The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is already facing internal allegations of racism and sexism, but now the organization’s non-profit status has been called into question by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
In a letter sent Tuesday to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Cotton requested an investigation into the organization’s classification as a 501(c)(3), accusing SPLC of “fundrais[ing] off of defamation.”
“This business model has paid well. The SPLC has accrued more than $500 million in assets,” Cotton wrote. “According to the group's most recent financial statement, it holds $121 million offshore in non-U.S. equity funds. The SPLC uses these assets to pay its executives lavish salaries far higher than the comparable household average.”
Cotton suggested the organization’s tax-exempt status be investigated over the money as well as the racism and sexism charges, writing that taxpayer dollars should be protected “from a racist and sexist slush fund devoted to defamation.”
Cotton goes on to explain how the SPLC engages in defamation, by claiming its “hate map,” which includes nearly universally accepted examples such as the Ku Klux Klan, also includes “mainstream political opponents and faith-based groups,” such as the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Arkansas senator also pointed to the group’s claim that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an “anti-Muslim extremist” because she speaks out against issues relating to Islam such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation (Ali herself is a former Muslim).
The group also had to pay Maajid Nawaz, a British political activist, $3.375 million after he sued for defamation.
“The SPLC’s defamation has not just damaged the reputation of these mainstream organizations and individuals by lumping them in with the Ku Klux Klan and Nation of Islam; it has resulted in injury and the threat of the loss of life, including an attempted mass murder,” Cotton wrote before reminding the IRS of a 2012 incident where Floyd Lee Corkins targeted the FRC because of the SPLC’s designation. A security guard was injured in the shooting but thankfully no one died.
“Perhaps the SPLC was founded for noble purposes and decades ago performed some good work, but what is left of the SPLC is no longer operating in a manner consistent with IRS guidelines and applicable law,” Cotton concluded.
Last week, as issues surrounding the group’s racism and sexism scandals made headlines, SPLC Board Member Bryan Fair posted an article on the organization’s website that explained what the group was spending so much money on. He cited several court cases where the SPLC is fighting against President Donald Trump’s policies in addition to other legal battles.
Fair also said the SPLC had hired 200 additional people since Trump’s election and opened four new offices in the “Deep South.”
In recent weeks, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees and President Richard Cohen have both resigned, along with others in leadership positions. The Daily Signal reported that tech giants — except for Twitter and Facebook — did not respond to inquiries about their partnerships with the SPLC amid the growing scandals. Twitter said the organization is not on its Trust and Safety Council and has not been a recent partner of SPLC. Facebook said that no single outside group defines their policies.
Full Disclosure: I previously worked for the Heritage Foundation, which publishes the Daily Signal. I have several articles published under the Daily Signal banner.