Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who is planning a run for governor in 2026, traveled to Alabama with several of her staffers to participate in the annual walk over the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma.

During her visit to Selma, Benson paid a visit with former fellow employees at the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center, where she had previously worked as a “hate crime” investigator and was later a member of its board of directors.

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The annual Bridgewalk commemorates the historical 1965 event that is perceived as a watershed in the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Benson said she was accompanied by members of her staff, senior advisor, deputy secretary of state, chief of staff, and chief legal director. The total cost of the trip to Michigan taxpayers is unknown at present.

On her X account, Benson shared her “reconnecting” with her former SPLC comrades, including co-founder Joe Levin and current Director Tafeni English.

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The SPLC was founded in the 1970s to litigate against civil rights violators. The group has increasingly been perceived as pushing a left-wing agenda by attacking Christian and conservative groups such as The Alliance Defending Freedom and The Family Research Council as “hate groups.”

In 2018, the SPLC lost a $3.375 million defamation suit filed by Majiid Nawaz, founder of the anti-Muslim extremist group Quillium Foundation. The monetary award prompted Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen to opine that the SPLC “has become a caricature of itself, labeling virtually anyone who does not fall in line with its left-wing ideology an ‘extremist’” or ‘hate group.'”

In a 2019 USA Today essay titled The Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate-based scam that nearly caused me to be murdered, Family Resource Center’s Jessica Prol Smith related a shooting in the FRC offices inspired by the SPLC’s listing of the conservative FRC as a hate group.

“The gunman had packed his backpack with ammo and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches — later admitting that he had planned to smear them on our lifeless faces as a political statement,” Smith wrote. One person was wounded in the attack.

“It was the type of violent incident that one could expect a group that purportedly monitors ‘hate,’ like the Southern Poverty Law Center, to notice, research and decry. In fact, we were on the center’s radar but for all the wrong reasons. The assailant acknowledged later in FBI testimony that he had selected our office precisely because the SPLC had labeled my employer a ‘hate group,'” Smith wrote.

Most recently, the SPLC has been called out for its attacks on parent groups Moms for Liberty and Moms for America, as reported by investigative reporter John Stossel.