December 10, 2005

Tis the season for giving

Perhaps the leading enemy of free speech in America is now the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Of course, the SPLC long ago eradicated the last, faintest vestiges of poverty, southern or otherwise, in the lifestyle of founder Morris Dees, who is a member of the Direct Marketing Association's Hall of Fame.

That the SPLC is a festering sore on the American body politic has long been known to anyone who cares to spend a half hour Googling. Here's just part of a revealing statement by Jim Tharpe, the Deputy Metro Editor of the Atlanta Constitution, which he made during a Harvard panel discussion about his experience editing a massive Pulitzer-finalist investigative series on the Southern Poverty Law Center during his days at the Montgomery Advertiser:

I’d never done any reporting on nonprofits, I thought they were all good guys, they were mom-and-pop, bake-sale, raise-money-for-the-local-fire-department type operations. I had no idea how sophisticated they were, how much money they raised, and how little access you have to them as a reporter, some of which has already been covered here.

Our series was published in 1995 after three years of very brutal research under the threat of lawsuit the entire time.

Our findings were essentially these:

The [Southern Poverty Law] center was building up a huge surplus. It was 50-something million at that time; it’s now approaching 100 million [it's now over $150 million in net assets], but they’ve never spent more than 31 percent of the money they were bringing in on programs, and sometimes they spent as little as 18 percent. Most nonprofits spend about 75 percent on programs.

A sampling of their donors showed that they had no idea of the center’s wealth. The charity watchdog groups, the few that are in existence, had consistently criticized the center, even though nobody had reported that.

There was a problem with black employees at what was the nation’s richest civil rights organization; there were no blacks in the top management positions. Twelve out of the 13 black current and former employees we contacted cited racism at the center, which was a shocker to me. As of 1995, the center had hired only two black attorneys in its entire history...

They hired an attorney who began first by threatening me, then my editor, and then the publisher. "And you better be careful of the questions you ask and the stories you come up with," and they would cite the libel law to us. So we were under threat of lawsuit for two years, basically, during the research phase of the series...

We published the series over eight days in 1994, and it had very little effect, actually. I think the center now raises more money than it ever has. [Laughter]

The story really didn’t get out of Montgomery and that’s a real problem. The center’s donors are not in Montgomery; the center’s donors are in the Northeast and on the West Coast. So the story pretty much was contained in Montgomery where it got a shrug-of-the-shoulders reaction. [More, much more]

The SPLC continues to concoct bogeymen to demonize in pursuit of extracting donations from gullible elderly liberals. In recent years, Dees's operation has come to resemble Mel Brooks's title for a proposed sequel to his Star Wars' parody "Spaceballs:"

"Spaceballs II: The Search for More Money"

After a liberal scion to a large fortune promised $100 million to the Sierra Club if it ignored the impact of immigration on the American environment, Dees's sensitive nose for piles of of cash led him to trash true environmentalists like former three-time Democratic governor of Colorado Richard Lamm.

And, of course, the SPLC smears and me. Amusingly, its attacks on me show how bizarrely flexible Dees's definitions of "Southern" "Poverty" and "Law" have become. The SPLC has teamed up with a group of transsexuals who are out to wreck the careers of anybody who has ever had a kind word for Northwestern U. psychology professor J. Michael Bailey!

Now, D.A. King on's blog has pointed out that the charity vetting organization Charity Navigator gives the SPLC only one star out of four. By way of comparison, the notoriously corrupt and ineffectual NAACP gets two stars. The National Council of La Raza ("The Race") gets four stars.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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