WASHINGTON – The NAACP was the victim of a “politically motivated” two-year investigation and did not violate tax laws applying to non-profit organizations, the group’s chairman said in a news conference Thursday.
Julian Bond said the Internal Revenue Service probe started at the “instigation of a partisan cast of characters” — seven Republican officeholders, including Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
Through four federal Freedom of Information Act requests, Bond said, the organization was able to identify Ehrlich, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Rep. Jo Ann Davis of Virginia and former Rep. Larry Combest of Texas as the initiators of the IRS scrutiny.
The National Association for Advancement of Colored People had been under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service for improper partisanship since 2004, after a speech given by Bond. The organization is incorporated under a tax-code section that bans participation in a political campaign, and Bond’s speech was critical of President Bush.
The NAACP, which is based in Baltimore, released a letter dated Aug. 9 from an IRS official that said the agency’s investigation concluded that no partisanship intervention had been made by the civil right group.
Nora Butler, from the IRS press office, said she could not confirm or deny the existence of the letter because it is prohibited by law to comment on any taxpayer situation.
Ehrlich’s spokesman Henry Fawell said the governor has not and will not take a position on the investigation and is busy trying to retain the NAACP headquarters in Maryland.
The group had announced earlier this year that it wanted to move closer to Washington, D.C., to better work with Congress, the federal government and other organizations. It now is reportedly considering new offices in Prince George’s County’s new National Harbor development.
In the news conference, Bruce Gordon, president and chief executive officer of the NAACP, said the organization “supports and appreciates” everyone who share its values and positions and “challenges” those who disagree.
“We choose our friends based upon their point of view, not their party affiliation,” he said. “We will do what we must to drive and support our values.”
Gordon said the organization would not yield to “the threat and the intimidation.”
The IRS letter said the NAACP was asked to provide documentation proving there was no political campaign activity when the investigation began, but the group refused to provide that documentation.
The letter also said the IRS continued the investigation “without your cooperation,” until it obtained a video of Bond’s speech, center of the controversy. That information, among other assistance, proved that there was no political intervention, said the letter.
Gordon said the NAACP did not intend to obstruct the process.
Dennis Hayes, general council of the civil rights group, said the NAACP did not provide the documents while it was questioning the process. Yet, he said the video was available from the beginning. “They had it all along,” Hayes said, “they had all they needed.” – 30 – CNS-8-31-06