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The SPLC has been maligning conservatives for years. Sen. Tom Cotton wants an investigation of their tax status.


'The SPLC's defining characteristic is to fundraise off of defamation'

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A high-profile Senate conservative is calling on the Trump administration to look into the tax exempt status of an organization that has become infamous for maligning conservative organizations at "hate groups."

In a letter sent to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is urging an investigation of the Southern Poverty Law Center's tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization.

"Recent news reports have confirmed the long-established fact that the SPLC regularly engages in defamation of its political opponents," Cotton writes. "In fact, the SPLC's defining characteristic is to fundraise off of defamation."

While the group has spent decades touting itself for a go-to resource for the identification of racist and other extremist groups in the United States, and was trusted as such by the FBI until a few years ago, it has come under fire for including mainstream conservative organizations alongside groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

In past years the SPLC has labeled conservative organizations like the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Center for Immigration Studies as "hate groups" for their conservative positions on sex and marriage in the case of the first two or immigration in the case of the third.

The SPLC's designation of the Family Research Council was a key motivating factor behind an attempted terror attack on the organization in 2012.

Last year, the group agreed to pay a multi-million-dollar defamation settlement to Quilliam, an organization that fights Islamic extremism, after designating the outfit a "hate group." Around the same time the SPLC came under fire for its efforts to malign conservative educational nonprofit PragerU.

Things have gotten even worse for the organization over the past few weeks.

According to a recent tell-all in the New Yorker from a former staffer, the group's primary goal is to bilk wealthy donors out of their money through "hyperbolic fund-raising appeals" that give the impression of an honest effort to combat bigotry.

Cotton's letter also points to the group's recent problems, including allegations of misconduct and discrimination within the organization, which have led to the firing and resignation of two of the organization's founders in recent weeks.

A recent story at CNN details what some employees call a "systemic culture of racism and sexism within its workplace."

"Based on these reports, and in the interest of protecting taxpayer dollars from a racist and sexist slush fund devoted to defamation," Cotton's letter concludes, "I believe that the SPLC's conduct warrants a serious and thorough investigation."

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