Citing July Speech, I.R.S. Decides to Review
By MICHAEL JANOFSKY
Published: October 29, 2004
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 - The Internal Revenue Service has begun reviewing
the tax-exempt status of the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People, citing concerns over a speech given by its chairman,
Julian Bond, at its annual convention last July in Philadelphia.
In a letter dated Oct. 8 and released Thursday, the I.R.S. told the
association it had received information that Mr. Bond conveyed
"statements in opposition of George W. Bush for the office of
presidency" and specifically that he had "condemned the administration
policies of George W. Bush in education, the economy and the war in
The letter reminded the association that tax-exempt organizations are
legally barred from supporting or opposing any candidate for elective
Mr. Bond's speech on July 11 included a long section that sharply
criticized the Republican Party, Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney
for their positions on an array of issues important to black Americans.
In an interview Thursday, Mr. Bond defended his remarks, saying they
focused on policy, not politics.
"This is an attempt to silence the N.A.A.C.P. on the very eve of a
presidential election," he said. "We are best known for registering and
turning out large numbers of African-American voters. Clearly, someone
in the I.R.S. doesn't want that to happen."
He added, "It's Orwellian to believe that criticism of the president is
not allowed or that the president is somehow immune from criticism."
I.R.S. officials said they could not discuss the specifics of any case.
But Mark W. Everson, the agency's commissioner, issued a statement
denying that the agency's interest in the group was politically
"The I.R.S. follows strict procedures involving the selection of
tax-exempt organizations for audit and resolution of any complaints
about such groups," Mr. Everson said. "Career civil servants, not
political appointees, make these decisions in a fair, impartial manner.
Any suggestion that the I.R.S. has tilted its audit activities for
political purposes is repugnant and groundless."
The N.A.A.C.P. is hardly the first organization to raise questions about
I.R.S. actions around an election. In the 1990's, so many organizations
accused the I.R.S. of engaging in politically motivated examinations
that the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation reviewed all
examination data for tax-exempt organizations between 1990 and 1998. It
found "no credible evidence" of wrongdoing by the agency or the Clinton
Mr. Bond, who has been chairman of the N.A.A.C.P. for six years, said he
knew of no other time the I.R.S. had challenged the 95-year-old
association's tax status on political grounds.
Mr. Bond said that the association had a chilly relationship with Mr.
Bush, who declined to speak at its last four annual conventions, and
that black voters were worried that the problems that kept thousands of
them from voting in 2000 could recur this year in Florida and elsewhere.
With association officials now immersed in efforts to register new
voters and to make sure early voting proceeds smoothly, he said the
I.R.S. request was placing new financial and personnel demands on the
The I.R.S. has asked it to provide a written response that includes
detailed financial information about its 2004 convention, personal
information about its 64 board members and relevant information about
Mr. Bond's speech.
"Of course, we're concerned," Mr. Bond said. "I feel we'll be vindicated
in the end because we have not violated any I.R.S. rules or regulations.
But this takes a great deal of effort and money to defend and could take
up to two years to resolve."