Byline: The Register-Guard
Anyone feeling a chill in the air? The NAACP certainly does after receiving notice last month that the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing its tax-exempt status because of a speech given by the civil rights organization's chairman, Julian Bond.
The NAACP received a letter in early October from the IRS, saying it had learned that Bond had expressed "statements in opposition of George W. Bush for the office of the presidency" and, specifically, that the association's chairman had "condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush in education, the economy and the war in Iraq."
Well, nothing new there. The NAACP and the president haven't exactly been on hugging terms since Bush took office. Bond and others in the organization have consistently taken the president and his administration to task on issues ranging from civil rights to the economy. Bush responded by refusing invitations to speak at the association's last four conventions, becoming the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to speak to the NAACP.
Bush might not have taken the NAACP's criticism so personally if he had done some historical research. He's hardly the first president to feel the association's wrath. The NAACP has criticized the policies of every president since Eisenhower; even Bill Clinton got a thorough scorching on welfare reform. But NAACP officials say the IRS has never before challenged the 95-year-old association's tax status on political grounds.
The timing of the letter left little doubt about its intent to harass and intimidate. Dated Oct. 8, it arrived just as the organization was shifting into high gear with its efforts to turn out the black vote - and just as the polls showed John Kerry gaining ground on the incumbent.
IRS Commissioner Mark Everson insists the decision to probe the NAACP was made in a "fair, impartial manner," and he rejects any suggestion of intimidation as "repugnant and groundless. …