‘Hatewatch’ watch: Sen. Cotton challenges tax exempt status of SPLC

by WorldTribune Staff, April 4, 2019

A nonprofit organization which is famous for its “Hate Map” and “Hatewatch” column, targeting what it calls America’s “radical right,” could soon find itself the subject of a congressional investigation following revelations of its own alleged hateful behavior.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said he has sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation into the tax-exempt status of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which he blasted as a “racist and sexist slush fund devoted to defamation.”

Sen. Tom Cotton: The SPLC ‘really has become little more than a left-wing slush fund.’

“I’ve long been troubled by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s activities, which are centered on serial defamation of its opponents, not on civil rights litigation, as its founding charter says,” Cotton told The Washington Times.

“Obviously, the revelations that the Southern Poverty Law Center has engaged in systematic racial discrimination and sexual harassment at the highest levels is very troubling as well,” he said. “I think it bears on whether they should have tax-exempt status under our laws and benefit from the taxpayer subsidy.”

Cotton cited another issue: The SPLC’s bringing in Tina Tchen, onetime chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama to advise on workplace culture issues at the organization which has an endowment of half a billion dollars.

“It really has become little more than a left-wing slush fund, and now that Mrs. Obama’s former chief of staff, Jussie Smollett’s legal fixer, has been brought on board, it raises genuine suspicions over whether the Southern Poverty Law Center will be even more politicized and will expressly be supporting Democrats in the next election,” Cotton said.

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center is barred from backing political candidates. On the other hand, the group could “refocus some of their funds into a 501(c)(4) as opposed to what they are now,” Cotton said. “C4s have looser rules to engage in political activities.”

About two dozen SPLC employees reportedly signed a letter saying “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism threaten the moral authority of this organization and our integrity along with it.”

On March 14, Morris Dees, 82, who founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971, was fired. SPLC President Richard Cohen announced his resignation March 23, and legal director Rhonda Brownstein stepped down the same day.

A report by The New York Times detailed several complaints by both current and former employees that indicated a “climate of intolerance” in the workplace – complaints including sexual harassment and a lack of diversity based on race and gender.

In addition, 60 of the SPLC’s favorite center-right targets called in an open letter on April 3 for the organization to release emails reportedly from fed-up staffers in a revolt that led to the toppling of the leadership.

The letter also asked media outlets and corporations once again to quit relying uncritically on the SPLC’s “hate” designations, which lump leading Christian and conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council with racist outfits such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation.

“SPLC has lost all credibility,” said the letter, led by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “We call on all media, corporations, social media companies, and financial institutions to immediately stop relying on their discredited and partisan ‘hate’ and ‘extremist’ lists.”

In June 2018, the SPLC reached a settlement with anti-extremist organization Quilliam resulting in an apology and a $3.375-million payment to Quilliam for wrongly naming the group and its founder as anti-Muslim extremists.

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