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Tom Cotton calls for IRS to investigate Southern Poverty Law Center’s tax-exempt status

April 3, 2019 GMT

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, has called for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the liberal civil-rights group now struggling with allegations of racism and sexism.

“While IRS guidance lists several examples of tax-exempt purposes, engaging in defamation as a business model is of course not one of them,” said Mr. Cotton in a Tuesday letter.

The center, which boasts a $471 million endowment, has long been accused by conservatives of engaging in political attacks by placing well-known right-of-center groups on its “hate map” alongside the Ku Klux Klan.

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Last month, longtime leaders Morris Dees and Richard Cohen stepped down amid allegations of a toxic work environment, including reports that Mr. Dees engaged in sexual harassment, which he has denied, and that minority employees were placed almost exclusively in support roles.

The center named Tuesday former judge Karen Baynes-Dunning as interim CEO, making her the first black woman to head the organization.

Mr. Cotton said the SPLC, founded in 1971 and based in Montgomery, Alabama, is long overdue for a reevaluation of its nonprofit status.

“They were founded decades ago, and they claim that their role was to fund lawsuits to eliminate the Democrats’ system of Jim Crow and segregation,” Mr. Cotton said on Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “Now they’ve turned into just a serial defamer of their political opponents. That’s why the IRS needs to re-look at their tax-exempt status.”

The center had no immediate public comment on Mr. Cotton’s request for an investigation, but has defended its “hate map,” arguing that groups like the Family Research Council promote anti-LGBT views.

Today I asked the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a political hate group masquerading as a non-profit. Read my letter here:https://t.co/Wj5wadxnZ2 Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) April 2, 2019