Miller and Jerry Seper
The National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People claims to be nonpartisan, but it uses
its millions of dollars to promote the Democrat's agenda.
Conservative critics question its
claim to nonprofit status, arguing that the exemption shelters its
$14 million annual budget from being taxed, and note that in the
most recent presidential campaign the NAACP, which once derided big
money as a corrupting influence, established two independent
fund-raising organizations to conduct the kind of political warfare
it once denounced.
The NAACP National Voter Fund and
Americans for Equality drew on a combined $10 million to finance
get-out-the-vote efforts and issue ads that energized Democratic
"This is a group that, because of
its politics, has become far removed from its constituents,"
says Phyllis Berry Myers, executive director of the Center for New
Black Leadership, which leans Republican. "It survives through
teachers unions, labor unions. . . . They allow themselves to be the
sole subsidiary of the Democratic Party, and it has done a great
disservice to black voters. It makes us politically impotent."
The NAACP leaders declined numerous
requests for interviews. The organization's communications director,
John White, agreed only to respond to questions in writing.
"The NAACP takes positions on public policy issues that further
its goal of achieving the political, educational, social and
economic equality of minority group citizens of the United
States," Mr. White wrote, and takes positions "regardless
of whether such positions are associated" with either party.
Mr. White says the NAACP's 500,000
members are drawn from both parties, and the board of directors is
bipartisan. Further, "NAACP national and local staffs are
strictly forbidden from endorsing candidates for public
Some members dispute this. Shannon
Reeves, a Republican and chairman of the Oakland, Calif., chapter of
the NAACP, is one of them. "Just because you're a Democrat
doesn't make you any blacker than me," he said in a dispute
last year. "For decades, black leadership has been compensated
for how they deliver black voters to Democratic candidates."
In Virginia last year, the NAACP's
national leadership suspended Paul C. Gillis as president of the
association's Suffolk, Va., branch after he endorsed Republican
George F. Allen for the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Gillis was later reinstated after
he was told to "serve the larger goals and policies of the
NAACP in a manner that will not require us to revisit this
issue." The national NAACP, which ran radio ads criticizing Mr.
Allen, said Mr. Gillis had engaged in partisan practices that
violated NAACP policies.
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, a former
Democratic member of the Georgia legislature, stoutly defends the
NAACP claim of nonpartisanship, but in a speech to the NAACP
national convention last year disparaged Republican politicians
across the board. He tried to link Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
to the Ku Klux Klan and referred to opponents of affirmative action
In 1999, Mr. Bond said that
"Republicans remade themselves as the white people's
party." He, too, declined to be interviewed.
But the NAACP remains the most vital
civil rights organization in the country, said Gary Orfield,
co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard. "It is
essential to the life of many black communities," Mr. Orfield
said. "The basic problem that they face right now is that there
is not much sympathy among the white population. But under this
current leadership . . . that is the most powerful they have been
since the 1960s."
An octopus of
Accusations of partisanship —and
in some cases support of the Democratic Party — have never been
challenged by the Internal Revenue Service, which has the authority
to revoke tax-exempt status if it finds evidence of partisan
"The NAACP has always had a
legislative agenda," says David Woodford, who was chief
financial officer for the association from 1994 to 1999. "But
it did not fit the definition of lobbying as outlined by the IRS. I
wouldn't want to comment on anything they do now."
With 500,000 members nationwide, the
NAACP, based in a multistory, red-brick building in the northern
suburbs of Baltimore, was established in 1909 under the leadership
of W.E.B. DuBois. It receives funds from membership fees and private
With 75 employees at its Baltimore
headquarters, the NAACP maintains a legislative bureau in the
District and a network of 2,200 branch offices in 50 states, Japan
and Germany, which are divided into seven regions and governed by a
national board of directors.
The NAACP's Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, which has been an independent organization since
1957, is based in New York City and declared net assets of $39.2
million on its 1999 tax form. The fund spends much of its resources
on civil rights-related lawsuits.
The association's Special Contribution
Fund is a separate trust created in 1964 to collect tax-deductible
contributions for the organization. The fund's tax-deductible grants
and contributions support a variety of NAACP programs.
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, a former
Democratic congressman from Baltimore, was unanimously elected by
the 64-member board of directors in December 1995. At the time, the
NAACP was struggling against revelations of financial mismanagement
and accusations of sexual harassment.
Mr. Mfume promised changes and said
the "focus of this new agenda must be increased political power
[for minorities] by energizing voters in every congressional
district in the country, emphasizing educational excellence and
individual responsibility" and achieving "economic
"The extreme ultraconservative
policies of the far right are Draconian and punitive" and hurt
the elderly, "restrict the poor and deny opportunities for our
children," he said.
With his appointment, Mr. Mfume
entered the nonprofit, tax-exempt world, a maze of alliances,
related organizations, fronts and foundations. Directors of one
enterprise often serve as directors of another. For example, when
the National Voter Fund was established last summer to rally the
black vote, it was Mr. Mfume who was named to chair the group's
board of directors.
Tax returns for 1998 reveal that Mr.
Mfume received a salary of $238,364, and the top five officers
received a total of $410,639 in salary. Overall, the NAACP in 1998
spent $6.3 million for wages and benefits with direct public income
of $21.9 million.
The National Voter Fund and Americans
for Equality sought to register and rally black voters around
several core issues: racial profiling, affirmative action, hate
crimes legislation and prospective Supreme Court nominations.
The NAACP maintains that these are
separate organizations that act independently of the NAACP and the
NAACP says it does not provide funding to either the National Voter
Fund or Americans for Equality. Targeting states where "black
voters may be a deciding bloc," the NAACP authorized
expenditures through the two organizations for the get-out-the-vote
effort. The result was that Vice President Al Gore won 91.3 percent
of the black vote in those targeted states.
In an internal memorandum, the NAACP
said the number of black voters had declined, leaving elections to
be determined by "wealthier, better educated and mostly white
voters." The memo said elections were decided "as much by
who did not vote as by those who actually voted."
"The NAACP will take steps to
prepare its constituency to speak loudly, in a way that politicians
The memo noted that while the NAACP's
long-standing policies prohibited the endorsement of specific
candidates or parties, a review of Internal Revenue Service tax
codes showed it could participate in nonpartisan voter activities
without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status.
The NAACP's board of directors
initiated the National Voter Fund to carry out large-scale voter
registration programs, an extension of the Democratic "motor
voter" plan, which automatically registers voters when they
renew their driver's licenses. The fund in turn created Americans
for Equality as a lobbying arm.
The National Voter Fund was organized
under Section 501(c)4 of the federal tax code, which gives tax
protection to organizations whose revenue is used solely for
charity, education or recreation. Americans for Equality is called a
527 committee, named for a part of the federal tax code that defines
a political organization as one that exists to accept contributions
or make expenditures to influence an election at any level.
Together, the two political arms of
the NAACP make a formidable force. NAACP officials said that $7
million in seed money came mostly from an unnamed, single donor.
While the effort to bring down these
"mostly white voters," in Mr. Mfume's words, did not work
for Mr. Gore, the NAACP's tight hold on its donor list has been
Several groups have tried to identify
NAACP donors. Except for corporations that make their contributions
public, the list of benefactors has been kept from public view.
"People have been trying to do this for a long time," says
David Almasi, a spokesman for Project 21, a black conservative
group. "It has been a big question that arose recently with the
Jesse Jackson thing. Where did he get that money to pay off the
mother of his [illegitimate] child? That was presumably money that
people intended to go towards civil rights."
Groups that have attempted to identify
donors include several Southern heritage organizations, which have
clashed with black activists over the display of the Confederate
battle flag on public property. "We have tried to get a list,
and they don't want you to know where their money is coming
from," says John C. Hall Jr., an accountant and member of the
Southern Party of Georgia. "But I do know that most of their
money is coming from corporations who think they are helping race
He accuses the NAACP of violating the
reporting requirement of the 990 tax return, the form used by
nonprofits to report their earnings. "They lobbied in South
Carolina to get that flag removed from the statehouse," Mr.
Hall says. "They attempted to influence legislation. And they
refuse, on their tax return, to disclose how much money they spent
doing that. This is to me a flagrant violation of the reporting
The NAACP insists it keeps the donor
list confidential to protect privacy. The Supreme Court ruled in a
1950s case that forcing disclosure would infringe the NAACP's First
Some of the contributors are known,
prominently including the Ford Foundation, which has bestowed
millions of dollars in grants over the years, and the Bell Atlantic
Foundation, which last year gave $500,000 to improve the NAACP's
Internet-based communications system. But many others are not.
Miss Myers, of the Center for New
Black Leadership, argues that conservative blacks are often cited
for partisanship when the NAACP is not. She cites the experience of
the Rev. Herbert Lusk, a black pastor in North Philadelphia who
endorsed George W. Bush from his pulpit during the Republican
National Convention in July. Mr. Lusk was chastised by the Americans
for Separation of Church and State, a watchdog group that sent a
letter to the IRS in protest.
Said Mr. Lusk: "There is
definitely a double standard as far as nonprofit status is