SPLC's New Hobby: Lobby

SPLC's New Hobby: Lobby

March 12, 2019

One of the biggest complaints about the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) over the years is how openly political the organization has been. The group that fancies itself as the “objective arbiter” of hate is anything but. And now, you don’t have to take our word for it. You can take theirs.

Morris Dees’s team at SPLC doesn’t want to just label hate – they want to regulate it. Thanks to the organization’s new political arm, the longtime radicals can put their money where their maps have been. According to the Center’s latest annual report, the SPLC made its extreme political leanings official in June of last year, quietly starting up a 501(c)(4) SPLC Action Fund to defeat the phony haters it’s been naming.

Of course, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in its lambasting of Dees’s group, this isn’t really a surprise. The SPLC has been dabbling in liberal politics for years.

“Although the SPLC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and therefore statutorily prohibited from engaging in partisan politics, even a cursory review of its website belies its nonpartisan status. During the 2016 election, the SPLC posted ‘Margins to the Mainstream: Extremists Have Influenced the GOP 2016 Policy Platform’ and ‘Here Are the Extremist Groups Planning to Attend the RNC in Cleveland.’ The Democratic platform and convention received no such scrutiny.” Before that, SPLC posted “Electoral Extremism,” which “ostensibly profiles ‘a dozen 2014 candidates, including Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents and others.’ Only a single Democrat is profiled, along with five Republicans and five third-party candidates.”

Even on the other side, people are starting to concede that while incivility and hate are real issues, the SPLC may not be the group to identity them. In Politico’s skeptical column, “Has the Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way?” researcher J.M. Berger agrees. “The problem partly stems from the fact that the organization wears two hats, as both an activist group and a source of information.” Even SPLC has been open about its intent. “We are focused, whether people like it or not, on the radical right,” one of its employees said.

What happened to political neutrality, the Washington Post asks? “The SPLC’s stated goal is to create an unbiased hate list, but forays into political activism by other parts of the organization could certainly hurt the list’s reputation. For the first time, the SPLC recently took a stand on a Supreme Court nomination, urging Alabama’s senators to vote against Brett M. Kavanaugh. It also just formed a political arm called the SPLC Action Fund that can lobby and support ballot measures.” Surely, the reporter goes on, that will only “threaten to erode the SPLC’s credibility as a nonpartisan arbiter of hate.”

To the IRS, SPLC claims the lobbying venture is a “social welfare” group – an interesting category for an organization with so little concern for the personal welfare of its targets, a handful of whom have been the victims of radical gunmen. An Action Fund, they insist, gives SPLC “greater flexibility” to engage in “legislative battles at every level of government” and to support “critical ballot initiatives.”

And based on their overflowing bank accounts, they’ll have plenty of cash to do it. Reporters at the Washington Free Beacon did some digging and found that the SPLC (which has already raised plenty of suspicion with its $121 million in offshore accounts) has more than a half-billion dollars in assets. That’s $41 million more than 2017, despite a $15 million dip in revenue.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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