Posts Tagged ‘Richard Cohen’

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 — Hate Map 2019 — Prove It!

March 3, 2019

Well, Friends, it’s that magical time of year again when the Southern Poverty Law Center unveils its latest annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool. The map purports to identify “hate groups” in the US over the previous fiscal year. As always, the map is filled with half-truths, untruths and every ham-fisted propaganda technique known to man.

And as usual, the Media has been reprinting the SPLC’s spurious claims without   even the most rudimentary fact checks.

Not to fear. We at Watching the Watchdogs are only too happy to run a fact checker over the “Hate Map,” and, unlike the SPLC, we will show our work. There’s a lot to unpack here, so pull up your hip boots, slip on your rubber gloves and let’s wade in.

Hate Groups: There is NO legal definition for “hate group.” Period. This is why even the FBI does not, cannot, designate “hate groups,” but somehow a private fundraising company can and the Media has no problem with it.* Think about that.

[*There does exist a single FBI document online that lists a number of violent, criminal groups by name. This is an internal training document, written in 1995 and reprinted a couple of years ago, verbatim. The designation of these groups as “hate groups” is solely the opinion of the author, not a description used under federal law.]

The fact is that a “hate group” is whatever the SPLC says it is. The company is the sole arbiter and designator of that insanely profitable label. They receive no external review or oversight. They control the world’s supply of “hate group” designations, and, like any monopoly, they are prone to abuse their power.

Physical Locations: If you are going to designate “hate groups,” then you need to provide hard evidence that a journalist, researcher or even a donor can use to verify your claims. That’s not too much to ask. In fact, it’s pretty much Journalism 101. “Trust, but verify.”

The SPLC does include a number of brick-and-mortar organizations on its “Hate Map,” such as the Family Research Council and the Center for Immigration Studies, but these make up a fraction of the overall total. Otherwise, all we have is the company’s word for it that there is a chapter of the League of the South in Weogufka, Alabama, (Pop. 282), and that’s not good enough. It certainly isn’t professional journalism.

On February 21, 2019, SPLC “Outreach Manager” Kate Chance told a crowd of 300 in Mankato, MN, that: “An online presence isn’t enough to be added to the list; a group has to meet at least once a year at a physical location.”

Even a cursory glance at the “Hate Map” shows numerous one-man websites. In 2015, Mark Pitcavage, Director of Investigative Research at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), stated publicly that the SPLC has a habit of counting single individuals as groups or chapters, which can give a skewed impression of hate groups in any given state.

“The [SPLC’s] list is wildly inflated,” said Pitcavage. “They list skinhead groups in places where there are no organized groups, but instead it’s just a couple of individuals.”

Pitcavage’s statement confirms what veteran fringe-group researcher Laird Wilcox has been saying for decades: “There was another phenomenon I noticed. Several racist groups published large numbers of local post office box listings, as in local chapters.”

“When I tried to check these [SPLC “hate group” claims] out I found that many of them were false—the box was closed after one rental or that the mail was forwarded elsewhere. I think a lot of these never existed or were just some guy renting different post office boxes.”

In 2009, the SPLC’s own Director of Intelligence, Mark Potok, confirmed the P.O. box scam to the San Luis Obispo Tribune: “Potok says inclusion on the [“Hate Map”] list might come from a minor presence, such as a post office box.” (March 25, 2009)

If you claim there’s a “hate group” chapter in Weogufka, or any other known city or town, just show your proof. Prove to us that an alleged group on the “Hate Map” is not a one-man website or long-abandoned P.O. box. If the SPLC has done all of the research it claims it has, how hard can that be?

“Statewide” Chapters: This is the ultimate smoking gun when it comes to exposing the spurious nature of the “Hate Map” fundraising tool.

Of the 1,020 “hate groups” designated by the SPLC for 2018, fully 322 of them are simply marked “statewide,” meaning the company provides no verifiable information, not even a known city or town, whatsoever. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

That’s one-in-four alleged groups right off the top and nobody in the Media seems to have a problem with it. “Nothing to see here, folks…” Literally. As the graph below indicates, the SPLC simply makes up “statewide” groups out of thin air.

For 2017, the SPLC claimed that the number of “hate groups” rose by 37 chapters to 954. The number of “statewide” phantoms grew by 107, from 193 to 300, over the same period. The company is losing “groups” faster than it can create them.

Statewide Numbers

Fear and Outrage: The purpose of the SPLC’s annual “Hate Map” is to generate fear and outrage, which the company then deftly spins into cash donations and political power. For 2016, the SPLC reported tax-free donations of $50 million. For 2017, the year of the Charlottesville riots and Trump the Baleful, donations exploded to $132 million and the company’s cash endowment ballooned to more than $433 million, 98% of which is designated as “unrestricted” in use.

Clearly, the SPLC has a strong financial interest in keeping the number of alleged “hate groups” as high as the donor market will bear.

When the “Hate Map” was simply a tool to separate gullible donors from their hard-earned money it was bad enough, but those victims were self-selected. They didn’t care if the SPLC’s “facts” were bogus or not because they wanted (and still do want) to believe them with all their heart and soul. As far as SPLC donors are concerned, they’re getting what they are paying for.

The truly terrifying thing about the SPLC’s “Hate Map” scam is that it is now finding its way into the private realm, with social media giants such as Apple, Google and Twitter using this disinformation to decide who gets to speak and who gets banished to the Cyber-Gulag.

As Orwellian as that situation is, unfiltered, unvetted SPLC “hate group” propaganda has been finding its way into government discourse at all levels, from local to federal, for years.

Certain law enforcement agencies and think tanks regurgitate SPLC claims, knowing full well the numbers are meaningless, because the fear generated by them guarantees continued funding for another year.

2018: The Hype: Time to have a closer look at the SPLC’s hyperbolic claims for the 2018 “Hate Map.” This year the company was kind enough to provide a handy link on its “Hate Map” that allows you to download the data into a spreadsheet. This makes spotting the inaccuracies so simple that even a professional journalist could do it.

The company also provides a handy graph showing the steady growth, more or less, of alleged “hate groups” since 1999. That chart doesn’t really present well on WordPress, so we’ve enlarged a segment to make things a little clearer.

“Hate groups have reached RECORD HIGHS!!!”

It’s true. According to the map, “hate groups” reached 1,020 in 2018, the highest number ever designated by the SPLC; i.e., a “record.” We’re doomed!

What was the previous record? The SPLC designated 1,018 “hate groups” in 2011 as proof of an “explosive growth” due to the 2010 election of Barack Obama. Despite controlling the supply of “hate group” labels, the SPLC could only show “explosive growth” of 1.6% for the first full year of the Obama Administration, which was soon followed by “record-breaking” decline (in fact, the only series of declines in SPLC history) of a whopping 23% over the course of the president’s second term in office.

And while the number of alleged groups grew by 16, from 1,002 to 1,018, the number of “statewide” phantoms “exploded” from 148 to 247 over the same period, as shown by the chart above.

2018 Hate Group Graph 1

2018 Hate Group Graph 2

“Hate groups have GROWN BY 30% over the past four years!!!”

Propagandists absolutely adore percent signs. When you’re selling fear and outrage nothing stirs up the customer base like an empty statistic. Most Media articles will mention a 7% increase in the number of alleged groups from 2017 to 2018, but none of them will mention that the number of “statewide” phantoms grew at an identical rate last year. So what was gained?

The SPLC had to go back to its self-imposed 2014 trough to come up with a far more impressive sounding 30% increase. What the company fails to mention, and what nobody in the Media will tell you, is that the number of “statewide” phantoms grew by 84% over the same span.

“White “hate groups” are SURGING!!!”

According to the SPLC’s own numbers… not so much. The chart below indicates that one full year into the Trump-o-Caust, fully nine out the company’s fifteen “hate group” categories have DECLINED since 2017, (shown in yellow), and two others, marked in blue, have remained static, although even “Hate Music” is down from 2016 levels.

In fact, Ku Klux Klan is at an all-time record low of 51, according to SPLC records, far surpassing its previous all-time low set during… wait for it… the Obama Administration. Apparently, they don’t make “surges” like they used to.

Comparisons-2018-2017

That leaves the four categories, marked in red, that reflect an alleged increase over 2017 levels, but, as with all things SPLC, a closer look reveals a very different story.

General Hate: When you’re in the fearmongering game it is often helpful to have a nice, generic, catch-all phrase that allows you to designate the “other” without having to go into a lot of detail. This is why the SPLC’s “General Hate” category has been so important to the company over the years.

These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized. Many of the groups are vendors that sell a miscellany of hate materials from several different sectors of the white supremacist movement,” says the SPLC website.

“Many of the ‘groups’ are vendors,” meaning that if you are a one-man website selling neo-Nazi music or Confederate t-shirts, you are a bona fide “group.” No matter that people have to actively seek you out in order to purchase your 100% legal wares, you are a “threat” and must be demonized and shut down by the thought police.

This is especially ironic as long-time SPLC frontman Mark Potok was claiming as late as February, 2017. that: “We make a big effort to separate a man, his dog and a computer from a group with on-the-ground activity.”

(Sadly, the following month, Mr. Potok was unceremoniously kicked to the curb by his employer of 20-odd years without so much as a “thank you” for his decades of highly lucrative service. Potok created the “Hate Map” out of thin air and used it to bring  hundreds of millions of tax-free donor-dollars into the SPLC’s coffers. Some gratitude.)

So what drove the increase in “General Hate”? For the most part, it can be tracked to the SPLC’s “creative accounting” techniques. In 2017, the company trotted out a brand new “hate group” category: Neo-Völkisch. Sounds Teutonic, no? The Nazis were German and so these Neo-Völkisch haters must be evil too.

Neo-Völkisch adherents worship the Norse or Germanic gods, spirituality premised on the survival of white Europeans and the preservation of dead or dying cultures they presume to embody.”

Are they dangerous?

…violence rarely erupts from the neo-Völkisch movement.”

So why are they a “hate group” now?

Hyper-masculine imagery fetishized within neo-Völkisch spheres reinforces misogyny and traditional gender roles.

Yes, folks, “traditional gender roles.” Not to be confused with the Amish, Muslims, Orthodox Jewry and a large percentage of Latino immigrants. No doubt their slogan should read “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” And the Media never said a word.

The SPLC has apparently abolished the neo-Völkisch brand and folded all of those organizations into “General Hate,” making up more than half of that category’s recent increase. One group, the Asatru Folk Assembly, even expanded from 11 chapters (10 of which were “statewide”) to 17 chapters (15 “statewide”).

The “American Guard,” which was already in “General Hate” limbo, expanded from 10 chapters/10 “statewide” to 17 chapters/17 “statewide.” The “Proud Boys” also showed a healthy increase by burgeoning from 3 chapters/ 1 “statewide” to 44 chapters/16 “statewide” overnight.

If the SPLC has vetted addresses for 30-plus new chapters, now would be a really good time for them to produce them. How hard could it be?

White Nationalist: The core cause of the increase in this category lies mainly with the SPLC’s own peculiar form of inflation.

“The Right Stuff” is a new addition to the “Hate Map,” and appears to be a blog, which begs the question as to how exactly the SPLC can designate 34 chapters of it (14 of which are statewide)?

This isn’t the first time the SPLC has franchised websites (which they make a “big effort to separate” from actual “groups,” remember?). In 2015, the SPLC recognized exactly one chapter of Daily Stormer, a one-man website out of Ohio that Mark Potok described as “mostly Andrew Angelin, his dog, and a computer.”

By 2016, the SPLC was counting 31 Stormer websites (30 “statewide”) which has declined to 22 chapters for 2018, 21 of which are “statewide.” How does a one-man website end up with multiple chapters, and how are websites, real or imagined, “groups”?

What was it that SPLC Outreach Director Kate Chance said about “a web presence alone” not being sufficient for a “hate group” designation? What was it that SPLC Intelligence Director Potok said about the company “making a big effort” to exclude one-man, one-dog websites from the list?

“The Patriot Front” went from 4 chapters/1 “statewide” to 16 chapters/15 “statewide” last year. “Identity Evropa” was another big winner in 2018, more than doubling from 15 alleged chapters/11 “statewide,” to 38 chapters/19 “statewide.”

The vast majority of Evropa’s increase seems to come from reports of posters and stickers for the “group” being found on lamp posts and college campuses. The only recent sighting of actual men-on-the-ground came a few weeks ago when 11 men were spotted on a hill overlooking the University of Utah unfurling a banner marked “End Immigration!”

Identity Evropa makes its propaganda posters available online, where any individual can download them and distribute them under the cover of darkness. While emotions run high on both sides of the debate, “End Immigration” is as valid and as legal an opinion as anything any Open Borders supporters could post. Immigration is a legal matter. You can be for it, against it or neutral on the issue, as you deem fit.

Once again, the SPLC is using the actions of lone-wolf individuals, just as it does with anonymous P.O. boxes, to pad out its lucrative “group” counts. If the the company has the proof, let them show it.

Neo-Confederate: One of the smaller categories on the “Hate Map,” neo-Confederate groups allegedly made modest gains from 31 chapters/6 “statewide” in 2017 to 36 chapters/9 “statewide” in 2018.

Not only were most of the gains made by “statewide” phantoms, but a new inductee, “Wildman’s Civil War Surplus” store, in Kennesaw, GA. has been added to the list. The sole proprietor, and apparently the one and only member of this new “group,” appears to be octogenarian Dent “Wild Man” Myers.

This cranky old hippie doesn’t seem to be much of a threat to the world at large (although he is reported to pack twin .45s). The important thing is that his appearance, attitudes and demeanor will outrage the SPLC’s donor base. Thanks to the fundraisers at the SPLC, Wild Man Myers has gotten more free publicity than he could ever have dreamed of. At least this “group” has a fixed physical address, which is more than can be said of most.

Wildman's Kennesaw

Wildman’s One-Man “Group”

Black Nationalist: According to the SPLC,” Black “hate groups” represent the largest single category of “hate group” on their “Hate Map” fundraising tool. If you strip out all of the “statewide” phantoms from the tool, Black “hate groups” are also the fastest growing category by far, according to the SPLC.

Black Hate Groups

In fact, at face value, Black “hate groups” outnumber ALL of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi and Racist Skinhead “groups” on the “Hate Map” COMBINED, at 264 versus 262. Strip out the “statewide” phantoms and Black “hate groups” outnumber the other four categories combined BY THREE-TO-ONE, at 252 versus 82.

Remember the narrative, folks: “White hate groups are on the rise!”

Naturally, these inconvenient facts wouldn’t sit well with the donor/customer base, so the SPLC has to make excuses: “The black nationalist movement is a reaction to centuries of institutionalized white supremacy in America.”

Insinuating that Blacks and other Persons of Color are somehow incapable of the very human traits of nationalism, tribalism, xenophobia and racism is the lowest form of soft racism. Thank goodness POC’s have the White Saviors at the SPLC to swoop in and protect them.

Still, there must be some reason for including them on the list: “Most forms of black nationalism are strongly anti-white and anti-Semitic.” Considering the lucrative rhetoric that pours forth from the SPLC, one can imagine that “anti-white” sentiments fall pretty low on the company’s list of offenses.

The most baffling charge leveled against Black “hate groups” is that “Some religious versions assert that black people are the biblical “chosen people” of God.”

Think about that. The SPLC is actually weighing in as to which religious sect has copyright on who are God’s “chosen people.” No pandering here. Move along.

It’s also worth noting that the 76 chapters of the Nation of Islam, plus a handful of overtly Black Muslim groups hidden under “General Hate, do not count as “Muslim hate groups,” even though their religion is their primary reason for being.

The SPLC pads out its 100 alleged Anti-Muslim “hate groups” with 47 individual chapters of “Act for America” and ten “statewide” chapters of the “Soldiers of Odin,” (out of eleven), so having nearly twice as many Muslim “hate groups” would confuse the customers.

Collateral damage: So what happens when the Southern Poverty Law Center sets its sights on your state, your town or even your own person? While the primary function of the “Hate Map” is to extract lucre from liberals, there are serious ramifications for real people on the ground.

At the state level, negative publicity generated by the SPLC’s spurious “hate group” numbers can dissuade individuals and corporations from moving to your part of the country. Who in their right minds would relocate the next Apple, Amazon or Facebook headquarters to a “hateful” state or city?

The quote from the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage, cited above, came in response to a headline in the South Jersey Times that claimed: “New Jersey has the fourth highest number of hate groups in country, says Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The SPLC had assigned 40 “hate groups” to New Jersey that year, including 14 chapters of the AC Skins (“AC” as in “Atlantic City”). As Pitcavage noted, the SPLC’s claims were “wildly inflated” with the company listing one or two individuals as “groups.”

By 2015, whether because of, or in spite of, Mark Pitcavage’s “outing,” New Jersey’s “hate group” count dropped from 40 to 21, largely by shedding 13 of the 14 alleged chapters of the AC Skins overnight.

Larger states, like New Jersey, California, Texas and Florida can absorb stupid “hate group” claims better than smaller ones, although the last thing New Jersey needs is another spurious groin kick to its reputation. This year’s “Hate Map” has introduced a new meaningless “statistic” that directly affects many states with smaller populations.

The 2018 “Hate Map” now identifies those states with the highest number of “hate groups per capita.” The company comes to this worthless designation by dividing the state’s population by 100,000 and then again by the number of alleged “hate groups.”

Predictably, those states with the smallest populations ranked highest on the list, with states like Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire and South Dakota making it into a “Top Ten States per Capita” Hall of Shame. What kind of numbers does it take to get into this elite club?

Alaska: 4 groups/3 “statewide”
Hawaii: 5 groups/3 “statewide”
Idaho: 10 groups/4 “statewide
New Hampshire: 10 groups*/6 “statewide
South Dakota: 7 groups/2 “statewide

(*Two of New Hampshire’s alleged “groups,” the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its online publishing arm, IHM Media, are located in the same building in tiny Richmond, NH, population 1,155. The SPLC counts them twice to pad its numbers.)

The “per capita” designation is worthless and is designed only to spread fear and outrage among the donors. Under this warped measurement, these small population states have more McDonald’s, Burger Kings and Starbucks “per capita” than other states. So what? Do Whoppers and Big Macs cause “hate groups”? Is there a link between lattes and “extremism”?

(Don’t laugh. In 2012, the peer-reviewed academic journal, Social Science Quarterly, actually published a paper based on SPLC “data” claiming that Walmarts cause “hate groups.”)

For 2011, the SPLC assigned 20 chapters of the Georgia Militia to that state’s “hate map,” tucked under the “General Hate” catch-all. One chapter was pinpointed to somewhere in Camden County, another was at large in Blairsville (population 611) and locations for the remaining 18 chapters were simply left blank (in those days, the company didn’t bother with the “statewide” canard, it simply left locations for 25% of its locations blank. It’s not like anyone in the Media is going to say anything about it.)

Eighteen out of 20 locations left blank and yet the SPLC included every last one for the 2011 “hate group” count. By 2012 the count was one group in Camden County/13 blank, in 2013 they counted Camden County and 11 blanks, and by 2014 the “group” had vanished into thin air as quickly as it had appeared.

Georgia, like New Jersey, is already the butt of a lot of bad publicity. What happens when 27 out of the 63 “groups” the SPLC assigned to Georgia for 2011 are homeless phantoms? That’s 43% of the alleged total right off the bat. Remember, one-in-three Georgians are minorities. What does this needless, worthless negative publicity do for their economic opportunities? The only people profiting from the “Hate Map” are at the SPLC.

Let’s zoom in to the city/town level. Major cities can absorb “hate group” hits up to a point, but there’s a limit. Baltimore’s image is hardly burnished by the claim that it is home to 11 “hate groups,” seven of which are Black Nationalists, according to the SPLC. What does that even mean for the people on the ground there?

When the SPLC assigns “hate groups” to smaller municipalities the ramifications are even greater. Politico Magazine, hardly a right-wing rag, documented the plight of two small towns, villages actually, who were added to the SPLC’s “Hate Map” for 2017 on the flimsiest of evidence.

Tony Rehagen’s February 2018 article, “What happens when your town lands on the Hate Map?” ought to be required reading for every schoolchild, journalist and donor. As the article’s subtitle indicates: “You freak out. You try and clear your name. You get nowhere.”

Case in point, the village of Gurnee, Illinois, sits beside Lake Michigan and its economy relies heavily on lake-based sports tourism. With no warning whatsoever, the village found itself on the 2017 “Hate Map” with one chapter of the Ku Klos Knights of the KKK.

Horrified at the accusation, the mayor and police chief of Gurnee contacted the SPLC for more details about this group. According to Heidi Beirich, who replaced the cast-off Mark Potok as SPLC Director of Intelligence, someone at the company found a single post on a KKK website where an individual, claiming to be an “exalted cyclops” posted his name and the address “Gurnee, Il, 60031.”

As Rehagen notes in his article, that scrap of address isn’t even “enough information to get a letter properly delivered,” but it was more than enough to get Gurnee on the “Hate Map.” As further proof, Beirich claimed that she sent an email to the guy’s Gmail account and the fact that she allegedly received a reply from that anonymous account PROVED that there was a KKK group in Gurnee.

Think about that, SPLC donors. This is the kind of hard-hitting investigative research your dollars are funding.

When the Chief of Police informed Dr. Beirich that he had performed a thorough investigation and could find no evidence of anyone by that person’s name ever living in Gurnee, the Director of Intelligence told him the matter was out of her hands. Gurnee would remain on the “Hate Map” for all of 2017 until the new version was released in February 2018.

Think about that… Any 12-year-old can update a web page, but the SPLC’s online “Hate Map” is static and frozen in time forever. Really? We’ll explain the real reason for Beirich’s inaction directly, but first another tale from Rehagen’s article that is even more ludicrous than this one.

The village of Amana, Iowa, also known as home to the Amana Colonies, also found itself on the 2017 “Hate Map” as home to one of the “Daily Stormer” websites mentioned previously in this post. The problem was that the Amana Colonies were founded in the mid-nineteenth century by German Lutheran immigrants (who later founded the Amana Corporation of refrigerator, washing machine and Radarange fame) and is currently a historic landmark listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s populated by costumed “interpreters” demonstrating 19th century farm life.

Amana Colonies

Amana, Iowa

Assigning a “hate group” to Amana is about as logical as assigning one to Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg or Massachusetts’ “Plimoth Plantation.”

Never one to allow facts to get in the way of a juicy “hate group,” Heidi Beirich explained to Amana’s officials that she had solid evidence. As Tony Rehagen recounts:

“Someone at the SPLC spotted a chat thread on the Daily Stormer, in which someone with the screen name “Concerned Troll” had proposed a neo-Nazi “book club” meeting in an Amana café. No one in Amana was able to confirm to the SPLC whether or not the meeting actually took place, but that was enough to earn the corn-carpeted state its only swastika.”

That’s it, friends. The rock-solid evidence the SPLC uses to assign “hate groups” to known cities or towns. How many other localities have been tarred needlessly by such tissue-thin evidence? Why is Tony Rehagen one of the few professional journalists to actually question the SPLC’s claims?

Despite being in the same jam as Gurnee, Amana had a somewhat happier outcome. It seems that there is one editing loophole in the otherwise permanent “Hate Map” fundraising tool. Heidi Beirich was able to move Amana’s neo-Nazi “group” off the village and into the “statewide” category. Iowa still ended the year with four “hate groups,” because whatever number the SPLC cooks up each February goes on all of its press releases and other fundraising materials for the entire fiscal year. For that number to change would hint at fallibility.

Gurnee was not so lucky, though. Unfortunately, Heidi Beirich had already assigned a “statewide” chapter of the Ku Klos Knights to Illinois, and while it would not be unprecedented for the “Hate Map,” even the most ardent SPLC donors would have a hard time swallowing two “statewide” chapters in the same state. So Gurnee had no choice but to suck it up and wait a full year until the next “Hate Map” could be cobbled together to clear its name.

In 2008, the small town of Winchester, NH, (nextdoor neighbor to the aforementioned Richmond, NH), spent a year on the “Hate Map” because of an alleged KKK group, even though town selectmen and Police Chief Gary Phillips attested that there was no “group” in town. In the same article from the Keene Sentinel newspaper, Anthony D. Griggs, identified as an SPLC research analyst, described the difficulty in identifying “hate groups” and made an amazingly candid observation:

“In some instances, it could be just a guy and a couple of his buddies,” Griggs said.

The “hate group” smear attacks entire communities, as if they are somehow to blame for every nut who opens a P.O. box or posts some stupidity on a web site. Towns like Gurnee and Amana have very tourism-dependent economies. They did nothing wrong but were still held hostage to the whims of the SPLC’s fundraising machinery and, with very few exceptions, like Tony Rehagen, the media turn a blind eye to it because lurid tales of “hate groups” are solid gold click-bait.

And finally, what happens to individuals targeted as “extremists” by SPLC fundraisers?

When the SPLC created  “A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” in October, 2016, it included the names of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman born in Somalia who underwent forced female genital mutilation at the age of five, and Maajid Nawaz, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent. Both people are outspoken critics of Islamic extremism. Both have criticized violent Muslim fundamentalists and the doctrine that drives their actions.

Soon after being placed on the list, Nawaz explained the consequences to David A. Graham of The Atlantic magazine:

“They put a target on my head. The kind of work that I do, if you tell the wrong kind of Muslims that I’m an extremist, then that means I’m a target,” he said. “They don’t have to deal with any of this. I don’t have any protection. I don’t have any state protection. These people are putting me on what I believe is a hit list.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was already on a Muslim extremist hit list. As the SPLC piece explained. “While in the Netherlands, she wrote the script for a short and provocative film about women and Islam directed by the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in the street by a jihadist a short time after its release. The murderer left a note threatening to also kill Hirsi Ali pinned to his victim’s body with a knife.”

The SPLC piece put Ali, who moved to the United States for her own safety, on the same hit list as Maajid Nawaz. Unlike Ali, and most people who find themselves on SPLC lists, Nawaz had the wherewithal to sue the company for defamation and in mid-2018, the SPLC conceded defeat and entered into a settlement with Nawaz for $3.4 million.

While Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the other “extremists” were not compensated, the SPLC ultimately took down its online “field guide” altogether. In fact, the link we provided for it had to be routed through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The same link on the SPLC website now redirects to an apology to Nawaz. The good news is that the SPLC’s $433 million cash reserves remained intact. The $3.4 million settlement was paid out by the company’s insurance carrier.

One final incident, which received a lot of publicity at the time but bears repeating here, in August 2012, LGBT activist Floyd Corkins walked into the Family Research Council’s (FRC) office in Washington, DC,  with a gun. Corkins later told investigators that his intent was to kill as many FRC personnel as possible because the SPLC listed the organization as anti-LGBT on its “Hate Map.”

Fortunately, the FRC’s security guard, Leo Johnson, who was unarmed, was able to subdue Corkins, in spite of being shot himself in the struggle. The SPLC, who are always quick to attribute the actions of every lone-wolf loon to the “far Right” or as being “emboldened by Trump,” were even quicker to deny that any Left-wing loons could possibly be influenced by its “Hate Map” propaganda.

It is our hope that the long-winded examples laid out above will give some people, especially professional journalists, pause when it comes to blindly accepting SPLC “Hate Map” propaganda as “fact.” To recap:

  • There is no legal definition for “hate group.” The SPLC is the self-appointed arbiter of that label and uses it to generate hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • If nothing else, the simple fact that the SPLC hides hundreds of its alleged “hate groups” under a meaningless “statewide” umbrella ought to cast doubt on the accuracy of its claims. If they have the proof, demand that they produce it.
  • The vast majority of the remaining “hate groups” are only identified by an alleged city or town. As the stories of Gurnee, Amana and Winchester show, those claims are often based on ridiculously flimsy evidence, such as an anonymous P.O. box or Tweet. Make the SPLC show its evidence.
  • Despite claims to the contrary, each year’s “Hate Map” includes dozens of one-man web sites and online vendors and booksellers. Make the SPLC explain how someone like Wild Man Myers constitutes a “group” and what real threat he poses to the community. “We don’t like it!” isn’t good enough.
  • Empty, meaningless “statistics” like the SPLC’s new “per capita” counts are worthless. They are intended solely for creating outrage and fear and pose real public relations problems for low-population states that can least afford it.
  • The SPLC’s spurious “hate group” and “extremist” claims create real economic and safety issues for communities and individuals. The whole purpose of the “hate group” label is to dehumanize people in order to agitate the SPLC’s donor base.

As of this writing, there are two civil law suits pending against the SPLC. The Center for Immigration Studies is pursuing a RICO-based racketeering suit against, the SPLC, Heidi Beirich and SPLC president, Richard Cohen, for repeating the claim that the Center is a “hate group.”

Maryland attorney Glen Allen is also pursuing a racketeering case against the SPLC, Beirich and Mark Potok. Allen contends that the SPLC purchased stolen documents which the company then used to get Allen fired from his post as an attorney for the City of Baltimore.

Both cases have merit, and both cases reference the SPLC’s “hate group” tactics, but neither actually address the demonstrable inaccuracies in the “Hate Map” tool that we have laid out above. It seems pretty apparent that the SPLC uses these claims, knowing full well that the information is bogus, in order to accrue hundreds of millions of dollars in tax-free donations.

If any journalist or attorney would be willing to pursue a fraud suit against the Southern Poverty Law Center in the future, we at Watching the Watchdogs will make all of our evidence available upon request.

As we have said many times, the SPLC’s “Hate Map” numbers are for fundraising, not for fact-finding. Make the company show its proof once and for all.

 

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 — 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.

 

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

Click Image to Enlarge

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

Click Image to Enlarge

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

Click image to enlarge

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 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!

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

 

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 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.

SPLC 2014 — All White Execs Since 1971

April 28, 2014

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

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

It’s a dirty job, as they say…

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

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

David Utter — Director — Miami – 
$162,642

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry Dr. B. Better luck next year!

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

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

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

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

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

 

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

March 22, 2013

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

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

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

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

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

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

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

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

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

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

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

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

 

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

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

Beirich

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

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

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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

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

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

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

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

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

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

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

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

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


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