Published October 30, 2004
IRS investigating churches, NAACP
By Genaro C. Armas
Washington — About 60 charities, churches and other tax-exempt groups are being investigated for potentially breaking federal rules that bar them from participating in political activity, the Internal Revenue Service said Friday.
Such violations would threaten their tax-exempt status, the IRS said.
The investigations involve guidelines for 501(c)(3) groups, which grant tax-exempt status so long as organizations do not participate in political activities like endorsing candidates or making campaign donations.
By law, the IRS cannot reveal names or details of investigations. It did reveal that about 20 of the groups being looked into were churches.
Heightened concerns about improper political activities this election season warranted the creation of a committee of career civil servants to look into potential political violations by tax-exempt groups, according to the agency.
Of over 100 reports received during the past couple months, that committee found 60 cases that merited further scrutiny, the IRS said.
"Our obligation is to enforce the law, which prohibits all charities from engaging in political activities," IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said in a statement Friday.
The disclosure from the IRS came a day after Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP, said the IRS was investigating his group after he criticized President Bush.
Documents released Thursday by the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said IRS agents were investigating Bond's keynote address July 11 at the NAACP's annual convention in Philadelphia.
An "Information Document Request" from the IRS said Bond in his remarks "condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush on education, the economy and the war in Iraq."
Bond contends the timing of the probe gave the appearance it was politically motivated, a charge the IRS vehemently denied.
Bond maintained the speech was nonpartisan even though it was critical of Bush.
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