Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/17: Southern Poverty Law Center Edition

A Cayman Islands sunrise!

Good Morning, Everyone!

1.For the second time in two months, I had the wrong date on yesterday’s Warm-Up. This time, I was six days off. That’s incompetence, not malice. If I made anyone miss a birthday, anniversary of other appointment, I am so, so sorry.

2. D. James Kennedy Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an evangelical Christian ministry, is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling the ministry a hate group because of its stance against LGBT rights. The SPLC is an Alabama-based, self-styled  watchdog group that tracks tracks what it considers extremist organizations, and it publicly names organizations it considers hate groups. It considers hate groups to be any group that is sufficiently aggressive in opposing certain core progressive positions. The entire operation is a masterpiece of self-validating virtue. The name was carefully chosen to signal unimpeachable virtue: it’s “Southern,” so its stance against discrimination is obviously defient and in opposition to its surrounding culture and biases. Though little of its activity involves poverty, the name also signals charity and virtuous motives.  What’s a law center? Well. I grdauted from one, and that was a law school. The Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t a law school, but doesn’t the name sound impressive? Originally, the SPLC acted as a public interest law firm (I would call its use of “law center” misleading, and a breach of several states’ legal ethics rules if it were still a law firm), but now it is a progressive activist and propaganda organization. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but part of its schtick is to designate organizations as hate groups because, well, they say so. Then the left-leaning news media accepts their verdict as fact. You will read articles saying that there are 917 hate groups in the U.S. No, there are 917 groups the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “hate groups.” .Many of the organizations on the SPLC’s list are undeniably racist and violent. Many are not, or may not be. Lumping them all together as “hate groups” is an effective way to demonize dissent. “Hate group” has no accepted definition, but SPLC defines a ‘general hate group” thusly: “These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized.”

Got it. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate group by its own definition. To be a reliable arbiter of whether a group is promoting hate rather than a just a controversial policy position, a group would have to be non-partisan, objective and politically neutral. all things that the SPLC is not. This is an organization that designated groups that espouse view that it hates as hate groups.

I hate that.

Rationalization #14.

Self-validating Virtue

A  corollary of the Saint’s Excuse  is “Self-validating Virtue,” in which the act is judged by the perceived goodness the person doing it, rather than the other way around. This is applied by the doer, who reasons, “I am a good and ethical person. I have decided to do this; therefore this must be an ethical thing to do, since I would never do anything unethical.” Effective, seductive, and dangerous, this rationalization short-circuits ethical decision-making, and is among the reasons good people do bad things, and keep doing them, even when the critics point out their obvious unethical nature. Good people sometimes do bad things because they are good people, and because of complacency and self-esteem they begin with a conviction, often well supported by their experience, that they are incapable of doing something terribly wrong. But all of us are capable of that, if our ethics alarms freeze due to our environment, emotions, peer pressure, and corrupting leadership, among many possible causes. At the end of the movie “Falling Down,” the rampaging vigilante played by Michael Douglas, once a submissive, law-abiding citizen, suddenly realizes what he has done. “I’m the bad guy?” he asks incredulously. Indeed he is. Any of us, no matter how virtuous, are capable of becoming “the bad guy”…especially when we are convinced that we are not.

3. Now this is a fortuitous coincidence! I had already prepared an SLPC item for the warm-up, and this appeared this morning, from the Washington Free Beacon:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a liberal, Alabama-based 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization that has gained prominence on the left for its “hate group” designations, pushes millions of dollars to offshore entities as part of its business dealings, records show.

Additionally, the nonprofit pays lucrative six-figure salaries to its top directors and key employees while spending little on legal services despite its stated intent of “fighting hate and bigotry” using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy….

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.

The SPLC’s Form 8865, a Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Partnerships, from 2014 shows that the nonprofit transferred hundreds of thousands to an account located in the Cayman Islands.

SPLC lists Tiger Global Management LLC, a New York-based private equity financial firm, as an agent on its 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’s Form 926, a Return by a U.S. Transferor of Property to a Foreign Corporation, from 2014 shows additional cash transactions that the nonprofit had sent to offshore funds.

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.

The nonprofit pushed millions more into offshore funds at the beginning of 2015.

On March 1, 2015, SPLC sent $2,200,000 in cash to AQR Managed Futures Offshore Fund Ltd., which the SPLC marked to an address in Greenwich, Ct., on its form. However, the entity is located in Canana Bay, Cayman Islands, according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records. Individuals at AQR Capital Management, a global investment management firm, act as executive directors of the fund and are located in Connecticut.

There is more.How many mainstream media sources will view this report as newsworthy? Let’s start a pool!

And how many poverty-fighting non-profits pay six-figure salaries while stashing funds in the Cayman Islands? (You will recall that’s where the mobbed up law firm in “The Firm” had its accounts.)

Philosopher Eric Hoffer said, in a statement that has been cleaned up and shortened by others to make a more serviceable quote, Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

He appears to have described the Southern Poverty Law Center to a “T.”

28 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

28 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/17: Southern Poverty Law Center Edition

  1. Luke G

    Today I learned that the correct (or at least oldest) version of the phrase is “to a T” rather than “to a tee,” as I’d been using it.

    Sources suggest it could have something to do with a T-square. I was thinking of a golf tee- an idea neatly categorized and served up for your analysis. So this post even had some bonus education in it beyond the ethics content! I’m pretty sure that absolves you of at least one missed date.

    • Matthew 5:18 –

      “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

      Original Aramaic, translated directly and not culturally, would have said “not one yodh, not one tittle”. Yodh being the smallest letter and tittle being the smallest diactritical mark. Paying attention to the most minute details could be equated to us saying “mind your p’s and q’s”.

      Describing something down to the “tittle” means to be excruciatingly exact in detail.

      I lean more to the theory that “to a t” derives from “to a tittle”.

      • Luke G

        That’s less obvious than a T-square, and less relatable to common objects. This means you’re also more likely to be correct 🙂

    • I knew someone would question that phrase the second I typed it.
      But it fit what I wanted to say to a tee…

  2. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Those of us on the political right never trusted the SPLC from the get-go, but I never thought it was this dirty. Ironically this past holiday season I read at least 3 screeds online upbraiding those of us who kept Hillary out of the White House and telling us the first step toward working our way back into our liberal betters’ good graces was to make a HUGE contribution to either the ACLU or the SPLC and leave the receipt lying around where it would be seen. They might hate us just a smidge less if we made a honking contribution to the right causes. In other words, it’s extortion, and not for a good cause at all, apparently.

  3. Cleophus

    That’s why we call them the $PLC.

  4. Wayne

    The SPLC seems to lump in with the KKK and Arian Brotherhood any conservative group or illegal alien research group as a hate group. This sort of reminds me of the way the Politburo dealt with dissidents in the old Soviet Union: All were to be classified as enemies of the people and subject to liquidation or banishment to the Gulag.

    • Other Bill

      Wayne, by contrast, the SPLC simply banishes donors’ money to the Caymans. Why on earth aren’t operations like this audited into non-existence? They probably got “donations” from Citybank and Wells Fargo as part of the Obama DOJ’s settlements for mortgage fraud.

    • It’s also the way organizations were designated as Communist during the Red Scare.

    • Chris

      The SPLC seems to lump in with the KKK and Arian Brotherhood any conservative group or illegal alien research group as a hate group.

      Really? Where is the Heritage Foundation named as a hate group? How about CATO?

      This is a bullshit claim. The reasons SPLC gives out its hate group designations are always made very clear by the SPLC. If you disagree with those reasons, cite what they are and explain your disagreement. If their reasons are really bad enough, you won’t have to make them up.

  5. Steve-O-in-NJ

    I’d check for connections between them and Antifa. Pre-dawn alphabet soup raid, anyone?

  6. Glenn Logan

    I have known for years that the SPLC was a racket. They don’t spend any money on anything but salaries, raise prodigious sums, and do no meaningful work other than compiling their “hate list.” That money has to go somewhere. Finding a chunk of it in the Caymans is not at all surprising.

    If anyone digs deep enough, I suspect the SPLC will be found to be the poster child for a RICO charge, and I mean that in the sense of the original meaning of RICO, not the new perverted version where nearly everything under the sun can be construed as RICO.

  7. An Upside

    I used the SPLC HateMap as a tool to locate and then to research many of the various groups they slander. It is related to ‘Show me who you say I should hate and it will help me find out who my real friends are’.

    The interesting thing about their hate-blurbs is that they also helpful to understand how sophistry and rhetoric can be made to serve a skewed ideology.

    When I was doing this research I always remeber one of my favorite finds: Ann Burnhardt:

    It’s a little-known classic!

  8. Chris

    It considers hate groups to be any group that is sufficiently aggressive in opposing certain core progressive positions.

    This just isn’t true. The New Black Panther Party and various other black supremacist groups are all listed as hate groups by the SPLC.

    Hate group” has no accepted definition, but SPLC defines a ‘general hate group” thusly: “These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized.”

    This isn’t their “definition,” that’s the description of one page called “General hate,” which catalogs groups that don’t fit neatly into other categories of hate groups. It’s their miscellaneous section. This is how they define hate groups:

    All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

    By that definition, SPLC is absolutely not a hate group.

    I understand your position that SPLC has a liberal bias, and I won’t deny that–it’s undeniable. But you’re allowing your own bias to lead you to make false statements about this group.

    • No, Chris, the inclusion of racist violent groups like the Panthers is what makes the libel of the other groups effective. The problem isn’t that only non-progressive groups are included, but the groups are lumped with the Klan for not being progressive.

      The entire class of people that SPLC attacks and maligns is, for example, those who oppose gay marriage in an organized way. That’s their definition of hate.

      If a group has a bias, then it can’t be trusted as the authority on what constitutes a “hate group.” Simple as that. When they add BLM and “the resistance” to their list, I’ll open the topic for reconsideration.

      • Chris

        No, Chris, the inclusion of racist violent groups like the Panthers is what makes the libel of the other groups effective.

        Calling a group a “hate group” isn’t “libel,” and you know it.

        Can you point me to actual instances of libel from the SPLC, or would you like to retract this claim?

        The problem isn’t that only non-progressive groups are included, but the groups are lumped with the Klan for not being progressive.

        I…literally just showed you that this isn’t true. Unless you’re saying you don’t consider the Panthers a “progressive” group? In which case…I don’t entirely disagree, but it makes your statement misleading at best. “Non-progressive,” to most people, means conservative. The Panthers sure as hell aren’t that, and would definitely be classified as, if not “progressive,” then “leftist” for sure.

        But do you really believe that the Panthers are on the list for “not being progressive?”

        The entire class of people that SPLC attacks and maligns is, for example, those who oppose gay marriage in an organized way. That’s their definition of hate.

        So…after being shown that your first attempt at presenting the definition of hate the SPLC was utterly wrong, instead of acknowledging that, you present yet another incorrect portrayal of the SPLC’s definition of hate. Why are you doing this? It doesn’t make any sense.

        Your statement above is self-evidently wrong. If “the entire class of people that the SPLC attacks and maligns is those who oppose gay marriage in an organized way,” then that means they attack and malign the Panthers because they oppose gay marriage in an organized way. I don’t even think the Panthers do that, and if they do, it’s certainly not the reason the SPLC has given for labeling them a hate group.

        If a group has a bias, then it can’t be trusted as the authority on what constitutes a “hate group.” Simple as that.

        This may be true, but you have repeatedly exaggerated and made false statements about the SPLC, and when shown that you have done so, you’ve doubled down and made more false statements. So why should you be trusted to make judgments about them?

        When they add BLM and “the resistance” to their list, I’ll open the topic for reconsideration.

        Can you please show me how BLM and the resistance meet the SPLC’s definition of a “hate group?” Not the two fake definitions you’ve presented so far that the SPLC has never presented as definitions for what makes something a hate group, but the actual definition they use which I showed you, and which every single group on their list meets.

        • Well, that’s up to the courts. Saying that a church is the moral equivalent of the Klan and Nazis seems to fit the definition of libel when the group doing it is recognized, idiotically, as the arbiter of the matter. Defamation is when someone falsely impugns one’s character and harms one’s reputation in print, and when it’s not a public figure, malice isn’t required.

          • Chris

            What church has the SPLC condemned unjustly? Be specific. I’m not even aware of any churches on the list.

            Saying that one group is morally equivalent to another is a statement of opinion, as you know. And I don’t believe that saying the FRC and the KKK are both hate groups makes them “morally equivalent.” They’re both hate groups, but the KKK is worse.

            • Chris

              And it won’t be “up to the courts” unless an organization sues the SPLC for calling them a hate group. Have any of them? If not, that’s pretty good evidence that they don’t have a libel case.

              I think you’re far off in the deep end when you call BLM a hate group. But no, BLM couldn’t win a libel case against you for saying that.

              • I hate to embarras you, my friend, but the very first item in #2 reads…

                2. D. James Kennedy Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an evangelical Christian ministry, is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling the ministry a hate group because of its stance against LGBT rights.

                Hence the post. It’s amazing how useful reading what you are arguing about is. I recommend it.

                • Chris

                  My bad. The point stands: an opinion isn’t libel, and the ministry will almost certainly lose, as it should. What false statements has the SPLC made about this ministry?

                  • Opinion is the catch point indeed. But a black list can be libel. The ABA has no effect or power over lawyer, but if the ABA put lawyers on a public “Shyster List,” do you think they would be risking libel verdicts?

                    Sure they would.

            • See subsequent rely to your next comment…

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