IRLI Offers Professional Services to Assist SPLC in Morris Dees Investigation

Press Releases

March 18, 2019

Employee allegations of widespread sexual harassment, racial discrimination “highly disturbing”

WASHINGTON—The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has offered its legal and investigative resources to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the wake of that organization’s firing of co-founder Morris Dees.

Dees’ termination coincided with the reporting of allegations by SPLC employees that a systemic culture of sexual harassment and race-based discrimination has existed in the organization over many years. The employees reportedly demanded an investigation into what they charged was a cover-up of Dees’ conduct, and SPLC leadership has promised an investigation by an outside firm.

IRLI has stepped forward and volunteered to be the outside firm to handle the investigation. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public service law firm, IRLI has a team of seasoned lawyers and investigators ready to assist the SPLC in auditing its work environment that is allegedly hostile to women and minorities.

“As defenders of the American worker, especially the vulnerable and oppressed, we at IRLI find the allegations of sexual harassment and race-based discrimination at the SPLC to be highly disturbing,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “When mission creep and overreach occur in an organization, organizational dysfunction is the result. It is urgent for the SPLC to engage an outside investigative firm with a reputation for integrity. As a result, we will deploy all of our investigative resources to lead the investigation and do a top-to-bottom review.”

The SPLC has gained notoriety and criticism in recent years for its “hate map,” a list of organizations alleged to spread hateful rhetoric against groups including illegal aliens, racial minorities and members of the LGBT community.

Last year the SPLC paid a settlement of $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz’s Quilliam Foundation after admitting to falsely labeling his advocacy organization as an extremist group.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) disciplinary counsel fulsomely reprimanded an SPLC attorney, as well as attorneys from its partner-organizations, for “frivolous behavior” when they used “derogatory name-calling” in court proceedings. DOJ stated that the involved attorneys lacked professionalism, abused the briefing process, and failed to aid the administration of justice.

The FBI and U.S. Department of Defense have recently distanced themselves from the SPLC. And over the last few years, the group’s “shoot-first, debate-never” approach has been skewered by a number of outlets, including Philanthropy Roundtable, Harpers, Counterpunch, Weekly Standard, Huffington Post, Reason, Washington Times, and Foreign Policy.

Charity Watch, a not-for-profit watchdog, has for years given the SPLC an overall rating of “F” because of the SPLC’s extraordinarily high asset levels that were not spent on program services.

Our concern stems from an honest desire to see the SPLC return to its original purpose of assisting the poor with legal services.

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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