Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., on Tuesday announced five appointments to his new Commission on the State of Hate, and they don’t bode well for conservatives in the Golden State.
According to Newsom’s office, the commission will “assess data on hate crimes in California, provide resources for victims, and make policy recommendations to better protect civil rights.”
The commission aims to help all Californians, but Newsom has nominated a slate of Democrats and activists—without including a single Republican—to serve on it. Worse, one of the top nominees has a history at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Those four words should send a shiver down the spine of conservatives. While the Southern Poverty Law Center began as a public interest legal nonprofit representing poor people in the South, it has long since morphed into a far-left smear factory, branding mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups” and placing them on a map alongside the Ku Klux Klan. It brands socially conservative organizations “anti-LGBT hate groups” and national security nonprofits “anti-Muslim hate groups.”
My 2020 book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center” explains why the SPLC should not be trusted when it comes to “hate” in America. I trace the history of the SPLC’s “hate” monitoring, which it initially employed against the Klan and other white supremacist groups, but which it has wielded as a cudgel against ideological opponents in recent decades. Most notoriously, this “hate group” accusation inspired one deranged terrorist to target the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
While the SPLC condemned that attack, it has kept the Family Research Council on its “hate map” ever since. The SPLC also fired its co-founder and had its president resign in 2019 amid claims of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Yet, Newsom enlisted a former SPLC staffer for his Commission on the State of Hate, and not just any former staffer. Newsom chose Brian Levin, who served as associate director of legal affairs at the Klanwatch/Militia Task Force at SPLC—the project that would later become Hatewatch and that manages the reporting on “hate groups” today. Levin, currently the founding director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University at San Bernardino School of Criminology, has uncritically cited the SPLC’s “hate group” accusations and its “hate group” numbers for California, among other states.
Levin did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment asking whether he still supports the SPLC accusation.
The SPLC claims to have identified 65 “hate groups” in California, including seven chapters of the national security nonprofit ACT for America, which SPLC characterizes as an “anti-Muslim hate group.” Brigitte Gabriel, founder and chairman of ACT for America, previously told PJ Media that the organization rejected its “chapter” model years ago. Not only does she dispute the “hate group” charge, she also claims the SPLC’s ACT for America chapter number is baseless.
“Conservative Californians should be extremely concerned about this commission and the way it will operate,” Gabriel told The Daily Signal on Thursday. “Government agencies and departments on all levels are now weaponized against good, patriotic Americans simply for their political views.”
“The SPLC, which once did good work to stamp out hate, is today a leftist activist organization, writing opinion reports against their political adversaries—which government agencies are using as a fact sheet to silence and intimidate patriotic Americans,” she warned.
Daniel Greenfield, Shillman Journalism fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center (which the SPLC brands an “anti-Muslim hate group”), told The Daily Signal that he “would strongly agree” with conservatives’ concerns about the California commission. He cited “California’s new law monitoring so-called hate speech” and the state’s “previous role in reporting social media so-called disinformation to social media companies for censorship.”
“Newsom and the California Democrat supermajority have cultivated a culture of censorship and political intimidation that is targeted at conservatives,” Greenfield added. “Every Californian and American who cares about the Constitution should be worried.”
A spokesperson for Newsom’s office did not address concerns about the bias of the commission or Levin’s history at the SPLC. The spokesperson did, however, express confidence that the commissioners would protect civil liberties.
“We are confident that the appointees will uphold the Commission’s mission and work to protect Californians’ civil liberties,” the spokesperson said.
Levin did not specify a political affiliation, but the press release identifies all of Newsom’s other appointees as Democrats. Thse appointees include Cynthia Choi, a co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and co-founder of Stop Asian-American Pacific Islander Hate; Bamby Salcedo, a transgender activist and president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition; Shirin Sinnar, a professor at Stanford Law School; and Erroll G. Southers, associate senior vice president of safety and risk assurance at the University of Southern California, who also has law enforcement and private-sector security experience.
Choi was unavailable for comment. Salcedo, Sinnar, and Southers did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment by publication time.
Without assurances from Newsom or the commission, conservatives have good reason to fear a biased investigation from this Democrat-majority body with a former SPLC staffer, who uncritically cites current SPLC reports. Although the commission does not seem to have any law enforcement authority, its assessment and recommendations may tilt California in the direction of demonizing conservative beliefs on marriage, family, national security, and other issues, all in the name of fighting “hate.”
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