Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained nearly two dozen pages of emails from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights and Tax divisions revealing questionable behavior by agency personnel while negotiating for Sothern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) co-founder Morris Dees to appear as the featured speaker at a July 31, 2012, “Diversity Training Event.” Judicial Watch obtained the records pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) submitted to the DOJ on September 10, 2012.

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Judicial Watch filed the FOIA requests to determine what, if any, influence the SPLC’s branding of hate groups has had on government agencies. The FOIA request specifically asked for “any and all records concerning, regarding, or relating to the Sothern Poverty Law Center” between January 1 and August 31, 2012, including the Dees’ presentation sponsored by the Civil Rights and Tax divisions of the DOJ, for which employees were instructed qualified “for mandatory annual diversity training for supervisors.” According to the emails obtained by Judicial Watch, Dees’ speech was to be “simulcast to everyone’s PC throughout the Department.”

The emails produced by the DOJ include correspondence between DOJ personnel planning the Diversity Training Event and SPLC personnel, including Dees:

  • May 3, 2012 email—“We would like to tape the [Morris Dees] remarks and, at the same time, out Morris real time on the DOJ system can watch from their desks. Is that okay with Morris?”
  • June 27, 2012—“Let me know Morris’ air schedule so I can pick him up at airport and plan an evening for us if he stays over.”
  • July 11, 2012—“I will be at National in my [REDACTED] in which he has ridden before … I can arrange dinner. If he has a preference in DC where he wants to eat … tell him to let me know his druthers.”
  • July 16, 2012—“The AAG’s office want to take Morris out to lunch before the 1:30 pm July 31 remarks … I’d pick Morris up at his hotel at 11:30 am if that worked for him.”
  • July 23, 2012—“I will pick you [Morris Dees] up at the airport July 30. Would you go out to dinner with my wife and me and our two teenage daughters that first night? The girls need some inspiration from a master of inspiration.”

“The Southern Poverty Law Center has, in the past few years, taken to labeling organizations with conservative views on social issues as ‘hate groups,’” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Given these fawning emails, one would have thought that a head of state was visiting the Justice Department.  The SPLC is an attack group, and it is disturbing that it has premier access to our Department of Justice, which is charged with protecting the First Amendment rights of all Americans.  And these emails further confirm that politically-correct ‘mandatory’ diversity training programs are a waste of taxpayer money.”

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