Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
NAACP audit raises suspicion
A Times Editorial
Published December 22, 2004
On its face, the Internal Revenue Service's decision to audit the NAACP over allegations of overly partisan activities may seem fair enough. After all, the organization's leaders didn't make much of an effort to conceal their strong disapproval of President Bush and his policies.
Under the law, organizations with a 501 (c) 3 tax exemption are barred from "from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office," according to the IRS's Web site. Such groups may criticize specific policies, but tax-exempt groups cannot favor one political candidate over another - a line many nonprofit organizations cross far too often.
But government bureaucracies have a knack for doing the right thing in the wrong way, and the IRS's effort to examine the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization has raised suspicions. It did not help that the IRS letter notifying the NAACP of its investigation was dated less than a month before the election.
The investigation was prompted by the content of a single speech NAACP chairman Julian Bond gave during the group's national convention in April. One representative quote came during a section on the election debacle of 2000, in which Bond noted, "if whites and nonwhites vote in the same percentages as they did in 2000, Bush will be re-defeated by 3-million votes."
Such statements, while skirting the line of partisanship, are much less overt than the e-mail the Rev. Jerry Falwell sent to supporters in August saying "people of faith are as energized behind President Bush as we have been behind any president in history." While the IRS is not compelled to give any reason for an audit, the explanation they have given for an investigation that could threaten the NAACP's longstanding tax-exempt status opens the agency to charges of unfairness.
In February, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said Democratic challenger John Kerry should be denied communion for supporting abortion rights, and other bishops expressed similar opinions. Where is the IRS letter challenging the St. Louis diocese's tax-exempt status?
An IRS spokesman said recent investigations opened by career civil servants at the agency include 60 charities and churches (privacy laws prohibit the IRS from naming specific subjects). Admittedly, nonprofit groups such as Falwell's organization or a Catholic diocese may be among them.
Still, with a largely private enforcement mechanism centered mostly on responding to complaints, the IRS remains vulnerable to public suspicion. The agency should develop a more systematic way of enforcing the ban on partisanship among nonprofits that circumvent election finance laws by funneling money through tax-exempt organizations.
The NAACP investigation highlights how inconsistent the agency's system of piecemeal enforcement can seem. It leaves the public unable to judge the fairness of its enforcement actions, particularly when auditors examine such venerated institutions as churches and major civil rights organizations.
While the IRS is not compelled to give any reason for an audit, the explanation they have given for an investigation that could threaten the NAACP's longstanding tax-exempt status opens the agency to charges of unfairness.