Posts Tagged ‘Morris Dees’

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.

 

SPLC — Great “Wall of Tolerance” Scam

April 4, 2016

Last October, we first noted that one of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s most cynical fundraising gimmicks, its long-running “Stand Strong Against Hate” map was conspicuously absent from the company’s web site.

The gimmick was elegant in its simplicity. By simply clicking a link on the SPLC web site you could demonstrate your commitment to “stand strong against hate,” and to “stop the racist backlash from infecting your community.”

StandStrong

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In return for nothing more than your name, address and email address, you fought the good fight by becoming a digital pinhead on an interactive map. By moving the cursor over your pinhead your first name and last initial would pop up magically.

“Bob J., Chicago”

How exactly this “stood up to hate” was never explained. In the meantime, your personal contact information went into the SPLC’s massive database, where it would be added to the company’s mailing list and turned over to their growing team of professional fundraisers.

As mentioned, it was a simple but effective gag, and no doubt brought in a lot of new donors and donor dollars, but the company seems to have retired it in 2015.

Today we stumbled across a parallel SPLC fundraising ploy that is every bit as simplistic as the “Stand Strong Against Hate” ploy, but takes the game to a whole higher level.

In this morning’s RSS roundup of articles about the SPLC was a press release written by one of those “exclusive” public relations outfits that target individuals, usually professionals, offering to polish up and pad out their resumés, in exchange for an exclusive fee.

This particular gentleman is an attorney, practicing law somewhere Down South. We’re going to change his name here to protect his identity, but the final line of his press release reads:

“In 2005, Mr. Smith was awarded the Wall of Tolerance Certificate by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

We are embarrassed to admit that, even after “tracking” and studying all things SPLC for the past seven years, we had never heard of the company’s “Wall of Tolerance” and had to learn more about it.

Our first thought, quite naturally, was that, like most nonprofit fundraising ventures, which might feature a “Golden Circle” or “Leadership Club” tier for their top donors, the SPLC was simply recognizing Mr. Smith for handing over the big bucks year after year.

But we were wrong…

According to the SPLC website:

“The Wall of Tolerance digitally displays the names of more than half a million people who have pledged to take a stand against hate and work for justice and tolerance in their daily lives.  Their names flow continuously down the 20-by-40 foot wall within the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama.”

Wall of Tolerance

In order to get your name on this auspicious digital billboard you must first swear a solemn oath:

By placing my name on the Wall of Tolerance, I pledge to take a stand against hate, injustice and intolerance. I will work in my daily life for justice, equality and human rights – the ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died.

Half a million people have taken this pledge to honor “the ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died,” or did they?

While searching for information about the Wall of Tolerance we came across this blog post on the Democratic Underground website in which Mr. Joshua Allenberg expressed surprise to have received the same certificate of appreciation and had his name added to the wall, even though he’d never heard of the award and wasn’t even sure when, or even if, he had made a contribution to the SPLC. If he had, it wasn’t much.

At any rate, he never took a pledge, solemn or otherwise. Maybe getting on the wall is easier than it seems.

I just got an envelope in the mail addressed from author Toni Morrison. Enclosed was a form letter, a solicitation for a donation, and a Certificate of Appreciation. Now I typically donate 20 bucks here and there from organizations who send me mail, and I kind of lose track. So, what I got is:

Certificate of Appreciation
presented to 
Joshua Allenberg

In recognition of an important contribution to the ongoing fight against hatred and intolerance in America. The name shown above will be added to the Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Alabama, to provide inspiration to all of those who choose to take a stand against hatred.

Thank you for taking a stand.

Morris Dees, Founder
Southern Poverty Law Center

Does anybody know where this came from? 

The answer was swift in coming when several other posters figured out that the SPLC got Mr. Allenberg’s name from a mailing list purchased from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Mr. Allenberg’s certificate was signed by SPLC founder Morris Dees and author Toni Morrison. Earlier iterations of the document were co-signed by Rosa Parks.

The certificates are accompanied by several sheets of return address stickers bearing the honoree’s name and address, one of the oldest fundraising gimmicks in the book, but still quite effective among that segment of the population that still sends a lot of snail mail, i.e., the elderly.

Directly below Mr. Allenberg’s web post was a piece by SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, an organization that rates and reviews fundraising pitches. Here are a few of the more telling comments about the Wall of Tolerance campaign:

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.

“Some of the best that the direct marketer’s art can produce.” And why not, the man behind this PR campaign is none other than Morris Dees, who made millions in the direct mail-order business in the 1960s before opening the SPLC.

In 1998, Dees was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s “Hall of Fame,” not for his civil rights work, but rather for his prowess in direct mail fundraising. Mr. Dees is an undisputed master of the sales pitch.

We have to admit that it’s impressive to see and definitely as fine an example of a master-level fundraising tool as we’ve ever seen, as this short Youtube video demonstrates. You gotta admire the craftsmanship:

 

 

While the video notes how people can add their names directly to the wall from SPLC’s civil rights theme park, no mention is made of whether one’s contact information is a prerequisite for the honor, but if SPLC history is any guide, you can make book on it.

Another direct mail fundraising industry web site, DonorPowerBlog.com had this to say about the Wall of Tolerance “donor acquisition kit”:

“Can you overdo recognition of a donor? I don’t think so. There’s a donor acquisition kit out there that tries.”

One final example of just how cynical this marketing ploy is was demonstrated by one other web posting in our search results. Marcus Epstein posted on the VDARE website that he too had been honored by the SPLC for his “important contribution in the ongoing fight against hatred and intolerance in America”

Not only does the SPLC consider the VDARE website so heinous that it deserves its own page on the company’s website, but Mr. Epstein himself, that great benefactor and paragon in the “ongoing fight against hatred” was found worthy of an entire article by the SPLC’s own Heidi Beirich, for allegedly being an arch-racist, and yet he is eminently qualified to be enshrined for all time on the company’s Wall of Tolerance.

Apparently anyone with a postal address can receive a “Wall of Tolerance” certificate and get their name on the electronic billboard in the hope that they will make that crucial first donation.

So much for pledging to support the “ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died.”

What an exclusive honor.

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

 

SPLC — Confederate Commodification

September 12, 2015

The recent controversy surrounding the Confederate flag merely adds more evidence to the theory that the Southern Poverty Law Center has yet to meet a tragedy it could not somehow spin into gold. While the company is sticking to its tried-and-true methods of appealing to its largely progressive donor base’s sympathies, this most recent marketing campaign is part of a bigger shake-up that has been in the works for the past few years.

In the aftermath of the mindless murders of nine people in Charleston in June, a media frenzy ensued demanding the removal of the Confederate flag from all public property across the country.

Naturally, the professional fundraisers at the SPLC saw an opportunity to appeal to their largely progressive donor base by hopping on the media bandwagon.

One of the savvier moves was to set up an online “Erasing Hate” hot-line where people can report sightings of the flag, schools and streets named after Confederates, etc., so that, in the words of SPLC founder Morris Dees, the company could “put pressure on” local governments.

It comes as little surprise, though, that there is no option to report the offending sites anonymously. Just as with the company’s cynical “Stand Strong Against Hate” map, the ultimate goal is to add the names and addresses of potential donors into its enormous fundraising database.

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Otherwise, you could have all kinds of anonymous practical jokers submitting the names of locations that couldn’t possibly be verified, except, maybe, by Google…

The SPLC doesn’t need “tipsters” to compile a comprehensive list of Confederate-themed locations any more than they would for a list of Winn-Dixie grocery stores or MoonPie distributors, but the list isn’t the point of the exercise.

While this kind of marketing ploy is pretty standard by SPLC standards, the company appears to be undergoing a major re-branding in the hopes of mining new sources of revenue.

Watching the Watchdogs has previously documented the collapse of the bloated Hate Map “hate group” count, which simply could no longer stand up to close inspection in the Age of the Internet. Someone in the Head Office, (we surmise it was Heidi Beirich), began an ambitious campaign to thin out some of the more obvious “hate group” padding, reducing the spurious count by 27% over the past few years.

The company has even redesigned the layout of their lucrative Hate Map to further obfuscate their spurious numbers, but they still have a lot of fat left to trim. For example, of the 22 alleged chapters of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan listed, only four are affiliated with a known city or town. The rest merely float about in limbo, padding the count.

Perhaps the most astounding move occurred early in 2014, when the SPLC actually dropped the descriptor “non-profit civil rights organization” from its website and fundraising materials. It now refers to itself as “an advocacy group.”

This is a huge sea change for the company, which would no doubt alienate it from many of its traditional, blue-haired donors, (which is possibly why the SPLC has neglected to publicly announce the change), but the benefits going forward are manifold.

By re-branding as an advocacy group, the SPLC no longer has to tie any of its actions to actual civil rights. Now they can freely pursue such cut-and-dried civil suits as the copyright infringement case involving a gay couple’s engagement photo. No civil rights were violated, or even mentioned in the complaint, but the SPLC was able to lend publicity to the case as part of its ham-fisted marketing campaign aimed at the LGBT market.

The recent Confederate flag flap apparently got someone in the SPLC’s Advancement Office (read: Fundraising) to think more proactively. “Instead of passively waiting for the donor-dollars to roll in, what can we actually sell people?”

The answer was brilliant. On September 10, 2015, the SPLC issued a press release stating:

“Singer-songwriter Steve Earle has partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center to take a stand against the Confederate battle flag and is urging Mississippi to remove the emblem from its state flag with the release of his new song, “Mississippi It’s Time.”

No doubt the term “has partnered with” actually means “was commissioned by,” which accounts for the next line in the release, which is obviously the most telling:

“The song is available for streaming here and for download on iTunes beginning Friday, September 11. All proceeds will go to the SPLC.”

And there you have it. The SPLC has found the perfect way to commodify, that is, to turn a buck from, the Confederate flag controversy.

If this scheme pans out, you can expect more commissioned songs, to be followed by t-shirts, books, smartphone apps and video games. “All profits will go to the SPLC.”

As we pointed out a week ago, the SPLC posted a $12 million dollar “non-profit” last year, over and above the $22 million in tax-free interest generated by its $302 million dollar cash endowment fund.

The SPLC needs more funding like a Mississippi catfish needs ugly lessons.

It’s probably no coincidence that the company chose to release its product on September 11, as they seldom miss an opportunity to cash in on symbolism.

Speaking of symbolism, however, nowhere in the actual text of the press release, (though there is a photo of the album cover), does the SPLC mention the name of Mr. Earle’s band… the Dukes.

No doubt the fundraisers wanted to avoid any potential association with former KKK leader David Duke, or more likely, those other, hate-filled, Icons of Evil…

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Whatever the reason, we’re obviously witnessing a major change in the way in which the Southern Poverty Law Center makes money. This bears watching and we at Watching the Watchdogs are more than happy to do so.

Stay tuned, y’all…

SPLC — Crunching the Numbers

September 11, 2015

As another summer winds down to a close, it’s always worthwhile to have a look at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s financial numbers and compare them to the company’s fundraising rhetoric.

According to the financial records for the most recent fiscal year, ending October 31, 2014, the SPLC reported total operating expenses of $42,414,311 against total annual revenues of $54,420,509, leaving a tidy “non-profit” of $12,006,198 when all was said and done.

Remember, friends, “non-profit” is a tax status, not a mission statement.

While the financial records on the web site are up-to-date, there are a couple of errors in the text that will, no doubt, be corrected in the near future. The most glaring error states that:

“At the end of the fiscal year, our endowment – a special, board-designated fund established to support our future work – stood at $245.3 million.”

That figure is three years old. According to the SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990, the company’s endowment fund closed 2014 at a record-breaking $302,825,586 dollars (Page 26). In 2000, Ken Silverstein reported in Harper’s Magazine that SPLC founder Morris Dees at one time announced that the SPLC would cease all fundraising activities once the Endowment Fund reached $55 million dollars. As that target drew nigh, Mr. Dees doubled his bet, saying that he could “live off the interest” of a $100 million dollar endowment.

The Endowment Fund reached that number by 2002, and yet, the fundraising continued. Five years later, the $200 million dollar mark was reached in 2007 and yet, the fundraising continued. Maybe Mr. Dees was misquoted and really had $300 million in mind the whole time.

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Speaking of fundraising, the second error on the financial information page states: “During the last fiscal year, approximately 68% of our total expenses were spent on program services.”

Like everything else to do with the SPLC, that statement is up for interpretation. According to the Form 990, the company spent $13,032,973 “seeking justice by supporting victims of civil rights abuses and hate crimes,” and another $13,939,793 in support of the company’s “public information and education efforts,” for a total program services outlay of $26,972,766, (p. 3), which only adds up to 63% of total expenses for the year, not 68%

But wait… there’s more! 

According to page 2 of the Form 990, the SPLC spent $9,674,637 on fundraising for the year, or 23% of its budget, putting it near the low end of Charity Navigator’s optimal fundraising expenses chart. However, the SPLC’s own auditors note that the company “incurred joint costs of $8,056,407 for educational materials and activities as part of fundraising appeals during the year ended October 31, 2014.”

“Joint costs,” the auditors explain, are “Activities and the production of materials which combine development, education, and management functions are allocated to the program and supporting services on the basis of the content of the material, the reason for its distribution, and the audience to whom it is delivered.”

For example, SPLC “management” spent more than $1,500,000 dollars in printing and postage costs last year, over and above what the education and fundraising wings spent. That makes no sense whatsoever until you realize that “Management” was merely holding that expense for “Development,” (pronounced: “Fundraising”). They’re not lying about spending the money, they’re just not excessively truthful over who spent it.

In short, “joint costs” are fundraising costs that are allocated to program service expenses. As long as the fundraising appeal contains an “action element,” it can technically be called something else. For example, when you receive a note from the SPLC saying “Hate groups are on the rise everywhere! Your financial support will help us fight hate,” you have received “educational materials” and a not fundraising letter. Get it?

When you add up the SPLC’s declared fundraising costs and its “joint” fundraising costs you come up with $17,731,044 dollars, or 42% of total expenses, which blows it completely off Charity Navigator’s charts.

So, if you deduct that $17 million in fundraising costs from the company’s annual expenses, as Mr. Dees promised he would when the Endowment Fund reached $100 million, it cost just under $25 million to keep the SPLC’s doors open last year.

At that rate, the Endowment Fund could support all programs for 12 years without raising another dime, but that doesn’t include the $22 million in tax-free interest generated by the fund, which would cover nearly everything without touching the principle. With a little of the “stewardship” the financial page brags about, the SPLC could carry on indefinitely without ever asking for another red cent.

Don’t hold your breath.

SPLC — Out of the “Civil Rights” Business?

June 30, 2015

With all of the attention the Southern Poverty Law Center has been getting in the press lately over the simple JONAH fraud suit in New Jersey, we couldn’t help but notice that the term “civil rights organization” had mysteriously dropped from the SPLC’s press releases.

After consulting with the Internet Archives’ marvelous Wayback Machine, we discovered that the SPLC has dropped the term “non-profit civil rights organization” from its Who We Are webpage, sometime around March of 2014.
.

December 29, 2013, now you see it:

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.

March 11, 2014, now you don’t:

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Seems rather odd, one would think, but the SPLC actually got out of the civil rights business in 1981, when its founder, Morris Dees, discovered there was far more money to be made hawking “hate groups” than taking on Death Row cases.

All of this was presaged by the SPLC’s $155,000-donor-dollar-a-year PR guru, Mark Potok, who glibly explained to a group of visiting high school teachers and students in 2008:

“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.”

Why would they even consider changing their multimillion-dollar brand name? Because they had dumped the “civil rights law” aspect decades before.

And with more than $302 MILLION dollars in cash on hand, the term “non-profit” seems a little silly.

The SPLC may have stopped claiming it is a civil rights organization, but it has yet to correct anyone in the media who mistakenly identifies them as such.

Looks like it’s up to all of us.

SPLC Executive Suite 2015 — As White As Ever!

March 1, 2015

The mercurial month of March is often unpredictable weather-wise, but to those of you who take solace in certainty, we offer these unalterable truths: Spring is coming (Really!), the Southern Poverty Law Center will release its IRS Form 990 tax report and the Executive Suite of the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” will be as white as that hip-deep snow drift in your front yard.

Just as when Morris Dees opened the company for business in 1971, the team of the SPLC’s highest paid officers is all white for the 44th year in a row! Here then are your Doyens of Diversity, the Caucasian College of Multicultural Knowledge, those Titans of Tolerance… the 2015 SPLC All-Stars!

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You’ll recognize many veterans from previous rosters (here, here and here) but there are also several eager rookies in the lineup:

Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $359,300
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $364,789
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $196,446

Wendy Via — Development Director — $202,426 — (+$19,308)*

Teenie Hutchison — Secretary — $169,547
Mark Potok — Senior Fellow — $162,755
David Utter — Juvenile Justice Strategist–  $161,379

And the newcomers:

Jerri Katzerman — Deputy Legal Director — $162,549
Lisa Sahulka — Chief Operating Officer
— $53,469**
Heidi Beirich — Director, Intelligence Project — $154,146***

Maureen Costello — Director, Teaching Tolerance — Salary unknown†

We should take a moment to clarify the numbers:

In past years, we have noted any significant increases in compensation, and, while the top three white guys on the team, Cohen, Dees and Levin did pick up minor raises in the $6,000 to $9,000 range (just as you probably did too), and Messrs Potok and Utter actually lost a few hundred dollars each, these changes represent insignificant fractions of their base compensation packages overall.

Wendy Via has good reason to smile on her trading card. This year’s $19,000 bump is her third 5-digit raise in a row! And why not? The SPLC’s Development Department (pronounced: “Fundraising”) has been setting records every year, despite the worst recession since the Roosevelt Administration, and team owner Dees knows how to reward his golden geese. More on those donor-dollars and cents in our next post.

Newcomer Lisa Sahulka’s paltry salary as Chief Operating Officer is not a misprint. These are the numbers reported on the IRS Form 990 but they obviously do not reflect the whole story.

Ms. Sahulka’s predecessor, Michael Toohey, was pulling down $230,000 in 2012, $234,000 in 2013… a year after he’d quit the team, and $148,000 in 2014… two years after he became a free agent!

SPLC COOs eat gooood and we have no doubt that next year’s Form 990 will reflect a significant increase in her salary, whether Ms. Sahulka still plays for the team or not.

While Heidi Beirich is hardly a rookie, having joined the SPLC in 1999, this year marks her debut on the monochromatic Highest Paid Officer list, something we have been actively arguing in favor of for years.

Dr. Beirich steps into Mark Potok’s large shoes (hip waders, actually) as Director of the extremely lucrative Intelligence Report fundraising rag.

Although we don’t think much of Mr. Potok’s propaganda sheet, you cannot deny that the Intelligence Report brings in tons of donor-dollars every year. It’s a necessary vice, just like the beer concession at your local ball park.

We are staunch believers in equal pay for equal work, though, no matter how dubious the output.

Congratulations, Dr. Beirich! You’re very welcome!

This year we have included Teaching Tolerance director Maureen Costello in the leadership lineup. While Teaching Tolerance, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom, doesn’t agitate the donors in to frenzied fits of giving, the way the Intelligence Report does, it is somewhat influential in the public schools.

While Ms. Costello’s salary doesn’t make the top officer list on the SPLC’s Form 990, she is a prominent member of the SPLC’s Senior Program Team, which we noted recently was only 95% white overall.

In 1994, long before Ms. Costello’s reign, the Montgomery Advertiser ran a story noting that not only was the SPLC’s Senior Executive Staff entirely white, (“Equal treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership“), it also reported:

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

Teaching Tolerance does not identify its current staff other than its director, so there is no way of telling if anything has changed since 1994. Obviously nothing has changed in the SPLC’s Executive Suite and so it’s always amusing to read the many press releases Ms. Costello issues each year promoting “Mix It Up Day” in the grade schools, where kids are encouraged to sit with people different from themselves in the cafeteria one day a year.

One wonders what “Mix It Up Day” looks like in the SPLC’s cafeteria? Maybe they swap out the white rice for mashed potatoes or grits?

And that’s the roundup for this year’s SPLC Senior Executive Staff All-Star Team. As usual, it’s an all-white roster, but some “civil rights” outfits are superstitious, just like ball players who always wear the same socks or have a “lucky” bat.

The Caucasian Country Club has been bringing in millions of dollars a year for decades so why change things now? It’s not like anyone in the Media is going to notice.

The SPLC’s Outright Telemarketing Scam

February 27, 2015

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

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

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

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

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

2011:  -$212,214

2012:  -$869,686

2013: -$1,156,765

2014:  -$1,130,680

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The SPLC’s Sketchy Telemarketing Tricks

January 27, 2015

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

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Click Image to Enlarge

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

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

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

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

It all sounds rather cynical to us.

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

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

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

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

Fundraising2010

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Fundraising2011

Fundraising2012

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The Many (White) Faces of the SPLC

January 24, 2015

It’s always informative to peruse the Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site, as you never know what you’ll find. Here’s what the Senior Program Staff page of the Who We Are tab looks like:

Senior Staff1Senior Staff2Senior Staff3

We found it a bit odd that there were so many missing photos, as it sure left a lot of white space on the page. Just out of curiosity we simply Googled the names and found photos for everyone.

So here, in no particular order, are the missing faces of the SPLC’s Senior Program Staff, click on any image to enlarge it:

MissingStaff1MissingStaff2MissingStaff3

As it turns out, if the web designers at the SPLC actually had filled in all the missing photos there would still be a lot of white space on the page.

No doubt even the most die-hard donors would catch on if all of the photos were published.

Twenty-one of the SPLC’s Senior Staffers are white, or about 88% of the team. Seems a bit odd for “the nation’s leading civil rights organization,” especially since its headquarters are located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s own Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement.

When you account for the fact that four of the Senior Staffers, including two of the three blacks on the team, live out-of-state, the percentage of white staff in Montgomery jumps to 95%. The sole exception is Lecia Brooks, who works as a fundraiser. Ms. Brooks joined the SPLC in 2004 and has never broken into the ranks of highest paid officers, even when the list included salaries as paltry as $70,000 a year.

Still and all, as dismal as the diversity of the Senior Staff is, it’s better than the makeup of the SPLC’s executive officer team, which is composed 100% of white millionaires, just as it has been for every year since the SPLC opened for business in 1971.

Even the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” program, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom, is led by whites, as it has been since its inception in 1991.

“Diversity,” like taxes, it seems, is for the little people. No hypocrisy here, SPLC.


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