Emails Expose Southern Poverty Law Center Collaboration with DOJ

Judicial Watch (JW), a Washington D.C. based non-partisan educational foundation, released some two dozen pages of emails it obtained on Tuesday revealing connections between the Department of Justice Civil Rights and Tax divisions and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). 

According to JW, the e-mails reveal “questionable behavior by agency personnel while negotiating for Southern 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:

The Judicial Watch FOIA request was prompted by an apparently politically motivated shooting at the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters in August, 2012. At the time of the shooting, FRC president Tony Perkins accused the SPLC of sparking the shooting, saying the shooter “was given a license to shoot… by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations as hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy.” On its website, the SPLC has depicted FRC as a hate group,” along with such mainstream conservative organizations as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, and Coral Ridge Ministries.

The FOIA request specifically requested “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.

JW says that they filed the request to see if any of SPLC’s branding of hate groups had an influence on government agencies. According to the emails SPLC’s diversity speech “was to be simulcast to everyone’s PC throughout the Department” which fulfilled DOJ supervisors’ “mandatory annual diversity training.”

The emails produced by the DOJ show communications 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, in a press release. 

“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,” Fitton claimed.

The Obama Justice Department worked with other left-wing interest groups in the past. JW revealed documents showing the DOJ collaborating with the NAACP in 2009 when the Justice Department dismissed the voter intimidation lawsuit filed against the New Black Panther Party. The Department of Justice was also found to be working with the ACORN-connected Project Vote prior the 2012 election.


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