GuideStar USA—a nonprofit organization that, in effect, polices other nonprofits by publishing pertinent data about their funding and tax status—recently joined the FBI and the U.S. Army in distancing itself from the Southern Poverty Law Center. However, GuideStar has left open the possibility they will once more become yoked to the increasingly discredited leftist group. This would be a very bad move and the end of GuideStar’s respectability.
GuideStar publishes information about other non-profits, most importantly their 990 tax returns. This allows donors, reporters and others easily to check the financial health of groups, names of board members, amount spent on programs and fundraising. Every federally registered nonprofit is listed with GuideStar. It is an invaluable service. And nonpartisan, too, until recently.
GuideStar CEO Jacob Harold quite foolishly decided to smear as hate-groups, those nonprofits listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center for opposing gay marriage, illegal immigration, sharia law and other culture war issues. Jacob put a warning across the top of the GuideStar listing page of 46 groups accused of “hate” by SPLC for the crime of holding to a different perspective than that of the SPLC on certain social or political issues. For a time, when a prospective donor went to the GuideStar page of Family Research Council (FRC), for instance, the very first thing they saw was the SPLC logo and the warning that FRC is a hate group. This did not last for long.
Quite reasonably, FRC and many similarly smeared groups were unhappy about it. There were behind the scenes meetings with Jacob Harold. There was bad press from respected outlets including The Wall Street Journal, and the Philanthropy Roundtable making the case that GuideStar really stepped in it and certainly did not want the stink of the Southern Poverty Law Center to rub off on this otherwise fine group.
SPLC keeps a blacklist of groups with which hey disagree on policy issues. They do not want the media talking to them or donors giving to them. Like all blacklists, the purpose is to stifle debate and silence dissent in a way not dissimilar to the purposes (even if the tactics are more subtle) of groups like the Black Bloc demonstrators who are burning cars and smashing windows, and those students shouting down speakers.
Traditionally, the SPLC list included bona fide hate groups like the KKK and Aryan Nation. Given that those truly vile groups, have shriveled to a near-nothing, you might think that SPLC would declare victory and go home. Instead, the SPLC search the landscape for other issues and groups with which to frighten loopy leftists into coughing more money to add to its already massive $350 million bank account. They settled on Christian groups and groups that oppose illegal immigration or oppose radical Islam. Hey, activists have to eat, too, and build fancy office buildings!
The SPLC list is not a safe place to be. An SPLC supporter recently used their list to target and then invade the downtown Washington, D.C. offices of the Family Research Council. He had a gun and a mass-murderous intent. He was stopped by a security guard but only after shooting up the lobby and wounding the guard. The Scalise shooter a few weeks ago in Alexandria, Virginia was a public fan of SPLC, too.
Jacob Harold of GuideStar is a leftwing activist. He has spent time working on environmental issues at the pro-abortion Hewlett Foundation and actually put pictures of himself at the pro-abortion and anti-Trump “women’s march” on Twitter. He likes to think of himself as above the fray, neutral, and balanced. The fact that he partnered, even briefly, with SPLC shows he is either naïve, uninformed, tone-deaf, or ideological. In fact, he is probably all four.
The good news is that within a few weeks of adding the SPLC smear to his website, Harold issued a statement saying they were keeping the smears but would be putting them in a less auspicious place. A few days later, he caved altogether but smeared the groups even more by charging the decision was made under threat from anonymous callers. He also said the pause may be temporary and the smears might go back up.
Here is Jacob Harold’s problem. Christian groups have chosen not to go after SPLC for its defamation because they do not have time and money to go after a $350 million behemoth staffed by a few hundred lawyers. But, GuideStar is not so protected. They have maybe $2 million in the bank. Moreover, they have a reputation to protect. It may be highly unlikely that GuideStar donors, board members, and friends in Congress will look kindly upon them spending time and treasure making SLPC’s fight their own.
Jacob Harold and his board came to their senses and pulled away from SPLC. It would be wise for them to keep it that way.