FAIR-y Tales In the Immigration Debate

Anti-immigrant think tanks are aiming their dubious statistics at the 14th Amendment

The network enjoys a solid, loyal list of donors, including the “green” Weeden Foundation and the Mellon family.

Richard Mellon Scaife’s foundations funneled more than $2.1 million to FAIR, NumbersUSA and CIS from 2004 to 2009, according to foundation reports. Another Mellon scion, Tim Mellon, donated $1.5 million to Brewer’s defense fund for SB 1070.

A private foundation, Fernwood Advisors, is overseen by the heirs of Sidney Swensrud, who ran Gulf Oil for the Mellon family. Two Swensrud descendants sit on FAIR’s board.

A display of buttons for sale at the June 5 pro-SB 1070 rally
Terry Greene Sterling
A display of buttons for sale at the June 5 pro-SB 1070 rally
In the eye of the hurricane:  protester at an immigration rally
Social Eye Media
In the eye of the hurricane: protester at an immigration rally


Editor's note: Former Phoenix New Times staff writer Terry Greene Sterling is the author of the new book Illegal: Life and Death In Arizona's Immigration War Zone and is writer-in-residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Jennifer Gaie Hellum assisted with research on white-nationalist groups. Sterling's personal website is

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In 2007, the individual nonprofits in the Tanton Network were labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). This outraged FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA. CIS has attempted to deflect the negative image by deriding SPLC head researcher Heidi Beirich as a priss not unlike Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character on Saturday Night Live. It calls Beirich’s work a “distorted and dishonest narrative” that exaggerated the relationship between CIS, FAIR and NumbersUSA. CIS even held a seminar to discredit the SPLC, which it portrays as a bloated, self-serving nonprofit that funnels funds to overpaid directors while ignoring poor people.

Jerry Kammer, a former Pulitzer Prize winner for the San Diego Union-Tribune, is now a “senior research fellow” for CIS. At the panel convened this fall to discredit the SPLC, Kammer bashed the organization but also sought to distance himself from Tanton, whom, he says, “has a tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration.”

Tanton is a “distraction” in the immigration movement, Kammer says, because he “sometimes speaks with a freewheeling bluntness that even those who admire him find upsetting.”

What Kammer did not note is that the SPLC is not the first organization to call the motives of FAIR’s founder into question. In the 1990s, several magazines and newspapers profiled Tanton and pointed out his controversial views.

“Do conservatives who embrace FAIR know all they should about the object of their affections?” conservative pundit Tucker Carlson wondered in a 1997 piece in TheWall Street Journal.

Carlson was appalled that Tanton told the Detroit Free Press he wanted borders sealed to avoid overrunning the country with people “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”

Three years later, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) took on FAIR. “Unfortunately, FAIR and other anti-immigrant groups have used reckless, distorted language and tactics that cloud and inhibit responsible debate,” the ADL concluded in a report.

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Even today, Tanton sees nothing wrong with associating with white nationalists. He says he doesn’t necessarily agree with them, but reaching out to them is part of his “coalition building.”

And he’s not ashamed of soliciting $1.5 million in unrestricted donations during FAIR’s early days from the Pioneer Fund, an American foundation that has long financed research into “race science.” FAIR doesn’t take Pioneer money anymore, though the creepy foundation is still going strong.

The Pioneer Fund’s current president, J. Philippe Rushton, is a Canadian college psychology professor who still studies race-intelligence connections.

In a July article for the online journal—named after Virginia Dare, the first white baby born in the New World—Rushton wrote that his recent research proved that black 17-year-olds consistently scored at the level of white 14-year-olds on math and reading tests.

Other VDARE contributors include white nationalists whose correspondence with Tanton is archived at the University of Michigan.

Sam Francis and Jared Taylor are associated with the white-separatist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), birthed from the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and ’60s in the South. The CCC website disparages blacks, Jews and Latinos. One of the group’s goals is to “oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime.”

Taylor also edits American Renaissance, a white-nationalist website.

Another VDARE contributor, Kevin MacDonald, is a Cal State Long Beach professor and co-director of the American Third Position Party, a white-nationalist political party that seeks to deport all immigrants from the United States. MacDonald edits Occidental Quarterly, a white-nationalist publication.

MacDonald’s good friend, retired Vanderbilt professor Virginia Deane Abernethy, a self-described “European American separatist,” has also written for VDARE. Abernethy believes sending food and aid to Third World countries will “exacerbate overpopulation.” She recently wrote a blurb calling the violent new American white-nationalist novel White Apocalypse “an emotionally compelling account of whites as historical victims of non-whites—just the sort of thing we need to motivate a renaissance among our people.”

Tancredo has written for VDARE, and so has his friend Pat Buchanan.

And Tanton’s funding nonprofit funneled $15,000 to VDARE in 2007 and 2008, according to the most recent federal tax reports for US Inc.

Tanton is also a writer. (He once won an essay contest sponsored by The Scientific American.) He contributes to and publishes The Social Contract Press, edited by Wayne Lutton, his co-author of a book titled The Immigration Invasion.

Lutton, whom Tanton calls a “very nice guy,” has addressed the CCC, and he has lent his editorial expertise to American Renaissance’s website.

The most recent issue of The Social Contract Press cheers Arizona’s SB 1070 victory and includes an article by Pearce.

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