The Southern Poverty Law Center has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for the overtly partisan nature of its "hate" and "extremist" listings as well as its sketchy financial dealings. The Washington Free Beacon's Joe Schoffstall has dug deeper into the latter and, according to a new report, discovered what tax experts and non-profit consultants are describing as a "huge red flag": the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization "pushes millions of dollars to offshore entities as part of its business dealings."
SPLC has been in the news a lot lately, not only because it has been cited repeatedly by mainstream media outlets for its supposedly nonpartisan "hate group" and "extremist" lists (which once included Ben Carson), but also because it has been sued by some of those "hate groups" for defamation, recently dropped a town unfairly listed from its reckless "hate map," and created a brand new Confederate map that includes names of elementary and middle schools and entire counties as supposedly promoting "turmoil and bloodshed."
Now, the Free Beacon's Schoffstall has presented some very intriguing findings after looking more closely into the non-profits' tax records:
The SPLC has turned into a fundraising powerhouse, recording more than $50 million in contributions and $328 million in net assets on its 2015 Form 990, the most recently available tax form from the nonprofit. SPLC's Form 990-T, its business income tax return, from the same year shows that they have "financial interests" in the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. No information is available beyond the acknowledgment of the interests at the bottom of the form.
However, the Washington Free Beacon discovered forms from 2014 that shed light on some of the Southern Poverty Law Center's transfers to foreign entities.
After examining the group's 2014 and 2015 records, WFB found that the partisan group was sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to multiple entities with accounts in the Cayman Islands, including a $2.2 million transfer in 2015:
SPLC lists Tiger Global Management LLC, a New York-based private equity financial firm, as an agent on its [2014 form]. The form shows a foreign partnership between the SPLC and Tiger Global Private Investment Partners IX, L.P., a pooled investment fund in the Cayman Islands. SPLC transferred $960,000 in cash on Nov. 24, 2014 to Tiger Global Private Investment Partners IX, L.P, its records show. [...]
The SPLC reported a $102,007 cash transfer on Dec. 24, 2014 to BPV-III Cayman X Limited, a foreign entity located in the Cayman Islands. The group then sent $157,574 in cash to BPV-III Cayman XI Limited on Dec. 31, 2014, an entity that lists the same PO Box address in Grand Cayman as the previous transfer. [...]
On March 1, 2015, SPLC sent $2,200,000 to an entity incorporated in Canana Bay, Cayman Islands, according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records and run by a firm firm based in Greenwich, Ct. Another $2,200,000 cash transfer was made on the same day to another fund whose business is located at the same address as the previous fund in the Cayman Islands, according to SEC records.
When the Free Beacon reached out to SPLC's public accounting firm, they were told they wouldn't share client information. When the outlet asked tax and non-profit experts about the SPLC's offshore transfers, they got responses that featured phrases like "huge red flag," "unethical," and "extremely unusual."
"I've never known a US-based nonprofit dealing in human rights or social services to have any foreign bank accounts," said Amy Sterling Casil, CEO of Pacific Human Capital, a California-based nonprofit consulting firm. "My impression based on prior interactions is that they have a small, modestly paid staff, and were regarded by most in the industry as frugal and reliable. I am stunned to learn of transfers of millions to offshore bank accounts. It is a huge red flag and would have been completely unacceptable to any wealthy, responsible, experienced board member who was committed to a charitable mission who I ever worked with."
"It is unethical for any US-based charity to invest large sums of money overseas," said Casil. "I know of no legitimate reason for any US-based nonprofit to put money in overseas, unregulated bank accounts."
Here's another response expressing just how "unusual" the SPLC's business dealings are for a non-profit:
"It seems extremely unusual for a ‘501(c)(3)' concentrating upon reducing poverty in the American South to have multiple bank accounts in tax haven nations," Charles Ortel, a former Wall Street analyst and financial advisor who helped uncover a 2009 financial scandal at General Electric, told the Free Beacon.
The SPLC has been raking in the dough lately, the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that turned deadly has ended up resulting in millions more dollars being directed to the group. But as critics have pointed out in recent years, despite a massive amount of donated income, the group appears to spend very little providing the legal help it is in large part designed to provide. The SPLC's financial situation and overtly partisan actions have been egregious enough that even Politico recently ran a story asking, "Has A Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way?"
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