Immigration group reported SPLC attacks on Trump to IRS. Guess what happened next

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pose for a photo in front of the statue of Saint John Paul II before participating in a wreath laying ceremony Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. (Official White House photo by Andrea Hanks)

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pose for a photo in front of the statue of Saint John Paul II before participating in a wreath laying ceremony Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. (Official White House photo by Andrea Hanks)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

By Tyler O’Neil
The Daily Signal

A recent interview with the leader of an immigration reform organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded a “hate group” potentially shines new light on how the SPLC allegedly uses its “hate” accusations as a tactical political weapon.

Throughout the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity, condemned candidate Donald Trump for his supposed ties to “far-right extremists.”

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The following year, an immigration group helped report this to the IRS, claiming the SPLC had violated its tax-exempt status by engaging in political activity against Trump, and the SPLC appears to have responded by adding that group to its “hate map” in what the immigration group calls an act of retaliation.

“It was direct retaliation,” Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, and chairman of the board of directors of its affiliated legal organization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, told The Daily Signal in an interview this week.

In November 2016, the Immigration Reform Law Institute announced that it would represent FAIR in an official complaint to the IRS that claimed the SPLC had violated its tax-exempt status.

FAIR, founded in 1979 by self-declared liberals, conservatives, and moderates as an organization aimed at opening debate on immigration issues, became an SPLC target in 2007, when the center branded it an “anti-immigrant hate group.” The SPLC had kept the FAIR-affiliated Immigration Reform Law Institute off the list, however. The 2015 list of “hate groups,” published in February 2016, also included FAIR but not the institute. The 2016 “hate group” list, released in February 2017, featured the institute for the first time—just months after it announced it would file the complaint.

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FAIR then filed its IRS complaint with the Immigration Reform Law Institute’s help in April 2017.

In 2018, the SPLC launched a 501(c)(4) organization that can legally participate in election-related activities, SPLC Action.

The SPLC went way over the line in this last election,” Stein said at the time in a statement on the filing. “It publicly engaged in deep, deliberate, and unlawful participation during the 2016 presidential election cycle, flagrantly violating its nonprofit tax status.”

FAIR’s complaint stretched to 38 pages, citing numerous examples of SPLC’s articles on Trump. “The SPLC used politically charged language in its publications and statements as well as linked publications in a blatant effort to stir opposition for prospective Republican presidential candidates and the eventual Republican nominee and influence the electoral decisions of voters nationwide,” the complaint stated. It presented “overt smears that sought to tie President Trump to ‘white supremacists,’ nationalists, and antigovernment conspiracists.”

“Clearly, the primary goal of the SPLC in 2016 was to ensure that Donald J. Trump was not elected president,” Stein said. “Any honest examination of this record can only lead to the conclusion that the SPLC was engaged in ongoing prohibited political activity.”

The SPLC did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on the IRS complaint and on the decision to add the Immigration Reform Law Institute to the “hate map.”

The IRS declined to comment on the complaint, saying that federal law precludes any employee from commenting on tax statuses.

“Under the federal tax law, federal employees cannot disclose tax return information, including whether there’s an investigation or not,” Anthony Burke, public affairs specialist at the IRS, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

Stein described the SPLC adding the institute to the “hate map” as a “retaliatory strike.”

He noted that he founded the institute in 1986 as the law institute affiliated with FAIR. “It had been around 20 years before it got labeled” by the SPLC.

As I wrote in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC weaponized the program it used to bankrupt KKK groups in the 1980s, turning it against mainstream conservative and Christian organizations. Its “hate map” suggests conservatives and Christians are similar to the Klan by listing mainstream organizations alongside largely defunct KKK groups. The “hate map” inspired a terrorist attack at the Family Research Council in 2012.

FAIR, which consciously appealed to Republicans, Democrats, and moderates, became an early mainstream target of the SPLC back in 2007.

“We were really the first victim of this whole scam,” Stein told The Daily Signal.

Although FAIR had been around since 1979, Stein claims the SPLC decided to put FAIR on the “hate map” in retaliation for the failure of the 2007 immigration bill during the George W. Bush administration.

“FAIR took a lot of blame in the Left’s eyes for the failure of that bill,” he said. The SPLC’s 2007 announcement that it had branded FAIR an “anti-immigrant hate group” “seemed totally retaliatory in our view.”

Stein said the SPLC and others blamed FAIR for “the loss of a bill they thought would be a massive extinction event for the Republican Party.”

He noted that liberals had criticized the SPLC at the time, and the group was seeking to make itself relevant. “Civil rights groups were saying that SPLC was a vacuum cleaner, sucking up all the money and doing nothing,” Stein said. “They were really flailing around, looking for a way to maintain relevance and prove that they had some purpose in this world.”

“FAIR is the turning point of when the SPLC became the political attack dog for the radical Left and not just a broad consensus civil rights organization,” he added. “It turned into party apparatchiks who have been terribly destructive to the consensus-building, the public square.”

“SPLC has been the spearhead behind the destruction of the middle ground,” Stein said.

The SPLC’s attacks on FAIR focus a great deal on John Tanton, a former leader of the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood in Michigan who supported abortion in part because he prioritized environmental conservation and considered overpopulation a threat to preserving the environment. He grew to oppose immigration for these reasons and established FAIR as an organization to bring liberals and conservatives together to debate the issue. Of the five initial board members of the organization, he described only one as conservative and described himself and another board member as centrist and the other two as liberal.

FAIR’s board of directors has included financier Warren Buffett and former Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota.

Stein did not defend Tanton’s attacks on Roman Catholics and Hispanics, which became public after the release of a notorious 1986 memo. Stein noted that the memo did not represent an official FAIR position, and many members condemned it at the time.

“In evaluating how to characterize an organization, what is fair game is what the organization itself says and stands for, not the private comments or interests of individual board members or funders,” Stein told The Daily Signal.

The SPLC also attacked FAIR for receiving grants from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that funded eugenics research aiming to prove the superiority of certain races. Stein told The Daily Signal that the foundation “had funded tons of peer-reviewed scientific research on genetics and inherited characteristics through a variety of highly respected academic institutions, including a well-regarded study through Tel Aviv University and a twins study through the University of Michigan.”

“At no time did they ever require us to participate in activities that were inconsistent with our stated mission,” Stein added. “Moreover, FAIR had not received any funding from that foundation for over 14 years” when the SPLC attacked the federation.

FAIR opposes policies based on favoritism toward, or discrimination against, any person based on race, color, religion, or gender,” the mission statement reads, in part.

“Virtually all the attacks of any consequence unleashed by the SPLC in 2007 were based on material that was at least 15 years old,” Stein told The Daily Signal. “What prompted them to list us when they did has nothing to do with 95% of the things they were complaining about. Those things were out in the public square long before that.”

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

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