The NAACP Knows a Thing or Two About Being an IRS Target

The civil rights organization was scrutinized in 2004 for alleged partisan political activity.

Posted: 05/13/2013 05:54 PM EDT

The Internal Revenue Service, it turns out, is an equal opportunity offender of nonprofit groups. In 2004, Politico reports, the agency targeted the NAACP for allegedly being critical of then-President George W. Bush. Tax-exempt nonprofits are required to be politically nonpartisan.

"We have received information that during your 2004 convention in Philadelphia, your organization distributed statements in opposition of George W. Bush for the office of presidency," the agency wrote in an audit notice that also warned that the NAACP could have to pay taxes on political expenditures and activity.

The civil rights group did not take such threats lying down and publicized the notice. Top Democrats, including Rep. Charles Rangel, then-ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax-related policy, were "up in arms," the publication reports.

The NAACP also took the IRS, which "denied a culture of bias," to court and after two years the agency dropped its case.

"It was an enormous threat," said Julian Bond, NAACP chairman at the time, and could have "reduced our income remarkably."

Attorney Lloyd Mayer, who represented the NAACP in the case, told Politico that the agency was "flatfooted" by the group's push back.

"They had never even thought of the possibility that one of their audit targets would go public and accuse the agency of bias," he said.

Tea party and conservative groups allegedly targeted by the IRS during President Obama's first term are considering their options. The Tea Party Patriots, for example, is looking into whether it can be reimbursed by the agency for the costs related to the expanded scrutiny it was given when applying for tax-exempt status.

"We're looking into that right now with our attorneys, because it's taken a lot of time, it cost a lot of money. And we've also had to help other groups around the country to do what we can to help them," national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin told Fox News. "A simple apology on a conference call is not enough by a long shot." 

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