Though always left of center, the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) once had a reputation as a fairly objective civil rights group. Founded by direct-marketing millionaire Morris Dees and partner Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC made important and honorable contributions to many of the historic civil rights gains of the 20th Century. According to its own materials, the SPLC was “internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups.”
Alas, “power corrupts,” as it goes, and the SPLC, having amassed tremendous power and wealth over the years, has regrettably become corrupt to its core. By way of an ever-escalating wave of “us-versus-them” money-grubbing schemes, Today’s SPLC has morphed into a far-left political activist outfit, famous for promoting a panoply of extreme liberal causes.
Ken Silverstein, writing for Harper's Magazine, addressed this untoward metamorphosis in 2000: “Today’s SPLC spends most of its time – and money – on a relentless fund-raising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit rider passing the collection plate. ‘He's the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement,’ renowned anti-death-penalty lawyer Millard Farmer says of Dees, his former associate, ‘though I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye.’
“The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Center one of the worst ratings of any group it monitors,” continued Silverstein. “Morris Dees doesn't need your financial support. The SPLC is already the wealthiest civil rights group in America, though [its fundraising literature] quite naturally omits that fact. … ‘Morris and I...shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money,’ recalls Dees’s business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller (not to be confused with Millard Farmer). ‘We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich.’” (You say Fuller. I say Farmer. The two Millards say “call the whole thing off.”)
So, what happens when a dragon slayer – paid per dragon head – runs out of real dragons to slay? Well, he invents new ones, of course. Gotta keep those sprinklers-a-sprinklin.’ (According to Harper’s, “Dees bought a 200-acre estate appointed with tennis courts, a pool, and stables.” SPLC’s 2008 Form-990 shows net assets of over 219 million at the beginning of that year. Yup, there’s a spate to be made in the hate trade.)
Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber).