Two leaders of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Richard Cohen and Heidi Beirich, have been sued in federal court in Washington, D.C., by the Center for Immigration Studies under the nation’s organized crime law for “falsely” designating CIS as a “hate group.”
The civil case filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act charges they have violated federal wire fraud and other laws. It alleges a “pattern of racketeering through SPLC enterprise” and seeks a judgment of three times the damages to CIS as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
It also seeks an order “prohibiting defendants from again calling CIS a hate group and requiring defendants to state on the SPLC website that CIS is not a hate group.”
It’s just the latest legal action against SPLC, which has expanded its battle against white supremacists to organizations and individuals that support traditional marriage, branding them as “haters” and “bigots.”
CIS said it’s citing the RICO statute because Cohen and Beirich “have been carrying out their scheme to destroy CIS through the SPLC ‘enterprise’ for two years and will not stop without judicial intervention.”
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of CIS, said his group “does not hate immigrants or anyone else.”
“Our purpose is to make the case for a pro-immigrant policy of lower immigration – fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted. SPLC attacks us simply because it disagrees with these policy views.
“SPLC and its leaders have every right to oppose our work on immigration, but they do not have the right to label us a hate group and suggest we are racists. The Center for Immigration Studies is fighting back against the SPLC smear campaign and its attempt to stifle debate through intimidation and name-calling.”
Cohen respond to the lawsuit in a statement released by SPLC.
“The Center for Immigration Studies richly deserves the hate group label,” he said. “It has a history of making racially inflammatory statements, associating with white nationalists, and circulating the work of racist writers. Its lawsuit is nothing more than a heavy-handed effort to try to silence us from exercising our First Amendment right to express our opinion. We look forward to defending ourselves in court.”
CIS said its complaint makes clear that SPLC knows CIS does not meet its own definition of a “hate group.”
SPLC describes a hate group as an organization whose “official statements or principles … attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
“CIS has not attacked or maligned immigrants. Moreover, the Supreme Court has held that being an immigrant is not an immutable characteristic because it is the result of a personal choice,” CIS reported. “CIS regularly opposes higher levels of immigration for sound public policy reasons, not because of any animus toward immigrants as human beings. CIS hopes this lawsuit will cause Mr. Cohen and Ms. Beirich to turn their attention to actual cases of racial animus.”
CIS described how the SPLC’s “Intelligence Report” operates. Founded in 1981 it says it monitors what it describes as radical-right hate groups and extremists.
“Additionally, the SPLC began circulating a list of ‘hate groups’ in 1990, which it updates annually. In 1996, the SPLC started Hatewatch, a program designed to monitor these groups online. Hatewatch began as a newsletter and evolved into a blog, with entries on the SPLC website dating back to 2009. Currently, the SPLC includes 953 groups on its hate list.”
CIS confirmed Mark Potok, the Intelligence Report’s former editor-in-chief, “once admitted during a speech, ‘I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.'”
While many conservative organizations that have policies no more offensive than the constitutionally protected view that marriage is between one man and one woman are identified as “haters,” there are no groups on the political left on the list.
The report said SPLC has a war chest of $477 million, including an endowment of $432 million. Part of that total is $69 million in assets parked overseas in the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
CIS said: “In 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II entered the lobby of the Family Research Council, a Christian nonprofit charity and lobbying group based in Washington D.C., with a 9mm pistol and shot an FRC employee, before being wrestled to the ground until police arrived.
“When interviewed by the FBI, Corkins admitted he intended to kill the staff and said, ‘Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups. I found them online.’ On its website, the SPLC has a map displaying the locations of all ‘hate groups’ in the country, which includes the FRC’s headquarters where Corkins entered. The SPLC responded by saying that the FRC deserved to be labeled a hate group because it ‘has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda.'”
Author and pundit John Stossel once said the SPLC was a hate group itself.
The complaint charges: “The SPLC has produced no evidence that the ‘statements’ of CIS ‘leaders’ or ‘activities’ of CIS reveal ‘beliefs or practices’ that ‘malign or attack’ immigrants as a class. The information that is provided by CIS on the consequences of immigration is ordinarily based on official federal government statistics. To the extent information provided by CUS supports reductions in legal or illegal immigration, such reductions are consistent with the recommendations of the bipartisan Commission on Immigration Reform appointed by President Clinton…”
It continues, “To carry out this conspiracy, Cohen agreed that Beirich would create a designated category for CIS on its Hatewatch website pages and oversee an ongoing stream of obloquy reiterating that CIS was a hate group.”
It said CIS was damaged financially because the AmazonSmile program, through which donations came to CIS, cut off the organization after being told of the SPLC designation.
“The defendants’ scheme to falsely designate CIS a hate group and destroy it involved racketeering actions, violations of the federal wire fraud statute … These attacks are ongoing and will continue. Thus, they constitute an open-ended pattern of racketeering.”
SPLC recently was sued by a lawyer who claims SPLC paid for stolen documents in an attempt to get him fired and destroy his future work prospects.
A previous case brought against SPLC was settled by a payment of more than $3 million to Maajid Nawaz and his Quilliam Foundation, who sued after SPLC put them on its “hate” list.
As many as six dozen other organizations are considering similar cases against SPLC.
The lawyer’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland by Baltimore lawyer Glen K. Allen against SPLC, and Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok.
That lawsuit alleges: “Motivated by lucrative fundraising aims and employing fundraising techniques decried across the political spectrum as deceptive, the SPLC’s avowed goal, under the leadership of Beirich, Potok, and others, is to destroy, through public shaming, loss of employment, loss of reputation and other severe harms, groups and persons the SPLC broadly defines as its political enemies.”
The complaint contends they are not entitled to “receive, pay for, and use stolen documents, including confidential documents and documents protected by attorney client privilege, to tortiously interfere with Allen’s prospective advantage in employment; to defame him by publishing false statements that he was ‘infiltrating’ the city of Baltimore’s Law Department; or to masquerade as a 501c3 public interest law firm dedicated to a tax exempt educational mission, when in reality the SPLC fails the basic requirements for this favored status because of its illegal actions (including numerous instances of mail and wire fraud), multiple violations of canons of professional ethics (including improper disclosure of confidential and privileged documents and failure to train its nonlawyer employees), orchestration of violations of the constitutional rights of the organizations and individuals it targets, and sensational supermarket tabloid style one-sided depictions of its victims.”
The filing accuses SPLC of “ritual defamation,” which it calls “a way of harming and isolating people by denying their humanity and trying to convert them into something that deserves to be hated and eliminated.”