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Many of you out there have no doubt received in the mail desperate cries for help from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the do-gooder group that does very little good considering the vast sums of money it raises. But before you pull out your checkbook, make sure to read the following letter that Stephen Bright, an Atlanta-based civil rights and anti-death penalty attorney, recently wrote in declining an invitation to an event that honors Morris Dees, head of the SPLC.
Kenneth C. Randall, Dean and
Thomas L. McMillan, Professor of Law
School of Law
University of Alabama
249 Law Center
101 Paul W. Bryan Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0382
Dear Dean Randall:
Thank you very much for the invitation to speak at the law school’s commencement in May. I am honored by the invitation, but regret that I am not able to accept it due to other commitments at that time.
I also received the law school’s invitation to the presentation of the “Morris Dees Justice Award,” which you also mentioned in your letter as one of the “great things” happening at the law school. I decline that invitation for another reason. Morris Dees is a con man and fraud, as I and others, such as U.S. Circuit Judge Cecil Poole, have observed and as has been documented by John Egerton, Harper’s, the Montgomery Advertiser in its “Charity of Riches” series, and others.
The positive contributions Dees has made to justice–most undertaken based upon calculations as to their publicity and fund raising potential–are far overshadowed by what Harper’s described as his “flagrantly misleading” solicitations for money. He has raised millions upon millions of dollars with various schemes, never mentioning that he does not need the money because he has $175 million and two “poverty palace” buildings in Montgomery. He has taken advantage of naive, well-meaning people–some of moderate or low incomes–who believe his pitches and give to his $175-million operation. He has spent most of what they have sent him to raise still more millions, pay high salaries, and promote himself. Because he spends so much on fund raising, his operation spends $30 million a year to accomplish less than what many other organizations accomplish on shoestring budgets.
The award does not recognize the work of others by associating them with Dees; it promotes Dees by associating him with the honorees. Both the law school and Skadden are diminished by being a part of another Dees scam.
Again, thank you for the invitation to participate in your commencement. I wish you and the law school the very best.
Stephen B. Bright
cc: Morris Dees
Dees award committee
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”