SPLC—2013—Still No Minorities at the Top After 42 Years

Watching the Watchdogs, March 22, 2013

Last week, Watching the Watchdogs examined the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “hate map” fundraising tool and broke the amazing, astounding, unprecedented news that for the first time in history the number of alleged “hate groups” designated by the SPLC’s Public Relations chief, Mark Potok, (something even the FBI cannot do…), actually declined!

While this inconceivable turn of events left many investigators gasping in amazement, a quick head-count of the SPLC’s top executives reveals a caucus as Caucasian as it was the day Morris Dees opened the doors of the company in 1971. There are still some unbroken traditions that one can count on in this mad, mad world.

This seeming incongruity was brought to the attention of Mr. Dees 19 years ago by journalists Dan Morse and Greg Jaffe in their week-long exposé in the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, in 1994.

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Dan Morse noted in his article, “Equal treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership“:

“Inside, no blacks have held top management positions in the center’s 23-year history, and some former employees say blacks are treated like second-class citizens.”

Last week the SPLC released its IRS Form 990 tax return for 2012, listing the names and compensation packages for its top executives (see pages 7-8). And the winners are:

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Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $340,923
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $344,771
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $185,102
Mary Bauer — Legal Director — $168,819
Teenie Hutchinson — Secretary — $162,644
Wendy Via — Development Director — $166,760 (+$19,582)
Mark Potok — Senior Fellow — $162,206  (+$10,814)
David Utter — Director — Miami –  $158,013

And a new (white) face for 2013:
Sheila Bedi — Deputy Legal Director –  $129,893

Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s Former COO, $234,309 (+$4,428).  If anyone knows of a public photo of Mr. Toohey, please pass the info along to Watching the Watchdogs.

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And what was Morris Dees’ response to Morse and Jaffe’s observations? “It is not easy to find black lawyers. Any organization can tell you that.” Not to get nit-picky, Mr. Dees, but lawyers make up only about half of the SPLC’s highest paid executives. Apparently, it’s not easy to find black accountants, administrators, computer experts or public relations people in 2013, either.

Conspicuously absent from the latest monochromatic rogue’s gallery, yet again… is Dr. Heidi Beirich, the SPLC’s new “Intelligence Director.” Dr. Beirich replaces “Senior Fellow” Mark Potok as the chief fundraiser and go-to media “expert.” Beirich and Potok both started working at the SPLC in 1999, both are public relations pros, though Dr. Beirich boasts two Masters degrees and a Doctorate to Mr. Potok’s B.S. in Poli-Sci, yet Dr. B has yet to be paid as much as her male counterpart.


Also missing from the list is Lecia Brooks, the SPLC’s Outreach Director and highest paid minority, though not as highly paid as her white colleagues. In fact, when the Form 990 included salaries as paltry as $70,000, (they are a “non-profit” after all), our Ms. Brooks was nowhere to be found. As Outreach Director, Lecia Brooks’ primary concern is fundraising and she has no influence over the running of the company.

Hopefully, she got a 5-digit raise like the SPLC’s other prime fundraisers, Mark Potok and Wendy Via. It was a record-breaking year, after all.

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Lecia Brooks does hold one unique distinction, though. She was allowed to serve as “Interim Director” of the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” program for several months. As Dan Morse noted in his 1994 “Equal Treatment” article:

“The Law Center’s ambitious new project, Teaching Tolerance, which is designed to promote racial and cultural justice throughout America’s schools, is produced by an eight-member all-white staff according to the Law Center.”

“Teaching Tolerance” continued to be led by “whites only” until 2009, when Ms. Brooks was tapped to keep the seat warm during the interregnum until her successor could be selected, the highly diverse Maureen Costello:

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No report on the all-white nature of the SPLC’s leadership would be complete without mentioning the company’s first president, Julian Bond, and its diverse Board of Directors. As Dan Morse pointed out in his 1994 article, “Friendly board: friends, associates fill board,” the SPLC’s board consists of friends and cronies of Morris Dees who rubber-stamp whatever is put before them by Dees. Some of the board members Morse mentioned in 1994 are still on the board today, as is at least one lingerie mogul.

All of the board members are unpaid, which is not unusual in the so-called “non-profit” sector, and almost all of them are located hundreds or thousands of miles from Montgomery. In short, they may be diverse on paper, but they are not highly paid and they have no influence on the day-to-day operations of the SPLC. It’s a classic case of “brownwashing” to dupe the donors.

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And as we’ve mentioned numerous times, Morris Dees wrote in his autobiography, A Season For Justice, that he only offered Julian Bond the “largely honorary position of president” in exchange for the use of Bond’s name on the SPLC’s first fundraising letters. Last year, Watching the Watchdogs produced short video for Youtube that describes the history of the all-white leadership of the SPLC, Teaching Tolerance, the Bond paid endorsement and the rubber-stamp Board of Directors.

The only thing more difficult to believe than the fact that an alleged “civil rights” group headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, sitting literally in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s own Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, could remain lily-white at the top for more than 40 years is the incredible fact that well-meaning people sent the SPLC more than $40 million donor dollars last year.

What could that money have done for real charities closer to home?


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