Who is the Southern Poverty Law Center and What is Their Role in the Campaign Against Prop. 200?

FAIR, August 24, 2004

As predictably as the rooster crowing at dawn, whenever and wherever American citizens protest mass immigration-legal or illegal-the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) springs into action, attempting to malign them as "hate groups." So, when concerned citizens in Arizona, with the support and encouragement of local and national elected officials, and national immigration reform organizations, mobilized to place an initiative on the November 2004 ballot, SPLC immediately instituted a campaign to discredit them. To date, no organization advancing the case for reduced immigration is viewed by the SPLC as a "legitimate" organization-not one!...

Prop. 200, which initial polls show has the support of 74 percent of the electorate, would require the state to screen to ensure that illegal aliens do not receive benefits or access to government-funded programs that are specifically prohibited to them under federal law. The ballot measure also requires that people demonstrate proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and present identification at the polls to ensure that the person casting a vote is actually the person who registered...

Unlike other advocacy groups promoting large-scale immigration to the United States, SPLC makes no attempt to justify their positions on economic, or humanitarian grounds. Rather SPLC's sole function in the immigration policy debate is to attempt to discredit any individual or organization that supports reductions in immigration and enforcement of immigration laws.

The charges invariably leveled by SPLC have long since been discredited as utterly specious, or at best a McCarthyist version of Six Degrees of Separation, in which everyone advocating immigration reform can charged with having talked someone, who talked to someone, who talked to someone else who is a bad person. Similarly, SPLC tries to connect carefully selected dots in an attempt to prove that funding for all immigration reform advocates is tainted.

The most often cited, and most often repudiated allegation of SPLC is that all immigration reform advocates and organizations are, in fact, advocates of a long discredited pseudo-science known as eugenics. This charge, on which SPLC's entire smear campaign is based, stems from the fact that the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) received money from the Pioneer Fund in the 1980s. Some of the founders of the Pioneer Fund, in the 1930s, had supported research in the field of eugenics.

Based on that line of reasoning-that the views of a foundation's founder some three-quarters of a century ago have any bearing on the foundation's grantees today-all recipients of Ford Foundation largesse would have to be considered suspect of harboring racist and anti-Semitic views. Such assertions are, of course, patently ridiculous. (Provided below is a partial list of Pioneer Fund grants over the past few years.)

Who is the SPLC?

SPLC was founded by Morris Dees, an Alabama attorney, in 1971. Since that time SPLC has raised hundreds of millions of dollars "outing" organizations they deem to be right-wing hate groups. While their often wild accusations are still reported by an unquestioning mainstream media, SPLC was itself "outed" in the November 2000 issue of Harper's Magazine, a venerable and independent mainstream publication (see below). According to contributing editor Ken Silverstein in an article entitled, "The Church of Morris Dees," the SPLC is little more than a direct mail outfit that has raised heaps of money hyping hate crimes-real and imagined-while doing virtually nothing for the victims.

...The group spends twice as much on fund-raising activities each year as it does on legal services for the people whose causes they purport to champion. SPLC's fund-raising-to-expenditure ratio has earned them one of the American Institute of Philanthropy's worst ratings for any of the organizations it monitors.

Another revelation in the Harper's article-one that is far less shocking in the post-Enron and WorldCom era than it was a few years ago-is that accounting procedures have allowed the SPLC to disguise fund-raising activities as "educational" activities....

Rather than being legitimate crusaders against alleged right-wing "hate" groups, SPLC and Dees have been shameless exploiters of the misfortunes of people they do almost nothing to help, claims Silverstein. Alarmist, and often graphic, direct mail solicitations hyping supposed hate crimes that are usually the sick handiwork of lone individuals rather than organized groups, net the SPLC handsome returns while doing little or nothing to aid the victims. The hate "groups" the SPLC relentlessly raises money to fight are often the figment of SPLC's direct mail department's overheated imagination, and unrelated crimes are attributed to these groups because, like sex and fear, hate sells.

His former partner in the direct marketing business that Dees ran before starting SPLC confesses that the two of them were not above hucksterism in their quest to amass profits. "We were not particular about how we did it," Dees' former business partner is quoted saying in Harper's....

...The reporting of Silverstein and the assessment of SPLC by the American Institute of Philanthropy, however, should lead responsible news media to carefully scrutinize the assertions and accusations made by SPLC. It does suggest that the record, motives, and tactics of the organization leveling the charges should not be taken at face value.

Pioneer Fund Recipient (Partial List)

  • University of Aarhus
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of Calgary (Canada)
  • University of California - Berkley
  • University of California - Santa Barbara
  • University of California - San Diego
  • University of California - San Francisco
  • City College of the City University of New York
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Florence (Italy)
  • Griffith University (Australia)
  • Hampden-Sydney College
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Illinois
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of London (United Kingdom)
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Minnesota
  • Montana College of Mineral Science & Technology
  • University of Montevallo
  • New York University
  • University of Northern Iowa
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Randolph-Macon College
  • Saint Augustine's College
  • University of Sao Paulo (Brazil)
  • Smith College
  • University of Southern Mississippi
  • Stanford University
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • Tel Aviv University (Israel)
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Texas Association of Scholars
  • University of Toronto (Canada)
  • University of Western Ontario (Canada)

Read the complete article.

Fair Use: This site contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues related to mass immigration. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000107----000-.html.
In order to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.