Sen. Cotton Seeks IRS Investigation Into SPLC's Tax-Exempt Status

Cotton sent letter to IRS Tuesday urging immediate action

Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton / Getty Images
April 2, 2019

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) is seeking an investigation into the tax-exempt status of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), according to a letter provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

Cotton sent the letter to the IRS April 2 and urges an investigation into whether the SPLC "should retain its classification as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization" amid news reports that have verified the "long-established fact that the SPLC regularly engages in defamation of its political opponents."

The SPLC has garnered massive amounts of cash for its operations. The Washington Free Beacon reported in early March that the group has $518 million in assets, with $120 million now offshore.

"The business model has paid well," Cotton writes in the letter. "The SPLC has accrued more than $500 million in assets. According to the group's most recent financial statement, it holds $121 million offshore in non-U.S. equity funds. The SPLC uses these assets to pay its executives lavish salaries far higher than the comparable household average."

Cotton also references a CNN report that states the organization "suffers from a pervasive racism culture." Its co-founder, Morris Dees, was recently fired over inner turmoil among its treatment of its workers. Richard Cohen, the group's president, has also stepped down.

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

"Engaging in systematic defamation is not a tax-exempt purpose: Federal law requires nonprofits classified as 501(c)(3) organizations to comply with IRS guidelines and have a "tax-exempt purpose," Cotton writes.

Cotton goes on to speak of the SPLC's "hate map", which regularly lists mainstream conservative groups including the Family Research Council, the Alliance for Defending Freedom, and the Center for Immigration Studies alongside actual racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

"The SPLC operates a tax-sheltered slush fund to enrich its leadership: In addition to failing to have a tax-exempt purpose, the SPLC's peculiar financial situation warrants your attention," the letter reads. "Federal law prohibits tax-exempt organizations from inuring to the benefit of any private individual. Yet the SPLC has accrued more than $500 million in assets as of October 31, 2018. Reportedly and inexplicably, $121 million of these assets are parked in offshore accounts."

Cotton finishes by saying its "shady financial practices" have earned the organization an "F" rating from Charity Watch and calling for an investigation into the group after a flood of recent reports.

Published under: SPLC , Tom Cotton