published Sunday, March 14th, 2010

English license group slammed

NASHVILLE -- An Arlington, Va.-based group pushing for Tennessee driver's license exams to be given only in English has ties to the "racist founder of the modern anti-immigration movement," a researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center says.

Dr. John Tanton, the founding chairman of the group ProEnglish, "has bigoted beliefs about today's immigrants, nonwhite immigrants," said Dr. Heidi Beirich, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project director.

Last week, ProEnglish lobbyist Eddie V. Garcia testified in favor of House Bill 262 in the General Assembly. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, requires the written portion of driver's license exams be given only in English.

"This bill is about safety, safety on our roads," Mr. Garcia said. "A lot of people forget that driving is a privilege. It is not a right."

The House Public Safety Subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee approved the bill on a 4-1-1 vote.

In an e-mail Saturday, Mr. Garcia accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of using "smear" tactics.

Efforts to contact Rep. Watson, a Bradley County Sheriff's Department lieutenant who has emphasized motorists' safety and law enforcement hardship in promoting the legislation, were unsuccessful Friday afternoon and early Saturday. The proposed legislation is on the list of bills scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the House and Senate Transportation committees.

Sen. Dewayne Bunch, R-Cleveland, said Saturday he is sponsoring the Senate version at Rep. Watson's request and is meeting Monday with state Safety Department officials to "get educated" on testing procedures.

With regard to Dr. Tanton, Sen. Bunch said, "I don't know who you're talking of, and I doubt very seriously that Rep. Watson knows who you're speaking of. This is an issue I think that as a legislator you should listen to constituents."

He said he wants to learn more about what the state is doing to ensure roads are safe. At the same time, lawmakers want to "allow and encourage tourists and people who are coming here to safely operate on our roads. There's a delicate balance there."

U.S. Inc.

The Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center says its own mission includes monitoring racist activity and "hate" groups. Dr. Beirich said Dr. Tanton's umbrella group is an organization called U.S. Inc.

Several groups supported by Mr. Tanton are "hate groups," Dr. Beirich said, although she stopped short of labeling ProEnglish as such.

Dr. Beirich said Dr. Tanton, a retired eye surgeon from Michigan, "has like a 20- or 30-year track record of making racist statements, hanging out with Holocaust deniers, former Klansmen, racists, funding white supremacist organizations such as a group called American Renaissance."

"He believes there's a Latin onslaught occurring," she said. "He's concerned that Latinos aren't as educable as whites. He believes, and this is his own words, that if the European-American population continues to fall, American civilization will disappear."

She said groups like ProEnglish are "part of his effort to push back on the bad things he thinks immigrants are bringing here."

Dr. Tanton has previously defended himself from the Law Center's charges, which were first made in 2002, on his own Web site, calling them "cheap shots."

"I would certainly have no reservations about claiming credit for being the guy secretly manipulating U.S. immigration policy," he wrote.

He later noted that "the fact that there may be some misguided people who want to cut immigration, however, does not mean it is an inherently bad idea, any more than (Italian dictator) Mussolini's getting Italian trains to run on schedule serves as an argument against well-run railroads."

Businesses criticized

During his Tennessee subcommittee appearance, Mr. Garcia, who emigrated to America at age 3 with his parents, criticized businesses for opposing the bill.

Among companies opposing the measure is Germany-based Volkswagen Group of America, which is building a $1 billion plant in Chattanooga. State officials and businesses argue passage of the bill sends a bad message to the international community.

Mr. Garcia during his presentation scoffed at such assertions.

"They come because of the work ethic of Americans and that states like Tennessee are ready and willing to provide tax rebate credits and other economic incentives to get that company here," he said.

That and his talk about safety won quick applause from Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who told Mr. Garcia, "Buenos dias (good afternoon) Senor Garcia. Yo quiera (I want) safe highways. Bravo. Bravo."

Tennessee currently allows license applicants to take the written portion of the test in Spanish, Japanese, Korean and, in a nod to VW, German at the state's Red Bank service center.

In a Friday evening e-mail response to Dr. Beirich's charges about Dr. Tanton and his ties to ProEnglish, Mr. Garcia defended himself passionately, noting how "in our great country, we have the dignity and the ability to disagree not only amongst ourselves but with our government."

He recalled growing up in the U.S. where he was "often ridiculed" and called names, which he called a "pivotal force" in his desire to learn English.


Legislation requiring all written driver's license exams be given in English only is scheduled to be heard in the full Tennessee House and Senate Transportation committees Tuesday.


ProEnglish, founded in 1994 and based in Arlington, Va., is a member-supported, nonprofit organization that works to make English the official language of the United States.

"So if anyone even implies or insinuates that I am a racist, I will take them on to the fullest extent possible," Mr. Garcia said.

Georgia State Ethics Commission filings, meanwhile, show ProEnglish lobbyists have been active in the Georgia legislature which has and continues to consider similar driver's license testing legislation.

ProEnglish in 2009 was the prime financial backer of a referendum that sought to make English the "official language" of Metro Nashville government, according to news accounts.

Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said ProEnglish "almost excusively funded the English-only ballot intiative in Nashville, and that wasn't disclosed" until after the election.

The Tennessean newspaper reported the effort raised $84,467.76 for its campaign, with ProEnglish contributing $82,500.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Nashmusic said...

Despite emailing this reporter written evidence that this poverty center group is a questionable group whose sole purpose is to fundraise, Mr. Sher conveniently neglected to include what was proffered. Shame on you.

Here are several references or articles out there about the center and its founder/CEO M. Dees.

What is the arch-salesman of hate mongering, Mr. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, going to do now? Ever since 1971, U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with his fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC. Nine years ago, Ken Silverstein wrote a devastating commentary on Dees and the SPLC in Harper's, dissecting a typical swatch of Dees' solicitations. At that time, as Silverstein pointed out, the SPLC was "the wealthiest civil rights group in America," with $120 million inassets.

As of October 2008, the net assets of the SPLC were $170,240,129. The merchant of hate himself, Mr. Dees, was paid an annual $273,132 as chief trial counsel, and the SPLC's president and CEO, Richard Cohen, $290,193. Total revenue in 2007 was $44,727,257 and program expenses $20,804,536. In other words, the Southern Poverty Law Center was raising twice as much as it was spending on its proclaimed mission. Fundraising and administrative expenses accounted for $9 million, leaving $14 million to be put in the center's vast asset portfolio.


Financial IRS Form

March 14, 2010 at 3:48 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

Since this group and journalist opened the door to immigration reform, let's have a debate.

If and when we, as dedicated Americans, speak on and support meaningful immigration reform, does that make one a member of a hate group?

From the US Border Patrol website, "The roughly 6,400 Hispanic agents on duty in 2006 increased 45 percent to about 9,300 last month."

Does that make those Hispanic agents members of a hate group or that they support hate?

Come on people!

This is our country & we have the right to defend it & ensure & insist our borders are secure!!!!!!!

It is a shame that groups, organizations or journalists choose smear tactics and name-calling to justify their position. I guess it shows how desperate they really are.

Eddie Garcia

March 14, 2010 at 4:02 p.m.
Nashmusic said...


Today, the SPLC spends most of its time--and money--on a relentless fund-raising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit rider passing the collection plate. "He's the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement," renowned anti- death-penalty lawyer Millard Farmer says of Dees, his former associate, "though I don!t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye."

The Center earned $44 million last year alone--$27 million from fund-raising and $17 million from stocks and other investments--but spent only $13 million on civil rights program , making it one of the most profitable charities in the country.

In the early 1960s, Morris Dees sat on the sidelines honing his direct-marketing skills and practicing law while the civil rights movement engulfed the South. "Morris and I...shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money," recalls Dees's business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller (not to be confused with Millard Farmer). "We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich."

The more money the SPLC receives, the less that goes to other civil rights organizations, many of which, including the NAACP, have struggled to stay out of bankruptcy.

Dees's compensation alone amounts to one quarter the annual budget of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which handles several dozen death-penalty cases a year. "You are a fraud and a conman," the Southern Center's director, Stephen Bright, wrote in a 1996 letter to Dees, and proceeded to list his many reasons for thinking so, which included "your failure to respond to the most desperate needs of the poor and powerless despite your millions upon millions, your fund-raising techniques, the fact that you spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself so shamelessly."

Soon the SPLC win move into a new six-story headquarters in downtown Montgomery, just across the street from its current headquarters, a building known locally as the Poverty Palace.


March 14, 2010 at 4:13 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

I resent this reporter's assertion, implication, or suggestion that I support hate or racism because I choose to support HB 262.

As a young child, I endured being called names, I tolerated hatred from other kids because I was "darker' than they were, because my last name was Garcia, because I spoke Spanish and Italian IN ADDITION to English.

Because when my parents came to a school event or to a teacher conference, their English wasn't that good. Or because I had to be their translator.

I used all that to fuel my desire to learn more English and become better with the language. I also chose to use that to FUEL my knowledge of American history and be a better American!! After all, this was to be my new country, so why not take it seriously!!

Here is my personal position that no one has influenced, no one has put words in my mouth and no one has forced onto me.

I believe our government should implement a moratorium on immigration until such time that our government can get its arms around the unsecure borders, the fraud that permeates with passports, visas, and other methods of illegal entry into our country. It was a lax system that allowed terrorists into our country who killed over 3,000 innocent people in 9/11.

Other countries have serious and strict regulations as it relates to immigration.

So if you want to justify your position and ignore the reality and truth of where our country is right now as it relates to a disastrous and irreparable result of loose immigration laws by throwing out relations to hatred and using this questionable "poverty" advocacy group as a credible source, then I do feel for your aimless ways.

Our country deserves better. In addition to what is written at the feet of the statue of liberty:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of you teamming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Perhaps a disclaimer should have also read:

Freedom, liberty, prosperity is not free. We welcome you to be free, but let it be known---work, blood, sweat and tears are a necessity.

Eddie Garcia

March 14, 2010 at 4:34 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

Representatives, Senators and readers,

My friend who died as a proud American Marine sent me this one night shortly after he was deployed to Iraq.

He gave his life fighting for our country and it is my goal to honor him by fighting for our language as he fought for American values and freedom!

It is an honor to do my part for our brave men and women.

Eddie Garcia

I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.    — William Tyler Page

March 14, 2010 at 6:49 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

When there are opposing views, inevitably rivalry is born. To me growing up in boston, there is no greater rivalry than the red sox v the yankees. But in america, the love of baseball is unrivaled. Children in the poorest countries play baseball w broomsticks and any round bounceable object they can get their hands on. Isn't our country great?

Go red sox!

March 14, 2010 at 9:06 p.m.
rolando said...

Welcome to the forum, Nashmusic.

I envy not only your command of the language but your powerful delivery.

March 14, 2010 at 11:09 p.m.
Nashmusic said...


That is a Spanish name and one that you and a cousin of mine in Cuba share. Gracias!

This is an important issue with many, many facets. Yes, the legislation will ensure that all who want to drive and are granted the privilege to drive by virtue of the state, will be able to understand, read and speak English well enough to not endanger others.

I am not talking about knowing English so well that they are ready to be a professor in a university setting or recite the Gettysburg address. One great benefit from having to take the exam in English will ensure they will grasp English and truly be able to realize the American dream. Just as thousands of previous immigrants did decades ago.

Eddie Garcia

March 15, 2010 at 12:09 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center. 60 Minutes contemplates investigating the background of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center - talk to Dees' ex wife and daughter and others who know him. Talk to former employees and journalists who have investigated the Center. Explore their fundraising practices, including the "Expect More Bombs" direct mail campaign. Look at where center money comes from and where it goes. Do some digging on Dees - I suspect you will find a story.

Gee, Mr. Sher:

I'd like to know if you're on the center's payroll since you neglected to cover the points of question I've posed to you in two emails about this center.

March 16, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.
Nashmusic said...

The Center for Immigration Studies

“Immigration and the SPLC: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Invented a Smear, Served La Raza, Manipulated the Press, and Duped its Donors"authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Jerry Kammer, will be released at a panel discussion on Thursday, March 18, at 9:30 a.m. at the Murrow Room of the National Press Club, 14th & F streets NW. The report will be online at>

Check it out when you can. This is the organization that ANDY SHER of this very "paper" (comic book) relies on for journalism.

Two peas in a pod...

yogiman said...

Our nation was founded in English. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights were written in English. When the people came from different countries to the US to become citizens, they had to learn to speak English. They had to taker their citizenship test in English. Why has our sol called 'peoples government' changed that requirement?

How can anyone drive safely on a highway when they can't read the traffic signs?

March 19, 2010 at 9:39 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

In 1994, the Advertiser published a nine-part series that pulled back the veil on the Southern Poverty Law Center and its charismatic leader, Morris Dees. In the series, which drew not only from the experiences of former staffers disillusioned by their time at the center but also from attorneys who had worked with Dees, he was described with such terms as phony, egotistical, ruthless, petty, and amoral. He was portrayed as a man motivated primarily by self-aggrandizement, “who carefully grooms his image to appeal to generous donors.”76

The paper revealed that:

March 20, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

• The SPLC had moved away from its early work in such poverty law fields as death-penalty cases, employment rights, and voting rights because Dees had learned that he could take in more money by exaggerating the size and menace of the Klan. An editorial that accompanied the series said that while the Klan “deserves the scorn of all reasonable people,” it had become “a farce” and that center critics were justified in saying that it “focuses on the anti-Klan theme not because the Klan is a major threat, but because it plays well with liberal donors.”77 “The market is still wide open for the product, which is black pain and white guilt,” said one of the SPLC’s disillusioned former attorneys, a black woman.78

• Black attorneys who had worked at the center complained of systematic discrimination against them at the center. Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree said: “My students have come back with disappointing experiences…. It’s particularly disappointing to encounter racism at a civil rights organization.”79

• The SPLC raised huge amounts of money from fundraising campaigns that described urgent needs but used much of the money to pile up an enormous endowment and pay handsome salaries to its top executives.

• Three organizations that monitored charities nationwide “criticized the Law Center for misleading donors and spending too little on programs.”80 Donors to the SPLC often had no idea of its vast wealth and were duped into thinking that it was tottering on the brink of financial disaster. In fact, it operated from an office building so stylish that local wags sarcastically called it “The Poverty Palace.”
March 20, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

The series also showed that Dees was a relentless self-promoter who tolerated no dissent from center staff. Meanwhile, the board of directors consisted of handpicked cronies ready to rubber-stamp his decisions. A former staff attorney who had worked at other non-profits called it “the least independent board of directors I’ve ever seen.”81

Former business partner Millard Fuller said of Dees: “He does not know how to treat people. He leaves a trail of bodies behind him, of broken relationships. It’s just how he treats people.”82

That trail now includes four ex-wives. In 1979, one of them filed divorce-court documents alleging in explicit detail that Dees conducted lurid affairs during their marriage. Dees complained that he was the victim of a vicious and reckless campaign, charging that his second wife had:

engaged in numerous evidentiary forays that can be described as old fashioned “cheap shots.” Her strategy was to accuse the husband of every inflammatory act she could imagine, hoping that it would prejudice the court. Her approach was to present a bald-faced allegation and then let the husband try to disprove the charges. The accusations are very similar to the old unanswerable cliché, “When did you stop beating your wife?”83

Dees’ critics, including but not limited to the white supremacist groups with which he has done battle, have gleefully spread those charges via the Internet. It is ironic that an organization led by a man who has felt the sting of such charges has played a central role in a highly public campaign of cheap shots and character assassination.

March 20, 2010 at 5:06 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

The SPLC’s tactics reflect Dees’ appreciation for the monetary magnetism of ideological intensity. He learned about it as he raised money for the presidential campaigns of George McGovern, Gary Hart, Jimmy Carter, and Ted Kennedy. In 1988, Dees told The Progressive magazine he had hesitated before agreeing to become finance director for Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign because he thought Carter’s moderation would be unattractive to direct mail donors:

"You can’t raise money through the mail for just any candidate,” said Dees. “You’ve got to have a candidate who’s way out on the extremes — a Reagan, a Wallace, a McGovern, a Goldwater. The people who will give big money through the mail are either on the Far Right or the Far Left. They’re true believers. You can’t fire them up with a middle-of-the-road cause or candidate. You’ve got to have someone who can arouse people.”84

March 20, 2010 at 5:06 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

It's disgusting and an embarrassment to those reporters who exercise journalistic ethics, fair reporting and unbiased writing that this article's author chose to omit and neglect information I supplied him referencing the so-called SPLC center and it's purported mission of doing good work in the name of civil rights. Yea sure, explain how their bank accounts and endowment accounts have millions and millions of dollars and most if not all its officers earn large six-figure salaries.

What a sham!

March 20, 2010 at 5:10 p.m.
Nashmusic said...

It is amazing how many people just miss the big picture regarding the driver's license bill.

And even more, choose to ridicule other Americans.

The POINT here is to ensure all who wish to drive in our country, our state on a permanent basis understand English to ensure safety.

Do you think a foreign country will permit you to take the license in that country in English? Check the facts and you'll be surprised that you will have to learn another language if you want to live there.

I have an angle worth pursuing and certainly looking forward to engaging the liberals.

Would it be far-fetched that the liberals and Democrats are against the English language laws because they fear that if immigrants [who are here legally] learn English rather than continue to speak their native language and NEVER really learn English would become smarter, wiser and be able to speak for themselves?

Or is it that the liberals want these immigrants to stay "dumbed-down" so that they always need translators and interpreters and never really get to see who is behind the Wizard of Oz's curtain?


Open the flood gates of debate!


March 26, 2010 at 4:31 p.m.
htw445 said...

The southern poverty law centre is a hate mongering bunch of ****!

March 25, 2010

Southern Poverty Law Center officially declared "left-wing hate group"

August 10, 2010 at 2:32 p.m.
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