real lawyer in the house?

By the way, the Potok interview is even more interesting for some of the other claims he makes, which ought to give any intelligent donor pause.

“In the 70’s… “poverty law” was actually the phrase… it was a phrase used that just applied to… essentially… civil rights law… to kind of human rights legal actions.”

“I know a couple years ago there was a big discussion internally [at the SPLC], ‘Should we change our name to something else?’ People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is. By that time, people knew the name so well that, you know, we made, I think, the obviously right decision not to change the name.”

“People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is.” Interesting.

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

You hype up this little tiny threat into something scary, uh, and then go and try to make money off of it.” Let us count the ways… here, here, here, here and here, and the list goes on and on.

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

“We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.” And how many of those lawyers have a $302 million-dollar cash reserve, Mr. Potok? Mo Dees got out of the civil rights business because he wanted Mo’ Money.

And most telling of all:

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

“We don’t want to take their free speech rights away… we just want to destroy them,” for expressing their free speech opinions, regardless of how offensive some may find them, Mr. Potok? We may not like what they have to say, but if a private fundraising company like yours has the power to “destroy” people for “thought crimes” then what’s holding you back? Oh yeah, that whole Dead-White-Guy Constitution thing.

Well, consistency was never your strong suit, Mr. Potok. Here’s a thought, turn in your felonious boss and collect the reward.

 


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