NAACP may face IRS probe

The NAACP announced Monday that it is refusing to comply with an Internal Revenue Service investigation into its tax exempt. Status. The investigation was launched last year after the former chairman of the NAACP criticized the Bush administration in a speech.

Interim President Dennis Haynes said the probe, ordered just weeks before the presidential election, “was clearly motivated by partisan politics and intended to divert us from impartial voter registration.”

The NAACP and other groups registered thousands of black voters, a group who, exit polls showed, voted heavily against President Bush in November.

The IRS said its investigation seeks to determine whether Julian Bond violated federal regulations that bar certain tax-exempt organizations from engaging in most forms of political activity. Bond’s comments about Bush and Democratic Party leaders were made during the NAACP’s annual summer convention in Philadelphia.

“The timing of the investigation is critical here,” said Angela Ciccolo, an attorney for the NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. “The remarks were made in July, and in October, when we’re trying to register African American voters, we get this order. We think it’s important to stand up to this type of intimidation, especially in an election year.”

Ciccolo said that the NAACP would not respond to an IRS summons that requested

Bond’s speech and specific financial information. Ciccolo declined to reveal the specifics of the IRS request.

In a letter to the IRS, the NAACP said Bond’s statements, “were consistent with the organization’s long-standing practice of advocating positions in the interest of minorities in the United States without regard to election cycles.”

IRS spokesperson Terry Lemons said the investigation is not politically motivated.

“The bottom line is that when we make a decision, it is based on tax law. It is not based on politics,” Lemons said.

The probe was launched Oct. 8, in the heat of the 2004 presidential race.

Three weeks later, Reps. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Pete Stark, D-Calif., wrote Everson to express outrage and request an explanation.

Everson wrote in a December letter that other non-religious charitable organizations were being investigated for similar reasons.

“We sent letters to 20 non-church organizations between August 31 and November 2, 2004,” the commissioner wrote.

“A review of the names of the organizations indicates that the group represents a broad cross-section of the tax-exempt community and a wide range of viewpoints.”

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service