Two Utah media outlets have launched a smear campaign against Rep. Stephen Sandstrom (R-Orem) over his indirect association with an immigration reform group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Salt Lake Tribune story entitled "Utah immigration bill alleged to have ties to extremist groups" is bad enough. But worse yet is a story by KSL Channel 5 entitled "Utah Rep. met with affiliate of alleged hate group". The provocative titles of these stories have the effect of wrongfully portraying Rep. Sandstrom as an extremist and a hatemonger.
The issue: Last spring, while engaging in research for his Arizona-style immigration restriction bill, Rep. Sandstrom met with Michael Hethmon, the general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute on at least two occasions. However, the Immigration Reform Law Institute just happens to be the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which was designated a "hate group" by the SPLC three years ago on the strength of writings, quotes and correspondence made by FAIR’s founder, John Tanton. So, using the slippery slope theory, the media is attempting to establish a connection with Rep. Sandstrom.
In response, Rep. Sandstrom said he had never heard of Tanton, never heard anything racist coming from Hethmon in their conversations and that he was unaware of the hate-group designation slapped on FAIR. Rep. Sandstrom also reiterated that his bill is free of racist intent or provisions; the twelve-page draft is still available HERE.
FAIR founder John Tanton also responded to the Tribune story. Tanton noted that the SPLC needs to list groups like FAIR as "hate groups" in order to continue to raise money, and it is simply tarring him with a broad brush by using writings from decades ago to make a case against him and FAIR.
The problem: At one time, the SPLC had some credibility when it focused on dangerous misfits who used racism and white nationalism as nothing more than protective cover for personal hooliganism. But then they began casting their nets wider. They began targeting right-wing "extremists" in general. First, they went after immigration-control advocates like ALIPAC and FAIR. Then they went after patriots such as Chuck Baldwin. But more recently, they've launched an all-out assault upon the pro-family lobby. In their Winter 2010 Intelligence Report, the SPLC targeted 18 different pro-family groups, and designated 13 of them to be official "hate" groups, including the Family Research Council. But they may have over-reached themselves with this latest caper; on December 15th, 2010, the Family Research Council (FRC) announced the placement of a full-page open letter in print editions of Politico and the Washington Examiner responding to the SPLC's recent attacks on FRC and other pro-family groups (a copy of the letter is also posted HERE). Among the signatories are 23 members of Congress and three governors.
This means the SPLC is now on Congress' radar screen. It is not inconceivable that a committee of the newly-Republican U.S. House could decide to launch an investigation of the SPLC and subpoena its officials to provide records and testimony to such a committee. Such an investigation would be long overdue, and could cause the welcome demise of these predators. The SPLC has damaged or destroyed the reputations of far too many innocent people to be allowed to continue its existence.