George and Amal Clooney’s foundation just made the Southern Poverty Law Center $1 million richer. The power couple donated the money “to combat hate groups,” according to the headline in the Los Angeles Times:
In the wake of the race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va., George and Amal Clooney’s Clooney Foundation for Justice has given a $1-million grant to help topple domestic hate groups.
The actor/producer and his wife, an international human rights attorney, have partnered with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center to “increase the capacity of the SPLC to combat hate groups in the United States,” according to a statement from the center.
“We are proud to support the Southern Poverty Law Center in its efforts to prevent violent extremism in the United States,” the couple said in a statement. “What happened in Charlottesville, and what is happening in communities across our country, demands our collective engagement to stand up to hate.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook also donated $1 million to SPLC and is making it possible for its customers to donate too:
Following the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an e-mail to employees discussing his stance on the matter and what the company would be doing to support those who stand up to hate. Among the initiatives, he said that Apple would donate $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Cook also promised a donations button for the SPLC in his company’s iTunes digital store.
On Sunday, Apple (AAPL, +1.63%) officially launched that tool, giving users the opportunity to donate to the SPLC. The donations will be used to support the SPLC’s mission to monitor extremist and hate groups and alert law enforcement to their activities.
Apple’s decision is part of a broader initiative by companies both in and out of the technology industry to support efforts aimed squarely at extremist groups following the violent Charlottesville demonstrations.
Does the SPLC “stand up to hate”? Do they “help topple domestic hate groups”? Do they “prevent violent extremism in the United States”?
If they do, they’re doing it on the sly.
The SPLC is little more than a “cash collecting machine” rooted more deeply in fund-raising opportunism than in any do-gooder impulse. The SPLC was founded in 1971, after much of the heroic heavy lifting of the civil rights era was already over and the Ku Klux Klan was pretty much beyond its death throes. But invoking the imagery of pointy white hoods still seems to be an irresistible fund-raising ploy for the SPLC.
Again, Zinsmeister at Philanthropy Roundtable calls it out: “The SPLC is a cash-collecting machine. In 2015 it vacuumed up $50 million in contributions and foundation grants, a tidy addition to its $334 million holdings of cash and securities and its headquarters worth $34 million. ‘They’ve never spent more than 31 percent of the money they were bringing in on programs, and sometimes they spent as little as 18 percent. Most nonprofits spend about 75 percent on programs,’ noted Jim Tharpe, managing editor of the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, in a talk at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.”
Zinsmeister adds: “Though it styles itself as a public-interest law firm, the Southern Poverty Law Center does shockingly little litigation, and only small amounts of that on behalf of any aggrieved individuals.”
SPLC founder and current leader Morris Dees, who was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame in 1998, has been called “the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker [notorious televangelists] of the civil rights movement, though I don’t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye.”
Dees has carefully crafted a brand that has pulled the wool over the eyes of do-gooders and the media alike by portraying the SPLC as courageously fighting hate when their fundraising machine is used to smear political opponents and actively try to influence elections. The little that they spend on litigating cases against hate groups and educating young people is dwarfed by their publicity stunts, including the publication of their list of hate groups every year.
If you want to really fight hate, donate to the Anti-Defamation League or some other group that tackles all kinds of civil rights issues including religious freedom and free speech. Filling the the SPLC coffers is worse than useless.