IRS: NAACP Didn't Violate Tax-Exempt Status With Bush Speech

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The NAACP did not violate the conditions of its tax-exempt status when its chairman gave a speech that criticized President Bush, according to a newly released letter from the Internal Revenue Service to the civil rights group.

The IRS began looking into the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People about a month before the 2004 presidential election after a speech by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond that was largely critical of Bush's policies.

Political campaigning is prohibited under the NAACP's tax-exempt status.

In a letter, dated Aug. 9, the IRS said a review of video footage of the speech, as well as other information, indicated "that political intervention did not occur."

Bruce S. Gordon, the president and CEO of the NAACP, said the group was vindicated by the decision.

"It's disappointing that the IRS took nearly two years to conclude what we knew from the beginning — the NAACP did not violate tax laws and continues to be politically nonpartisan," Gordon said in a statement Thursday.

In his speech, Bond said of the Bush administration: "They preach racial neutrality and practice racial division. They've tried to patch the leaky economy and every other domestic problem with duct tape and plastic sheets. They write a new constitution of Iraq and they ignore the Constitution here at home."

The civil rights group said it has a long history of criticizing presidents and their policies and that Bond criticized both political parties during the speech.

"I've been a critic of the Bush administration since it began, as I was with the Clinton administration before that," Bond said.

Relations between the Bush administration and the NAACP have warmed since Gordon took over as CEO in 2005. The president spoke to the NAACP convention this year for the first time in his White House tenure.