From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
FILE UNDER TACTICS
GREAT LAWSUITS IN HISTORY
CIVIL RIGHTS PROFITEER MORRIS DEES
SUCCESSFULLY SUES KKK FOR US$7 MILLION (1987)
UNITED KLANS OF AMERICA’S HEADQUARTERS (+ LAND)
AWARDED TO BEULAH MAE DONALD, MOTHER OF LYNCHED TEENAGE BOY
“…detailing the power and influence of the Southern Poverty Law Center and its controversial leader Morris Dees. Perhaps the SPLC’s most important contribution was its ability to make the legal case that the Klan as an organization could be held responsible for the violence of its members, opening the door to a host of prosecutions. Through well-publicized cases, the SPLC managed, among other feats, to shut down the United Klans of America, and it forced the FBI to open some of its secret Civil Rights files.”
“The UKA’s total assets amounted to a warehouse whose sale netted Mrs. Donald $51,875. According to a groundbreaking series of newspaper stories in the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC, meanwhile, made $9 million from fund-raising solicitations featuring the case, including one containing a photo of Michael Donald’s corpse.”
“Any good salesman knows that a products “value” is a highly mutable quality with little relation to actual worth, and Morris Dees-who made millions hawking, by direct mail, such humble commodities as birthday cakes, cookbooks (including Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers), tractor seat cushions, rat poison, and, in exchange for a mailing list containing 700,000 names, presidential candidate George McGovern-is nothing if not a good salesman. So good in fact that in 1998 the Direct Marketing Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame. “I learned everything I know about hustling from the Baptist Church,” Dees has said. “Spending Sundays on those hard benches listening to the preacher pitch salvation-why, it was like getting a Ph.D. in selling.””
CAN WE PLEASE START AN ARGUMENT ABOUT
“In the early 1960s, Morris Dees sat on the sidelines honing his direct-marketing skills and practicing law while the civil rights movement engulfed the South. “Morris and I…shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money,” recalls Dees’s business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller. “We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich.” They were so unparticular, in fact, that in 1961 they defended a man, guilty of beating up a journalist covering the Freedom Riders, whose legal fees were paid by the Klan. (“I felt the anger of a black person for the first time,” Dees later wrote of the case. “I vowed then and there that nobody would ever again doubt where I stood.”) In 1965, Fuller sold out to Dees, donated the money to charity, and later started Habitat for Humanity.
Dees bought a 200-acre estate appointed with tennis courts, a pool, and stables, and, in 1971, founded the SPLC, where his compensation has risen in proportion to fund-raising revenues, from nothing in the early seventies to $273,000 last year. A National Journal survey of salaries paid to the top officers of advocacy groups shows that Dees earned more in 1998 than nearly all of the seventy-eight listed, tens of thousands more than the heads of such groups as the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Children’s Defense Fund. The more money the SPLC receives, the less that goes to other civil rights organizations, many of which, including the NAACP, have struggled to stay out of bankruptcy.
Dees’s compensation alone amounts to one quarter the annual budget of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which handles several dozen death-penalty cases a year. “You are a fraud and a conman,” the Southern Center’s director, Stephen Bright, wrote in a 1996 letter to Dees, and proceeded to list his many reasons for thinking so, which included “your failure to respond to the most desperate needs of the poor and powerless despite your millions upon
millions, your fund-raising techniques, the fact that you spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself so shamelessly.” Soon the SPLC win move into a new six-story headquarters in downtown Montgomery, just across the street from its current headquarters, a building known locally as the Poverty Palace.”
INCENTIVE IS THE HEART OF ECONOMICS