U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Accountability Committee chairman U.S. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) is leading an investigation into Montgomery-based left-wing activist organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its influence on federal bureaucrats.
Comer authored a letter to U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Secretary Miguel Cardona on Monday requesting all communication between the USDE and the SPLC in hopes of determining the frequency with which federal employees use the information provided by the SPLC, which Comer accused of being discriminatory against Americans with differing political views.
The SPLC has long faced criticism and accusations of hypocrisy, fostering a toxic work environment and using its influence to promote progressive ideological goals. It has faced several defamation lawsuits over the past three decades. Much of the criticism has revolved around its "hate map," which purports to list "hate and antigovernment groups" in the United States.
Conservatives have taken issue with the SPLC for including groups with standard conservative beliefs on the same list as violent, racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. In 2020, the Republican National Committee approved a resolution to condemn the law center's standards for identifying hate groups.
A report last week from the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government accused FBI analysts of knowingly using untrustworthy sources in categorizing certain Catholic groups as potential domestic terrorists earlier this year. One of these sources was the SPLC.
The FBI previously admitted to having "forged partnerships" with the SPLC and other left-wing organizations "to establish rapport, share information, address concerns and cooperate in solving problems." However, the federal agency no longer includes the statement on its website.
The SPLC is also currently involved in a lawsuit from Dustan Inman Society (DIS) President D.A. King of Georgia, who is suing the SPLC because it labeled the DIS an "anti-immigrant hate group" on its website.
A federal judge refused a request by the SPLC to drop King's defamation case in May.
This isn't the first time the SPLC has faced legal trouble over categorizing extremists. The organization reached a settlement with the Quilliam Foundation's Maajid Nawaz in 2018 for wrongly including him on an "anti-Muslim extremist" list.
Earlier this year, the SPLC came under fire for placing certain parental rights groups on the "hate map," including Moms for Liberty.
"The SPLC has weaponized its designation of 'hate group' to target conservative persons, organizations, and non-profits who hold opposing viewpoints or policy positions," Comer wrote in the letter. "In 2019, a federal judge concluded that the SPLC's 'hate group' label does not 'depend upon objective data or evidence' and described the designation as 'an entirely subjective inquiry.' Despite this subjective slant, SPLC's labels have been used in the private sector as a basis for decisions to exclude partnerships with certain groups."
Nevertheless, Comer pointed out that visitor records for the White House suggest officials met with SPLC personnel at least 11 times over the past three years. In January, SPLC's Intelligence Project Director Susan Corke met with National Security counterterrorism director John Picarelli.
"The Committee is concerned and seeks to understand the extent of engagement, influence and the impact of SPLC within your Department as well as any steps you may be taking to mitigate against it," stated Comer. "The American people have a right to know how extensively federal employees are utilizing or disseminating flawed and subjective information that effectively discriminates against them for their First Amendment protected political views."
1819 News contacted the SPLC about Comer's claims but received no response.
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