Search for haters
According to an October of 2008 article in Counterpunch, founder and Chief Counsel Morris Dees' fund raising letters have been "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", since 1971.  According to a November of 2000 article in Harpers Magazine by Ken Silverstein:
"The Klu Klux Klan, the SPLC's most lucrative nemesis, has shrunk from 4 million members in the 1920s to an estimated 2,000 today, as many as 10 percent of whom are thought to be FBI informants. But news of a declining Klan does not make for inclining donations to Morris Dees and Co., which is why the SPLC honors nearly every nationally covered "hate crime" with direct-mail alarms full of nightmarish invocations of "armed Klan paramilitary forces" and "violent neo-Nazi extremists," and why Dees does legal battle almost exclusively with mediagenic villains-like Idaho's arch-Aryan Richard Butler-eager to show off their swastikas for the news cameras.
In 1987, Dees won a $7 million judgment against the United Klans of America on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son was lynched by two Klansmen. The UKA's total assets amounted to a warehouse whose sale netted Mrs. Donald $51,875. According to a groundbreaking series of newspaper stories in the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC, meanwhile, made $9 million from fund-raising solicitations featuring the case, including one containing a photo of Michael Donald's corpse."
As horrifying as incidents like this are, hate groups commit almost no violence. Over 95% of all "hate crimes", are not perpetrated by groups at all, but by "lone wolves". This includes most incidents cited in SPLC letters (bombings, church burnings, school shootings). Even Timothy McVeigh, subject of one of the most extensive investigations in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)'s history (and one of the most extensive direct-mail campaigns in the SPLC's history) was never credibly linked to a militia group. 
Expanding definition of "hate"
According to the SPLC, the numbers of "known hate groups operating across the country" are growing:
"Currently, there are 926 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. ..And their numbers are growing." 
However, this is due to SPLC's ever expanding definition of “hate groups”, which now includes mainstream conservatives and opponents of illegal immigration. Their critics include both liberals and conservatives, who criticize SPLC's smear tactics and obscuring of pressing social issues such as immigration reform; which actually have broad support. Carol M. Swain is a Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University. She is a frequent commentator on race relations, immigration, black leadership and evangelical politics. The SPLC included her in their weekly HateWatch, after she recommended a documentary for classroom use:
"I'm sure many of the SPLC staff endorsed some aspects of the Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine film. In doing so, they are likely comfortable separating their endorsement of a particular feature of that film from the unconditional endorsement of its maker. In their case, Bowling for Columbine could be valuable in a classroom setting, even if Michael Moore isn't beyond reproach. Similarly, they probably appreciate the artistic value of some Roman Polanski films even though Polanski is a convicted child rapist. Yet, they seem to conflate my endorsement of A Conversation about Race with a comprehensive endorsement of Mr. Bodeker, and his newly exposed familiarity with racist thought. The SPLC needs to rethink its mission and the impact that its attacks can have on individuals who are limited in the means available to defend themselves. An organization with the rich history of the Southern Poverty Law Center should be above ad hominem attacks, guilt-by-association smears, and the never ending search for red herrings." 
In the last few years, the SPLC' main focus has been an attempt to blacklist opponents of illegal immigration and keep them out of the public debate. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is the largest immigration control organization in the country. The SPLC designated FAIR a "hate group" in December of 2007, citing the organization's "ties to white supremacy and its long track record of bigotry." According to a 2008 report by SPLC, founder and board member John Tanton, is the "architect of the movement" and has a "more than 30-year history of racial extremism." Based on "Tanton's personal correspondence, preserved at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library," the report revealed that Tanton has been "in the midst of the white nationalist scene for decades."
"He has corresponded frequently with leading white nationalist thinkers, race scientists and Holocaust deniers. He encouraged a major donor to read the work of a radical anti-Semitic professor to "give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life." And he suggested that the board of FAIR, on which he sits, discuss the professor's theories on the Jews."
According to the report, his organizations have long been "high-profile players" in the immigration debate. Furthermore, FAIR is responsible for helping to "defeat federal immigration reform legislation in 2007". They are also held responsible for "playing a key role in fueling the fierce, anti-immigrant backlash in the United States." FAIR "boasts on its website that it has been called on to testify about immigration more than any other organization."
If FAIR is a "high profile player", then what does that make the SPLC? Do they consider themselves part of the "immigration debate"? Because in no part of this "report" are immigration policies and issues actually addressed. As per usual, the SPLC shuts down rational debate by engaging in ad hominem attacks (based on the personal correspondence of Mr. Tanton). It is easy to see why. The "immigration reform" SPLC refers to is "amnesty" for illegal aliens. However, it is FAIR that is really more in line with main stream views. According to a nationwide Rasmussen poll conducted in February of 2010, 68% of voters believe that gaining control of the border is more important than granting amnesty to illegal aliens. Only 26% see amnesty as a solution to the problem. 
FAIR has over 250,000 other members.  Are they and the 68% of the country who support border controls also bigots and "racial extremist"? Because Mr. Tanton once corresponded with "leading white nationalist thinkers", this effectively shuts down discussion against illegal immigration and the wishes of the majority? According to Dan Stein, Executive Director of FAIR:
"Long considered the most credible voice on U.S. immigration policy in America today, FAIR has been asked by Congress to testify on a wide range of issues - well over 100 times - and is a routine voice on national television. FAIR and its law firm affiliate the Immigration Reform Law Institute routinely submit both popular and scholarly articles for publication and our research division puts out some of the best fact-based immigration analysis in the country.
The SPLC has never been a policy player in this arena - indeed it has never articulated any real vision for U.S. immigration policy. It has never taken issue with any policy position FAIR has ever taken. ...So imagine my surprise when FAIR began to be aggressively criticized by the "Intelligence Project" of the Southern Poverty Law Center - beginning in 2001 and culminating in 2007 with the ludicrous declaration that FAIR is a "hate group." The designation was not made on the basis of FAIR's years of public statements, institutional conduct or specific policy positions. It was based on mere innuendo and was timed to coincide with a coordinated series of political attacks on everyone - members of the media, other organizations, politicians and a wide range of private citizens - who are working for better immigration enforcement." 
According to FAIR:
"While disavowing any position on immigration policy, the SPLC has for nearly a decade targeted organizations and individuals who support immigration enforcement... The SPLC concluded that just about everyone actively opposed to amnesty and mass immigration was a 'nativist' a 'white supremacist', or had ties to such groups and individuals."
At no point do they address actual issues attempt to debunk any of FAIR’s studies. This policy of guilt by association is so tenuous, they have attacked FAIR for receiving contributions from someone whose deceased father was allegedly a "white supremacist". The SPLC is the origin of a number of anti-immigration enforcement myths, including the "explosion of hate crimes against Hispanics due to the rhetoric of opponents of amnesty."
What defines a "hate crime"?
The term "hate crime" is subjective. For example, when Hispanics are attacked by whites, they are listed as victims. However Hispanics are listed as Whites if they commit anti-Black hate crimes. According to FAIR, "Hate crimes" against Hispanics have actually decreased, when taking into account the increase in their population due to open borders policies which the SPLC promotes. Yet, according to the SPLC, opponents of illegal immigration must silenced because they "promote violence".
The Department of Homeland Security’s well publicized report on "right wing extremism", relied heavily on the SPLC. It also warned that "disgruntled" veterans returning from overseas were potential terrorists. To back up this claim, they cited an SPLC report entitled "A Few Bad Men", which claimed that racists were infiltrating the military. This report conveniently coincided with their attack on the American Legion for its support immigration enforcement, which they referred to as "Legionnaires' Disease." 
According to a 2005 CNN poll, 87% of Americans do not support illegal immigration and want it stopped. 
Carol M. Swain is the author of The New White Nationalism in America  and a frequent critique of SPLC:
"I have received (e-mails) over the years from whites who confess to having been raised in liberal democratic- homes, but who are now flirting with white nationalism. These whites express frustration with immigration, black crime rates, racial preferences, and demographic changes reducing the percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the population. They see themselves as the "real" victims of racial discrimination, who have no recourse left other than to organize themselves for self-preservation. Many people believe that these concerns and attitudes belong to a radical fringe. I disagree." 
In seems ironic the SPLC would stoop to such tactics as relentless stereotyping, fear mongering and demands for censorship; similar to those historically used to marginalize minorities and immigrants. Such unproductive policies surely have far more detrimental effects than real or imagined sinister connections of immigration reform and other groups. At one point, SPLC even featured an article attacking The Lord of the Rings movies as "Eurocentric", comparing them to "promotional ads for those tired old race and gender paradigms.", 
In another example of broad brush treatment and labeling, a Fall of 2007 Intelligence Report featured an article entitled "Navy Extremist Disciplined--But Not for Extremism", focusing on Navy officer John Sharp, Jr, equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. According to the article, evidence for Sharpe's anti-Semitism included:
"...connections to Arab extremists that were ignored. On his website, for example, is an interview with Ibrahim Ebeid, a Baathist and supporter of Saddam Hussein. Ebeid says in the interview that 'neo-cons and Zionists' are responsible for a 'vicious criminal war' against Iraq and Palestine."
According to Felice Pace in an open letter to the SPLC in Counterpunch:
"This is the evidence that you have used to determine that Ebeid is an "extremist"? If so, I too am an extremist and so are many American Progressives! ...Zionism is rejected by a growing number of American Jews and by many Israelis. In this regard I would refer you to the book "The Tragedy of Zionism--How its Revolutionary Past Haunts Israeli Democracy" by Israeli author Bernard Avishai.
It is of the highest importance that the Southern Poverty Law Center and its leaders clarify their positions on Zionism and specifically whether you equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Since you have not-to-subtly suggested this connection in your magazine, I believe this clarification should also be published in the magazine. Perhaps you should also consider opening a dialogue with those of us in the Progressive Community who are anti-Zionist. At minimum the article you published indicates a lack of clarity at the Center about whether opposition to Zionism alone makes one an "extremist" and/or 'anti-Semitic'."
Further context: Jeffrey Blankfort, a justice activist and journalist in California, stated: "The Southern Poverty Law Center is another Zionist front group." . SPLC set up to coopt African Americans.
The SPLC has received funding form George Soros, who favors globalization policies.
A Fall of 2002 Intelligence Report entitled From Push to Shove, was filled with inaccuracies and speculation. For example, a 2001 assassination in the Netherlands is described as "an apparent eco-assassination":
"Van der Graaf may have been enraged by Fortuyn's support of pig farmers in a debate with animal rights activists." 
However, according to a statement from Pigs in Need, an animal rights group:
"Pim Fortuyn had reasonable views on the bio-industry, Fortuyn believed that new agricultural policy needed to be animal friendly." In a recent book, Fortuyn wrote, "Animal welfare must be a priority and we need to switch to less industrial production methods." 
The assassination was attributed to Fortuyn's views on religion and immigration. , 
Other "vulnerable members of society"
The report heavily referenced Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), without a single mention of its three decades worth of surrounding controversy. HLS is the 3rd largest contract research organization (CRO) in the world and the largest animal testing facility in Europe. It is a notorious laboratory with a long history of gross animal welfare violations on two continents. They are the only laboratory in the United Kingdom ever to have their license revoked by the government. HLS was the subject of a shocking 1997 BBC documentary which resulted in unprecedented arrests and prosecution of laboratory technicians for animal cruelty.  See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.
According to the SPLC, "the use of animals in research has decreased in the last few decades, according to government estimates". 
Animal testing is at an all time high with approximately 150 million animals a year used worldwide in experiments.  In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that 92 out of every 100 drugs that successfully pass animal trials, subsequently fail human trials. ,  See also animal testing.
SPLC made repeated attempts to associate the AR/eco movements with unrelated crimes. This included a bizarre connection to "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, because he once read an Earth First! journal. The term "eco-terrorism" is applied to the group Stop Hungtingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), although they aren't even an eco group. Earth Liberation Front's policy on disassociating itself from violent actions is described as a "crucial escape clause" and "refusing to take responsibility for any actions that harm humans."
Violence against acivists & animals
There has not been serious injury, death or a serious murder attempt associated with animal rights direct action. However, there has actually been fatal violence directed at activists, including the unprosecuted murders of two British teenagers. Most violence against activists goes under reported and under prosecuted or even non-prosecuted. See also animal activists who have been injured or killed. There is of course, massive, systemic violence in all animal industries. Virtually all animal abuse goes unreported and non-prosecuted. See also War on Animals. In March of 2006, six young webmasters were the first individuals to be convicted for "animal enterprise terrorism" for posting information on a website. They are currently serving up to six years in prison for their speech. See also Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Illegal government surveillance
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and U.S. politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. In May of 2009, Ms. Friedman published an article entitled Americans Divided by Hate Crimes Bill , in the Khaleej Times (Persian Gulf), which included the following:
"The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), along with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), is already heavily involved in Homeland Security's locally based 'fusion centres, 'which collect personal data for intelligence databases that synchronise national intelligence collection with local police. ADL and SPLC have a record of illegally spying on American citizens and providing false information to law enforcement officials." 
In response to Mark Potok's demand for a retraction of "libelous and defamatory" statements, Ms. Friedman responded:
"The U.S. Department of Justice released FBI documents indicating that the Southern Poverty Law Center engaged in undercover surveillance of Oklahoma militia groups in 1995 before and after the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The local FBI team, which should have obtained a warrant to dispatch real FBI agents, criminally conspired with SPLC agents to get around Attorney General Janet Reno’s legal limitations on domestic spying. Because the conspiracy was criminal, the espionage was illegal."
In The Watchdogs: A close look at Anti-Racist ‘Watchdog’ Groups,  Laird Wilcox documents the SPLC’s extensive intelligence networks monitoring editorials, observing meetings and compiling files on people they consider offensive:
“By alleging ‘dangerousness’ on the basis of mere assumed values, opinions and beliefs, they put entirely innocent citizens at risk from law enforcement error and misconduct.”
Mark Potok admitted that the SPLC criminally spied on the Animal Rights 2001 Conference by secretly recording attendees. In response to complaints by Friends of Animals president, Pricilla Feral about misleading SPLC characterizations about the group, he responded that:
“We were at that conference, we collected the quote ourselves, in person and on a videotape to boot.”
In an article libeling Muslim clerics, the SPLC linked videos apparently made in violation of federal wiretapping and eavesdropping statutes. Many organizations and individuals have accused the SPLC of publishing false and misleading information as well as manipulating crime data and terminology. Federal law enforcement agencies and Homeland Security Fusion Centers have been issued a warning against relying on their erroneous and politicized "reports". The Turkish American Legal Defense Fund is currently suing the SPLC for defaming an 85-year-old emeritus professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts. 
Fund raising, assets & program expenses
As of October 2008, the group's net assets were $170,240,129. Chief Counsel Morris Dees was paid $273,132 and the President and CEO, Richard Cohen, was paid $290,193. Total revenue in 2007 was $44,727,257 and program expenses were $20,804,536. In other words, they raised twice as much they spent. Fund-raising and administrative expenses were $9 million, leaving $14 million to be put into the center's vast assets. 
According to a March of 2007 article in Harpers Magazine by Richard Silverstein, the SPLC combats mostly impotent groups like the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan; raising obscene amounts of money by hyping fears about their power and influence. Hence, they have become the nation's richest "civil rights" organization. In 1978, when their treasury held less than $10 million, Mr. Dees vowed they would stop fund-raising and live off interest when they hit $55 million. A decade later, the goal was upped to $100 million. The group's newsletter promised that this amount would allow it "to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising."
SPLC is a tax-exempt, charitable organization incorporated in 1971 under tax code 501(c)(3). In the fiscal year ending in 2009, the group's assets totaled at $189.7 million dollars. Approximately 68% of our total expenses were spent on program services in 2009. 
Personnel & board
Senior program staff
Richard Cohen - President
Morris Dees - Founder, Chief Trial Attorney
Mary Bauer - Legal Director
Mark Potok - Director, Intelligence Project
Lecia Brooks - Director, Civil Rights Memorial Center
Maureen Costello - Teaching Tolerance Director
Heidi Beirich, PhD
Joseph T. Roy
David J. Utter
Thom Ronk 
Lloyd V. Hackley
Alan B. Howard
Joseph J. Levin, Jr.
David Wang