April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the far-left attack group accepted as “extremism” watchdogs by much of the mainstream media, has been rocked by a series of scandals over the past year, which may be the tip of the iceberg if recently-reported insider comments open the door to a new round of lawsuits.
Writing last month for The New Yorker, former SPLC staffer Bob Moser admitted many employees found it hard “not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.” He added that embattled SPLC co-founder Morris Dees (who was ousted that month for “inappropriate conduct”) once told journalist John Egerton that he saw (in Egerton’s paraphrasing) “civil-rights work mainly as a marketing tool for bilking gullible Northern liberals.”
Such statements could form the basis for new lawsuits by various conservative and religious organizations that SPLC has targeted, PJ Media reported last week.
“If you're admitting that it's done for purposes of fundraising, false, and intended to deceive older liberals, you've basically admitted all the elements of a Lanham Act and a defamation claim,” Liberty Counsel litigator Daniel Schmid said.
The Lanham Act provides that anyone who “uses in commerce” any false or misleading claim or representation which is “is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person,” or “misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin” of one’s goods or services,” is “liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.”
“I'm pretty sure Mat (Staver, LC founder and chairman) is very close to (a lawsuit) for Liberty Counsel,” he said. “At some point, I believe we'll file one. I'd be shocked if we didn't have one in the summer.” According to PJ Media, LC is in contact with approximately 60 groups that could take action against SPLC, with more reaching out on a monthly basis.
SPLC has a long history of labeling mainstream Christian and/or conservative organizations – including Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, the Ruth Institute, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and Jihad Watch – “hate groups” to be blacklisted from various online platforms and services. Despite being forced last June to make a public apology and pay $3.4 million in defamation damages to Maajid Nawaz’s Quilliam Foundation, various companies continue to take SPLC’s advice.
Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon all partner with SPLC to varying degrees to help identify and restrict allegedly “hateful” groups and content from their platforms, and the organization has managed to pressure companies like Mastercard and GoFundMe to (at least temporarily, in some cases) deny services to conservative figures and groups. The FBI used SPLC as a resource on hate crimes until 2014, when it was removed during the Obama administration. The Pentagon under President Donald Trump dropped it as a resource in October 2017.
“The SPLC’s 'hate group' accusation is a financial and reputational death sentence, effectively equating organizations to the KKK,” Megan Meier of Clare Locke LLP, the law firm involved in the Quilliam case, told PJ Media. “No right-thinking person wants to be associated with the KKK, so the SPLC’s 'hate group' accusation is incredibly effective at shaming organizations and causing them to be shunned by donors, fundraising platforms, service providers, the media, and others. Shaming and shunning are hallmarks of what makes a statement 'defamatory' under the common law.”
Earlier this month, Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called on the IRS to investigate SPLC for $121 million in offshore assets that the organization keeps in non-U.S. equity funds.