The Federation for American Immigration Reform said it will pursue a federal complaint against the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center of Alabama.
FAIR officials say the longtime civil rights watchdog group has violated its nonprofit status and become a partisan “propaganda” agency, especially on the issue of immigration.
“Reporters and others who lift verbatim SPLC mischaracterizations aren’t adhering to journalistic standards and expose themselves to ridicule as hacks and biased advocates uninterested in real truth.”
Dan Stein, president of FAIR, said the organization will be soon filing a 100-page tax complaint with the IRS documenting the degree to which the center engaged in illegal political activity prior to the November election. Stein said he wants the IRS to yank the center’s tax status as a 501(c)(3) operation.
The center was founded in 1971 in Montgomery, Alabama, by attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr.
Using law books as weapons against institutional racism and violent racist groups, the center had a string of important legal victories early in its existence.
“Our lawsuits have toppled institutional racism and stamped out remnants of Jim Crow segregation; destroyed some of the nation’s most violent white supremacist groups; and protected the civil rights of children, women, the disabled, immigrants and migrant workers, the LGBT community, prisoners, and many others who faced discrimination, abuse or exploitation,” the center states on its website.
But as time went on, the threats from such racism waned considerably. And by 1994, the Montgomery Advertiser published an eight-part series that shook the center to its core.
The Advertiser, the Alabama capital’s daily newspaper, reported that the center had few if any African-Americans as managerial employees, and that the center exaggerated the threats from racist groups to raise money.
According to the center’s website, that may have changed — a little. Three of 16 members of their leadership team are black. Four of the center’s 16 members of their board of directors are black.
As for money, the center has quite an expensive headquarters in Montgomery. And it has quite a few bills to pay: Not only is the center home to the Civil Rights Memorial and its “interpretive” center, the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the organization has four other offices in the South — in Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, and Jackson, Mississippi.
Stein, the president of FAIR, said the center has only recently expanded its mission to immigration. Originally, the center had no stance on illegal immigration, or the number of legal immigrants the nation should let in.
As time went on, Stein alleges, the center saw political and financial opportunity in attacking critics of illegal and legal immigration. The Southern Poverty Law Center did not return messages left by LifeZette.
The center was widely known as publishing a list of extreme and racist groups. If a group made the list, it was almost certainly extreme or racist — in the group’s early years.
But as the center sought to expand its direct-mail appeals for cash, it began adding political activists it would have ignored in the 1970s and 1980s. The center eventually expanded its list of haters to a list of extremists.
On that list are some groups and people who are quite unlike the Klan and the Black Panthers. Some are religious leaders who oppose homosexuality — like the Family Research Council. Some are staunch defenders of Israel. The list includes: Stein; David Horowitz, the Jewish conservative writer; Alex Jones, the eccentric founder of InfoWars.com; and Joseph Farah, who runs WorldNetDaily.com.
Stein said his group has been criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center for a while, but the campaign of Republican Donald Trump, now the president-elect, ratcheted things up.
Stein said the center began criticizing Trump every day, and was no longer trying to walk the line between its charitable legal mission and that of a political organization. Stein said when journalists and government officials use FAIR’s research, they are soon assailed by the center’s members.
Some of the claims made in the media against FAIR are untrue, Stein said, and for that, he blames the center.
“Reporters and others who lift verbatim SPLC mischaracterizations aren’t adhering to journalistic standards and expose themselves to ridicule as hacks and biased advocates uninterested in real truth,” Stein said in a release earlier this month. “The SPLC is deeply invested in promoting mass immigration, bullying political opponents into silence, and is nothing more than a daily smear machine uninterested in the free exchange of ideas. It uses the same ad hominem tactics year in and year out to try to manage political speech in the interests of its own agenda.”
Media calls to FAIR are likely up since Trump won the White House on Nov. 8. Media are now paying attention to what FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies, another immigration watchdog, are saying.
That poses a problem for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which claims immigration critics and politicians are “spreading false propaganda that blames immigrants for our nation’s problems and [are] enacting discriminatory laws that stigmatize them.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t the only over-the-top critic of FAIR masquerading as a watchdog. Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group that tracks the press, is also trying to embarrass news outlets that use FAIR as a source.
“FAIR, which has already influenced Trump’s immigration proposals, has ties to white supremacists and was labeled an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Media Matters stated Monday in a news release. “The founder of FAIR also helped launch the Center for Immigration Studies, which, like FAIR, uses the veneer of impartiality to inject lies about immigration into mainstream media.”