The Corner

Politics & Policy

Amazon’s Foolish Collaboration with the Southern Poverty Law Center

Amazon boxes stacked for delivery in New York City (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The next time you buy something from Amazon (I say “the next time” because there’s really no point using the conditional tense anymore when it comes to our collective patronage of this company as a species), you’ll be asked if you want to make a donation to a charity under the auspices of their “Amazon Smile” program. This donation won’t cost you a thing. Amazon themselves donate 0.5 percent of the cost all eligible products to the charity of your choice if you opt into “Smile,” and over $160 million has been raised so far through this program for various charities across the world. The only shortcoming of this otherwise laudable venture is that Amazon have outsourced the decision-making process for which nonprofits are eligible for Smile to the extremely dubious Southern Poverty Law Center. 

For those who do not know, the SPLC is a legal-advocacy organization that tries to police the Overton Window of acceptable discourse in the United States. They are notorious for their famous list of “hate groups,” which names nonprofits like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American College of Pediatricians alongside groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam. The SPLC’s promiscuous proclivity for damning any group or individual to the right of Samantha Bee on social issues now restricts the ability of Amazon’s customers to donate to nonprofit organizations of their choice. It’s somewhat baffling that Amazon would choose to place their flagship charitable enterprise under the yoke of the SPLC given that its reputation has been in free-fall for some time, and not only in the eyes of those on the right. The nonprofit watchdog CharityWatch gives the SPLC an F, its lowest grade, on account of the fact that it has over six and a half years worth of available assets in reserve. Philanthropy Roundtable, another nonprofit-monitoring group, has this to say about the group’s financial structure. 

Its two largest expenses are propaganda operations: creating its annual lists of “haters” and “extremists,” and running a big effort that pushes “tolerance education” through more than 400,000 public-school teachers. And the single biggest effort undertaken by the SPLC? Fundraising. On the organization’s 2015 IRS 990 form it declared $10 million of direct fundraising expenses, far more than it has ever spent on legal services.

The National Center for Public Policy Research sent a petition to Amazon’s board of directors opposing of the SPLC and also spearheaded a shareholder resolution on viewpoint discrimination in May during one of Amazon’s shareholder meetings. Unfortunately, the resolution was defeated. After the meeting, Justin Danhof, director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research, said, “Today, Amazon’s board of directors publicly and unequivocally endorsed viewpoint discrimination against Christian and conservative organizations.” 

The SPLC has consistently attempted to employ the strategy of legal and moral excommunication of its enemies that was so justly successful for the civil-rights movement in the 1960s. The 1964 Civil Rights Act used the coercive force of law to restrain the interests of those who opposed the advancement of African-Americans in every sphere of public life. The problem is that groups like the SPLC have become intoxicated by this strategy of binding and loosing behaviors and opinions in the public square using the force of law. Because this method was so effective in subduing the menace of the KKK, for example, these groups are now attempting to operationalize the same tactics against all who oppose the social and political policies of the Left. Conservatives need to demonstrate in courts of law, at the ballot box, and by the way they treat their neighbors that this kind of moral equivalency between the institutionalized prejudices of the past and right-of-center politics in the present is thoroughly unpersuasive and will not yield the results that the hard Left hopes it will.   

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