Former SPLC fundraiser raises questions

Morris Dees is the founder and driving force behind the Southern Poverty Law Center. I first became aware of him in my early twenties, after the fund-raising company for which I worked accepted the SPLC as a client. Morris Dees was sold to us as a champion of civil rights. I bought it. I was proud to work for them and I raised more money for them than I’d ever raised for any other client – until it came to my attention that they didn’t really need the money as much as I’d believed. [1]

In the years following I put the SPLC out of my mind completely. A little while ago, I started hearing the SPLC mentioned when opponents of men’s rights decide to smear AVfM as a hate group- one of the hate groups SPLC fundraisers use to sweet talk their way into to wallets of poor, elderly contributors and wealthy supporters alike. I love a scam case as much as the next gal so, with the help of a colleague, I hunkered down and did some digging.

I found that there are already so many articles and blog posts concerning the hypocritical nature of this organization that I almost didn’t bother to write this article at all – But my colleague managed to get her hands on a copy of Morris Dees divorce documents. One read through those forms left me wondering how, in this day of tabloids and shock television, Mr. Dees manages to maintain his knight-in-shining-armor image.

These documents read like the script of a Lifetime network movie. Morris is portrayed as a run-of-the-mill, evil male monster. There’s allegations of child molestation, spousal abuse and unconventional sexual behavior described in enough detail to upset most anyone. The document is so sensational that I hesitate to believe most of the details. The sole source of the information seems to be a very angry soon to be ex – spouse, who, considering the probable payoff, had every reason to lie. If the allegations brought against him by his ex wife are actually false and if Dees lost any money in this apparently very nasty divorce, it seems to me that he should be supporting men’s rights, rather than idly allowing the organization he founded to attack men’s rights activists. Call me old fashioned.

The only reason I mention these documents at all, and posted them along with the other sources[2], is because one of the milder events detailed makes an excellent analogy for what appears to be Mr. Dees’ approach to business.

The event occurred on July 3, 1978. Morris Dees met with both his wife and his mistress and asked each one to tell him how much she loved him. Upon hearing their statements he told them that he couldn’t live without either of them. Seeing that he meant to carry on with both of them, his wife forced him to choose. In the end he chose his wife but continued to sneak around with his mistress.

Analogy for what, you ask? Allow me to explain.

In many of the biographies about Morris Dees publicly available online, it is said that as a teen he was punished by his father for using a derogatory term in reference to a black man.[3] In his own autobiography Dees’ admits to having earned money doing legal work for the KKK in 1962.[4] The information surrounding the former incident of racially bigoted behavior suggests that Mr. Dees’ father taught him that being a bigot was wrong, but if that were the lesson learned would the latter have occurred?

I think that the lesson teenaged Morris Dees took from his father’s punishment was something more along the lines of; If you’re going to be a bigot you’d better not be obvious about it. On close inspection, the Southern Poverty law Center isn’t quite as concerned with the plight of black people as they’d have us believe.

Supporting this observation is an incident in 1986 when the SPLC’s entire legal staff quit in protest of Dees’ refusal to address any of the issues presenting real problems to the black community. Gloria Browne, a lawyer who quit a few years after the incident in 1986 criticized the SPLC for “cashing in on white guilt and black pain.” Former black employees complained that the Center was run like a plantation. [5]

All of this information is publicly available as the SPLC continues ride it’s reputation for fighting racism. Although their impact in civil rights is relatively small when compared to other civil rights charities, the SPLC’s income dwarfs those of its contemporaries. That fact has been pointed out several times.

Question: How do they do it?

Answer: Silence.

In 1995 the Montgomery Advertiser ran a series of articles examining the SPLC’s fund-raising tactics and vast wealth. The articles were nominated and became finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.[6] Those articles are now very well hidden if they are available at all. When confronted with his divorce documents, which he tried to have legally sealed, Dees simply refuses to respond. All criticisms of their financial workings are met with silence.

Remember that analogy I mentioned? Now consider the fact that the SPLC’s ‘work’ on the side of civil rights is supported by contributors -over two hundred million dollars to date[7], while Mr. Dees’ efforts of behalf of a Klan member brought him only what would amount to tens of thousands in today’s dollar value. Clearly the ‘Champion of Tolerance’ image loves him far more than that of bigoted Southerner.

When it comes to the criticisms and accusations directed at Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center, silence is just good business. After all it just isn’t wise for a man to argue with his mistress within earshot of his wife.


~Special thanks to my friend I.M. Zed who managed to get the really interesting files from the hard to reach places~

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