Complaint Alleges Southern Poverty Law Center Violated Non-Profit Tax Status
American Free Press readers will not be surprised to learn one of America’s leading hate-promoting groups, the SPLC, may be operating outside IRS rules for nonprofit organizations. This month, a formal complaint was filed with the IRS alleging “flagrant” electioneering by the SPLC in opposition to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz during the last election season. Will the SPLC finally face the long-overdue consequences it so deserves and be forced to rein in its hate-speech?
By Mark Anderson
The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a notoriously underhanded race-baiting organization that luridly labels anything counter to its extremist left-wing orthodoxy as “far-right,” hateful heresy. To the SPLC, there’s a “bigot” under every bushel basket.
So it’s not necessarily surprising to hear another group allege, with pretty solid evidence, that the SPLC “openly and repeatedly violated its non-profit tax status nearly 50 times during the 2016 presidential election cycle, participating in communication activities prohibited by the IRS in a ‘flagrant, continued and intentional campaign’ targeting then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and other Republican candidates.”
That strong allegation comes from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which on April 5 issued a news release announcing it has filed “a formal legal complaint” to the IRS based on allegations the SPLC has run afoul of the tax code.
A copy of the complaint can be viewed online at FAIR’s website, “FAIRUS.org.”
“The SPLC went way over the line in this last election. It publicly engaged in deep, deliberate, and unlawful participation during the 2016 presidential election cycle, flagrantly violating its non-profit tax status,” FAIR President Dan Stein alleges. “The IRS should investigate all of these instances, and take appropriate steps to either sanction [or] fine the SPLC, or remove its tax-exempt status as a public charity. We are alleging—via meticulously detailed documented evidence—that it repeatedly engaged in widespread, illegal electioneering in 2015 and 2016.”
The IRS grants several classifications that provide organizations with tax-exempt status, provided that the organizations stick to strict public-service guidelines under “charitable,” “educational,” and similar classifications required by the law. (The SPLC purports to be both charitable and educational.)
“Under the regulations, however, activities such as promoting or opposing certain political candidates for public office are absolutely not permissible communications for these types of privileged organizations. In other words, no electioneering—taking positions in favor of, or against, any active candidate for public office,” FAIR’s news release added.
According to Stein, the SPLC, via its website, including the site’s homepage, “overtly [tried] to directly discredit Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” repeatedly alleging that “Trump was unworthy of voter support.”
Stein added that the SPLC “used its tried-and-true formula of opinion-based smears and innuendos . . . to engage in blatant political activity masquerading as ‘teaching tolerance.’ ” FAIR’s complaint to the IRS therefore reiterates that “smearing by association” is a “primary” SPLC technique.
SPLC Electioneering Examples
FAIR cited what it called “flagrant examples of electioneering” that appeared on two SPLC regular online reports, “Hatewatch” and “The Intelligence Report,” during the presidential primary and the general campaign:
- On Oct. 2, 2015, “Hatewatch” published “How the Candidates, the Haters, and the Media Have Cooked Up a Perfect Storm of Islamophobia.” The article mainly focused on Trump’s comments and positions, and charged Trump has “demonstrated how the fires of bigotry . . . keep escalating.”
- The July 6, 2016 SPLC “Intelligence Report” featured a 13-page article by SPLC staffer Stephen Piggott titled “Hate in the Race,” which begins, “A remarkable level of vitriol has characterized the Republican contest for president.” The article, according to FAIR, contained at least 41 distinct unlawful and highly negative statements attacking then-Republican Party candidate and nominee Donald Trump or his campaign staff and supporters, and 14 similar distinct unlawful statements attacking former GOP candidate Ted Cruz.
- A May 11, 2016 Hatewatch article titled “Donald Trump’s Continuing White Nationalist Problem,” also by Piggott, vaguely linked Trump to so-called white nationalists. The undefined term was “intended to discredit Mr. Trump as a presidential candidate,” FAIR says.
- And on May 6, 2016, after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, a Hatewatch article by SPLC contributing writer David Neiwert was posted, headlined “Right-Wing Extremists Hail the Ascension of ‘Emperor Trump’ as GOP Nominee.”
IRS rules say organizations are not deemed educational if their “principal function is the mere presentation of unsupported opinion,” if they “fail to provide a factual foundation for the viewpoint or position being advocated,” or if they lack a “full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts” that “permit[s] an individual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion.”
Furthermore, organizations under the educational banner “must be organized and continuously operated for instructing the public on subjects useful to the individual and beneficial to the public,” FAIR explained, adding: “The SPLC, however, made numerous sweeping, opinion-based statements about the current president during his 2016 campaign, accusing him of being ‘embraced by right-wing extremists,’ ‘helping drive mainstream interest to racist memes,’ and manufacturing a ‘climate of fear’ which might ‘ultimately lead to [hate-based] violence.’ ”
Mark Anderson is a longtime newsman now working as the roving editor for AFP. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.