The “Hate Groups” List
The SPLC founded the Intelligence Report in 1981, which publishes quarterly reports monitoring what it describes as radical-right hate groups and extremists. Additionally, the SPLC began circulating a list of “hate groups” in 1990, which it updates annually. In 1996, the SPLC started Hatewatch, a program designed to monitor these groups online. Hatewatch began as a newsletter and evolved into a blog, with entries on the SPLC website dating back to 2009. Currently, the SPLC includes 953 groups on its hate list.
Mark Potok, the Intelligence Report’s former editor-in-chief, once admitted during a speech, “I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.”
Curiously, the SPLC’s hate watch appears to be exclusively focused on what the organization determines to be right-wing hate, with admittedly no eye on the political Left. When asked why the SPLC did not cover anarchist violence during Occupy Wall Street protests, the organization reportedly said, “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”
CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2017 entitled How Labeling My Organization a Hate Group Shuts Down Public Debate in which he explained how the “hate list” conflates actually hateful groups such as the KKK with ones that simply do not share the SPLC’s political preferences on a range of issues, immigration included.
The Power of Money: SPLC Financials and Leadership
The SPLC has a massive war chest of resources at its disposal. In 2017, the organization held $477 million in total assets, including an endowment of $432 million. Total revenues and gains for the year exceeded $180 million, compared to $60 million in expenses.
The SPLC has $69 million of its endowment parked overseas, including at least several million dollars in the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. While the SPLC claims that this is a common practice, other civil rights organizations such as the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaigns have eschewed it, and said they avoid such foreign investments.
Originally, founder Morris Dees promised to stop fundraising once his organization hit $55 million in assets. Once that goal was reached, he raised the figure to $100 million, but once again declined to stop fundraising after the goal was reached.
The SPLC’s Intelligence Project is headed by Heidi Beirich, who has been instrumental in expanding the organizaton’s Hatewatch blog and its tracking of “hate groups”. Beirich, who says the United States was “founded on white supremacy” has stated there is “a price to be paid” for the organizations she adds to the list.
As of the SPLC’s latest filings, Beirich earned over $170,000 in total compensation, while President Richard Cohen and co-founder Morris Dees earned just shy of $400,000 each.
2012 Family Research Council Shooting
In 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II entered the lobby of the Family Research Council, a Christian nonprofit charity and lobbying group based in Washington D.C., with a 9mm pistol and shot an FRC employee, before being wrestled to the ground until police arrived.
When interviewed by the FBI, Corkins admitted he intended to kill the staff and said, “Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups. I found them online.” On its website, the SPLC has a map displaying the locations of all “hate groups” in the country, which includes the FRC’s headquarters where Corkins entered. The SPLC responded by saying that the FRC deserved to be labeled a hate group because it “has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda.”
Quotes about the Southern Poverty Law Center
“What they do is a kind of bullying and talking. They pick people who are vulnerable in terms of public opinion and simply destroy them. Their victims are usually ordinary people expressing their values, opinions and beliefs—and they’re up against a very talented and articulate defamation machine”
– Laird Wilcox, American extremism researcher
“Time and again, I see the SPLC using the reputation it gained decades ago as a tool to bludgeon mainstream politically conservative opponents”
– William Jacobson, law professor at Cornell
“SPLC once fought useful fights. They took on the Ku Klux Klan. But now they go after people on the right with whom they disagree…SPLC is now a hate group itself. It’s a money-grabbing slander machine”
– John Stossel, author and pundit
“The SPLC is known to use its platform to denigrate and disparage certain groups by labeling them ‘hate groups’”
– Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz
“The organization has always tried to find ways to milk money out of the public by finding whatever threat they can most credibly promote”
– Ken Silverstein, journalist
“They [SPLC] use it [the hate list] to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and constitutional rights of others”
– Former AG Jeff Sessions, to the Alliance Defending Freedom
“I understand that…you have attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Given the sorry record of that leftist institution of targeting groups that have the temerity not to be bound by political correctness and to speak out the truth despite PC orthodoxy, let me commend you”
– Texas Senator Ted Cruz, to ACT for America
“There’s no consensus academic definition of extremism, and the SPLC’s methodology for making that call isn’t clear…it’s very subjective even within academia, and even more so for a motivated organization”
– J.M Berger, Research fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague