Two leading Republican candidates in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race have pledged to investigate the federal government’s use of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-wing smear factory that recently put parental rights groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education on a “hate map” with chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.
Scott Parkinson, former chief of staff to the Ron DeSantis 2018 campaign in Florida who has received endorsements from U.S. senators and representatives across the country, and Jonathan Emord, a constitutional lawyer endorsed by libertarian leader Ron Paul, both pledged to investigate the leftist group’s ties to federal law enforcement, should they win the Senate race next year.
“What I think the oversight responsibilities of the federal government include but are not limited to is investigating groups like this that are effectively reaching out to use the powers that they have and the influence that they have within federal agencies to come after conservatives and retaliate either through the IRS or the Department of Justice,” Parkinson said.
“If they’re infringing upon the American people and their rights to free speech—the fact that the Justice Department is coming after parents’ groups—things should be on the table when it comes to ending that kind of behavior,” he added.
The FBI’s Richmond office notoriously cited the SPLC in a memo focused on “radical-traditional Catholic hate groups” in January. The FBI rescinded the memo after a whistleblower published it. As I wrote in my book “Making Hate Pay,” a former SPLC employee said the “hate” accusations were a “highly profitable scam” to bilk donors. The SPLC has weaponized its history of suing the KKK into bankruptcy by routinely branding mainstream conservative and Christian nonprofits “hate groups.”
As for the Justice Department, the DOJ released a memo investigating parents after the National School Boards Association sent a letter comparing parents to domestic terrorists in 2021. Later documents revealed that the White House had worked with the school board association to draft the letter.
While the DOJ ultimately rescinded the memo and the National School Boards Association apologized for the letter, the SPLC’s ties with the White House raise serious questions about coordination in targeting parental rights groups.
Emord told The Daily Signal that he would “absolutely” investigate the federal government’s use of the SPLC if he wins in 2024.
He said he would investigate “the weaponization of the FBI and the DOJ, which we know exists in spades, starting with the ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ hoax.” That “hoax” refers to the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into alleged ties between former President Donald Trump and Russia, based on flimsy evidence that has been discredited by multiple investigations, including most recently Special Counsel John Durham’s probe. A former FBI attorney pleaded guilty to charges of making a false statement by altering an email in submitting a surveillance application to a court, in a central aspect of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation.
“The collusion between the administration and private parties” like the SPLC contributes to “the creation of a two-tiered system of justice where conservatives are harassed, prosecuted, and censored, while those who are of the opposite political persuasion are protected even when they commit crimes,” Emord said. “We have to ferret it out, and find every tentacle that reaches out, and we have to sever every tentacle.”
“We have to remove, and where appropriate prosecute, every person who has acted with a political agenda to wrongly go after any citizen, including Donald Trump.”
Emord’s statement about conservatives getting harassed while those on the Left escape justice likely referred to the prosecution of pro-life protesters at abortion clinics—such as Mark Houck—while few of the vandals who targeted pro-life pregnancy centers have faced prosecution.
Emord also attacked Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democrat against whom these Republicans are running, for failing to condemn the FBI’s reliance on the SPLC.
In a statement to The Daily Signal in February, Kaine appeared to endorse the FBI memo’s central claim, that “radical-traditional Catholics” represented a threat.
“There is a memo suggesting that violent extremist groups are trying to infiltrate certain radical traditionalist Catholic organizations. That should be cause for concern,” Kaine told The Daily Signal in February.
“This is from a man who calls himself Catholic and supports abortion,” Emord said Wednesday. “The idea that there are white supremacists in the Catholic Church, influencing others to form some subversive group to attack minorities, is outrageous.”
“To investigate the church is a violation of the First Amendment,” the Republican candidate added. “What Kaine did by not condemning that mention of the FBI in Richmond is indicative of the fact that this man does not represent the rights of his fellow parishioners to freedom of religion.”
“Tim Kaine equates views that are conservative with racism,” Emord said.
Kaine’s office did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on these statements.
Eddie Garcia, a 22-year Army veteran who is also running against Kaine as a Republican, also condemned the SPLC.
“It’s disappointing that the SPLC, once founded on the noble causes of civil rights and advocating for the mistreated, has so dramatically shifted into such a politically partisan organization, which slanders, defames, and casts aspersions on working parents fighting to have a say in their children’s education,” Garcia told The Daily Signal. “The SPLC’s branding of parental rights organizations as ‘antigovernment extremist groups’ is a transparent ploy for political attention to raise funds from unsuspecting donors, demonstrating their continued irrelevance in today’s political discourse.”
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