Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center, scaring donors since 1971
… Irony turns out to be what the SPLC is all about. Thanks to the generosity of four decades’ worth of donors, many of whom—as SPLC president Richard Cohen himself noted in a telephone interview with me—are aging Northern-state “1960s liberals” who continue to associate “Southern” and “poverty” with lynchings, white-hooded Klansmen, and sitting at the back of the bus, and thanks also to what can only be described as the sheer genius at direct-mail marketing of Dees, the SPLC’s 76-year-old lawyer-founder, who was already a multimillionaire by the late 1960s from the direct-mail sales of everything from doormats to cookbooks, the SPLC is probably the richest poverty organization in the history of the world. From its very beginning the SPLC, thanks to Dees’s talent for crafting multi-page alarmist fundraising letters, has not only continuously operated in the black, but has steadily accumulated a mountain of surpluses augmented by a shrewdly managed investment portfolio. Today the SPLC’s net assets total more than $256 million (that figure appears on the SPLC’s 2011 tax return, the latest posted on the organization’s website). …
So impressed was the Direct Marketing Association in 1998 with Dees’s superb fundraising talents that it inducted him into its Hall of Fame, where he shares honors with Benjamin Franklin, first postmaster general, and catalogue retailer L. L. Bean. … The new SPLC building, a postmodernist parallelepiped faced in steel and black glass, has been variously described by its critics as a “small-scale Death Star” and a “highrise trailer.”
The SPLC turned the original Poverty Palace into a museum that complements another of its Montgomery monuments, the Civil Rights Memorial, where an imposing granite circle designed by Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, records the names of such iconic martyrs to the civil rights cause as Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr., neither of whom was ever a client of the SPLC. In 2010 the Montgomery Advertiser published a 60-photo online slideshow of Morris Dees’s lavishly appointed neo-Mediterranean home, whose eclectic architectural and interior-decor influences seemingly included the Alhambra, David Hockney’s swimming-pool paintings, the Etsy home page, and a 1970s shag-rug revival. In one slide Dees’s fourth wife, artist and weaver Susan Starr, modeled a floor-length evening coat that she had stitched out of transparent vinyl sheeting and fake fur.
There`s much more here.
Still, there may soon come a day when the SPLC’s donation-generating machine, powered by Dees’s mastery of the use of “hate” to coax dollars from the highly educated and the highly gullible, finally breaks down. That is why, according to Cohen, the SPLC has no intention of soon spending down much of that $256 million in stockpiled assets that has earned the center an “F” rating from CharityWatch. “We’ve tried to raise a substantial endowment, because our fundraising is on a downward trend,” Cohen told me. “Those 1960s liberals—they’re getting older, and the post office is dying. We’re likely to be out of the fundraising business within 10 years.” What the SPLC wants to do is to ensure that “hate” is forever.
Eh, I figure the SPLC has a long fundraising future in front of it. Just to run an idea up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes, how much of that $256 million would it cost, say, to donate blankets to homeless people near liberal arts colleges? And how much more would it cost if the blankets were, you know, white snuggies with maybe sleeves for convenience and a hood built in to keep the homeless folks` heads warm? Think of the ROI! There`s a market out there and somebody is going to meet the demand for the glue that holds the Democratic Party together. Why not the reigning champs of KKKraziness?