Claiming the investigation, not its actions were politically motivated, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is refusing to cooperate with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) probe that could affect the group's tax-exempt status, the Associated Press reported.
The nation's oldest civil rights organization has said since October that chairman Julian Bond's speech, which criticized President Bush and other parties, was not politically motivated. The group has said the timing of the investigation, coming weeks before last November's election, was intended to stymie NAACP voter efforts.
NAACP attorneys wrote to the IRS last week saying the group will not produce requested documents and saying the IRS's investigation was improper as it was launched before the group filed its 2004 tax return.
"We must conclude that the intention was to chill appropriate voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, whether conducted by the NAACP or by other organizations that are targeted by similar examinations in the program," they wrote.
The NAACP is not alone as nearly 60 charities, churches and other tax-exempt group are under scrutiny for possibly violating federal rules that prohibit political activity.
Federal law prohibits the IRS from discussing specifics of tax return information or audits, but IRS spokesman Terry Lemons said groups investigated for potentially improper political activity span the ideological spectrum, the AP reported
"Law enforcement decisions at the IRS are made without regard to political considerations," he said. "Career civil servants, not political appointees, make these decisions in a fair and impartial manner."
The NAACP has defended its long history of criticizing presidents and their policies, noting that the IRS challenged a Bond speech this summer because it condemned the president's policies on education, the economy and the war in Iraq, the AP reported.
If the NAACP continues to refuse to cooperation, the IRS could ask the Justice Department to ask a federal court to enforce the summons and hand over the requested documents, the AP reported.