The IRS Probe of the NAACP
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The NAACP has sent a letter to the IRS telling the federal agency that it was refusing to cooperate with the investigation of its tax-exempt status. The privileged tax status of the nation's oldest civil rights organization may be in jeopardy if the NAACP engaged in prohibited partisan political activity during last year's presidential election. At issue are the remarks made by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond on July 11, 2004, at the NAACP's annual convention.
NAACP Interim President and CEO Dennis Hayes has charged that the IRS investigation, which was officially launched on Oct. 8, apparently in response to complaints filed by two congressmen, was "clearly motivated by partisan politics." An NAACP statement declared that the organization "has rejected the IRS's premise that Bond's speech constituted prohibited campaign intervention."
The NAACP reports that the IRS, in its communications with the civil rights group, "claims that Bond, speaking at last year's convention, 'condemned' President Bush's war, economic and educational policies." Referring to the IRS' reported rationale for launching its investigation, Mr. Bond asserted, "Under that standard, 55 million Americans would be subject to audits."
Apart from the fact that more than 60 million Americans - not 55 million - actually voted for presidential candidates other than George W. Bush, Mr. Bond also errs in failing to consider the relevant fact that none of those divided voters, unlike the NAACP on whose behalf Mr. Bond was speaking, enjoys tax-exempt status.
In a letter to Rep. Charles Rangel, who is the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson explained that charitable groups organized under section 501(c)(3) - as the NAACP is - must avoid "reasonably overt communication ... that the organization supports or opposes a particular candidate." In the same letter, Mr. Everson asserted that the IRS "sent letters to twenty non-church organizations between August 31 and November 2, 2004." The commissioner added that "the group [of 20] represents a broad cross-section of the tax-exempt community and a wide range of viewpoints."
In his July speech, Mr. Bond accused the Republican Party of practicing "the politics of racial division to win elections and gain power" and "appeal[ing] to the dark underside of American culture, to the minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality." Mr. Bond said he was afraid to listen to Mr. Bush's speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. …