There is a lot of good information here, but I’d like to offer a clarification and an update.
1. Mr. Naylor is mistaken in calling Julian Bond a co-founder of the SPLC. Morris Dees and his law partner Joe Levin founded the SPLC in 1971. Dees describes how he crafted the Center’s first fundraising letter on page 132 his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice.
“Before we could ask for money, we had to establish credibility. We needed a prominent figure whose presence would announce the center’s values and promise. Julian Bond seemed the perfect choice.”
“I had never met Julian Bond. My friend Chuck Morgan… working for the ACLU… arranged a meeting in Atlanta. When I told [Bond] about our hopes and plans, he agreed to serve as president of the Law Center, a largely honorary position.”
Julian Bond had returned to college in 1971 and lived three hours away in Atlanta. It’s doubtful the “honorary president” made the six-hour commute on a regular basis.
Also, since Bond had never heard of Dees before, it seems unlikely that he would lend his hard-earned reputation to a completely unknown entity for free. Mr. Bond’s participation in the founding of the SPLC was strictly as a (presumably paid) celebrity endorsement.
Julian Bond had no more to do with running the SPLC than Michael Jordan has with running Hanes.
2. As for “bringing to justice those accused of racially based murders, lynchings, and beatings,” that’s a debatable point. The SPLC has launched several high profile civil suits against people who were already tried, convicted and incarcerated by the legal system, but they’ve never brought criminal proceedings against anyone.
It should be mentioned that, unlike criminal trials, where defendants “have the right to a court appointed attorney,” in civil cases they must provide legal defense out of their own pockets. Considering that most of them have been in prison for years, making 13 cents an hour, before the SPLC steps in, they are pretty much facing a multimillion dollar law firm on their own.
The usual script reads like this: The SPLC brings a civil suit against an incarcerated felon, sends out uncounted fundraising letters asking for support, wins damages in the millions of dollars of which the plaintiffs will see little or nothing, sends out uncounted fundraising letters and press releases praising their legal acumen and asking for support.
These are little more than very lucrative show trials.
3. To update Mr. Cockburn’s numbers, in 2013, Morris Dees was paying himself $354,727 a year, which does not include the $10,000 to $20,000 a pop he charges in “honoraria” for his frequent speaking engagements. Richard Cohen made $349,843.
In short, in the depths of the Great Recession, Morris Dees, who made his first million in 1964, gave himself a 30% pay hike, while Cohen, a largely silent partner, settled for a mere 21%.
Donors sent Mr. Dees more than $37 million tax-free dollars that year, on top of the $36 million in tax-free interest generated by the SPLC’s bloated $281 million-dollar “Morris Dees Legacy Fund.”
Financial figures for 2014 will be out in March and we’ll be there to review them.