Southern Poverty Law Center

Monday, the editorial in the Washington Times is titled: “Selling an Epidemic.” It shows a picture of Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees. It is worth noting that Mr. Dees has not been an officer of SPLC for years. I intend to deal with a very small amount of content including some that I became personally involved with. However, the basis for the editorial is stated in the first paragraph:

Some of the shills on the left lament “an epidemic of hate out there, and it’s about to drown the republic.” The contagion has spread like wildfire, which stretches cliche to a breaking point, and according to the usual jeremiahs on the left it all started with Donald Trump.

There can be little doubt that central to Trump’s campaign was a direct appeal to white, Christian, heterosexual nationalists. There is clearly an epidemic of anti-Semitism since Trump was elected as well as anti-immigrant violence and intimidation. White nationalists have been emboldened. The Washington Times goes on to write:

The poverty center casts a wide definition of what constitutes a “hate group,” with a definition so expansive that the Campfire Girls and the Cub Scouts barely escape citation. The center disparages the perfectly respectable Family Research Council, for example, as an organization “virulently anti-LGBT.” To the horror of the author of the report, Mr. Trump even selected Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the Family Research Council, to lead his transition team.

That is a preposterous presumption that Family Research Council is a “perfectly respectable” organization and the reference to the Cub Scouts is hyperbolic and equally absurd. FRC perpetuates lies about LGBT people. Tony Perkins, the hate group leader, continues to insist that gay men are predisposed to be child molesters which is contrary to the findings of the FBI. Tony Perkins also has provable direct ties to David Duke and the Klan. So, yes, it is disgraceful that Blackwell would have any place with Trump’s administration. Moreover, opinions do not usually cause organizations to be considered anti-LGBT hate groups. That is often the result of repeated misrepresentations.

Another part of this diatribe demonstrates just how intellectually and morally bankrupt the Washington Times is.

The director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta has called Mr. Dees “a con man and a fraud” who “has taken advantage of naive, well-meaning people — some of them moderate or low-income — who believe his pitches and give to his $175-million center operation.” One former official of the organization says its appeals, which sometimes include photographs of blood and gore, are designed to cash in on “black pain and white guilt.”

I wrote to the director of the SCHR, a small organization that does some very good work, and asked her to explain. Aside from the denigration of Mr. Dees where did the $175 million figure come from I inquired. When describing an organization in monetary terms, the sum is usually a reflection of revenues and SPLC had revenues of $54 million in fiscal year 2015. I received a reply:

No, it is not me. It is the former director of SCHR, Steve Bright. He stepped down in 2005 so it must be an old citation.

We’ve contacted the Washington Times to get them to run a correction but we have not yet heard back from them.

The Washington Times has now inserted the word “former” before “director” but that does not really reflect the truth. They fail to note the fact that the guy stepped down 12 years ago. Nor did they place a date on the quote. Moreover, in my opinion they had an obligation to disclose the fact that Morris Dees, while chief trial counsel, has not been an officer of SPLC for years.

Furthermore, the implication is that Mr. Dees personally benefited somehow. In point of fact Dees’ cash compensation in 2015 ($337K) was less than Alan Sears earned ($408K) as head of the Christian legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom. Across the board, SPLC executives are paid less than their counterparts at ADF. To put it another way, Dees was paid 0.6% of revenues while Sears received 0.85% which represents more than a 40% differential. The CEO of SPLC, Richard Cohen received $333K. Any way that you look at it, SPLC is not raising funds for self-enrichment.

It is true that SPLC has a substantial war chest with a net asset value as of 10-31-2015 of $315 million which is a result of their overall frugality. The economic logic of continuing to raise money in light of their NAV is a totally different question. I do not know the rationale because I have not asked anyone at SPLC. It is not relevant to what I do. The Washington Times doesn’t know the rationale because they seemingly haven’t bothered to ask SPLC. Perhaps they should have.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.