Thursday, May 14, 2009

CBB Requests IRS Investigation Of Cincy NAACP


Last Saturday, I announced that the Cincinnati Black Blog was forced to report the Cincinnati NAACP to the Internal Revenue Service for using their tax-exempt resources to intervene in the upcoming Cincinnati City Council election. The NAACP, through its president, Chris Smitherman, specifically urged its members to oppose Democratic candidate Jeff Berding and to "vote down" the Democratic ticket.

Since then, I've received a number of requests for a copy of the letter. A copy is provided below.

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May 9, 2009

The Honorable Douglas Shulman
Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
Room 3000
1111 Constitution Ave N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224-0002

Transmitted via facsimile to (202) 283-9973
The Honorable Sarah Hall Ingram
Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
Tax Exempt & Government Entities Division
Mail Code SE:T
Room 684
1111 Constitution Ave N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224-0002

Transmitted via facsimile to (202) 283-8858
and electronic mail to tege.eo.ceo@irs.gov
Lois G. Lerner
Director
Internal Revenue Service
Tax Exempt & Government Entities Division
Exempt Organizations
Mail Code SE:T:EO
Room 341
1111 Constitution Ave N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224-0002

Re: Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Cincinnati Branch


Dear Commissioners Shulman and Ingram and Director Lerner:

I write today to respectfully request an immediate Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) investigation into the activities of the Cincinnati Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”). To the best of my knowledge, the organization’s Employer Identification Number (“EIN”) is 13-1084135.

The NAACP is organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. As such, it is prohibited from making a financial contribution to a political action committee (“PAC”) and from engaging in excessive lobbying activities. The NAACP is absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for elective public office.

Campaign intervention includes any and all activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition on political campaign intervention applies to all campaigns, including campaigns at the local level and extends beyond candidate endorsements. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention. Allowing a candidate to use an organization’s assets or facilities will also violate the prohibition if other candidates are not given an equivalent opportunity.

NAACP leaders are not prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. In order for their organization to remain tax exempt, however, they cannot make partisan comments in official publications or on official websites or at official functions of the organization or do so in the name of the organization.

It is my understanding that the NAACP National Office is a 501(c)(3) and NAACP branches used to be organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, but not anymore. Ascertaining whether the Cincinnati NAACP is a 501(c)(3) like the NAACP National Office or a 501(c)(4) has been difficult since the Cincinnati NAACP does not file an annual tax return (Form 990 or Form 990-EZ). Several months ago, I contacted the NAACP National Office and was told that branches of the NAACP are not required to file annual tax returns.

Still, assuming that the Cincinnati Branch of the NAACP were a 501(c)(4), it would still be exempt but would be able to engage in an unlimited amount of lobbying, provided that the lobbying related to the organization’s exempt purpose. The organization might also engage in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office provided that such intervention did not constitute the organization’s primary activity. An annual report would still need to be filed.

In their Ohio Campaign Finance Report dated December 12, 2008, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes (“COAST”) Issues PAC reports receiving a Three Thousand Dollar ($3,000) contribution from the Cincinnati NAACP on October 29, 2008.[1]

On April 11, 2009, Cincinnati NAACP president Christopher Smitherman, stated on his weekly radio show on WDBZ Radio (1230am): “The bottom line is the Democratic Party is coming with their same game. We want all African-Americans to vote down the Democratic ticket.”[2] As you will hear, throughout the show, Mr. Smitherman identified himself as president of the NAACP. He gave out the organization’s phone number and address and encouraged people to join the group. He never once stated or implied that he was speaking for himself as an individual or that his views were not the views of the NAACP.

On April 14, 2009, Cincinnati NAACP President Christopher Smitherman issued a letter to the organization’s members titled “Democratic Party Fails African Americans in Cincinnati.”[3] This letter was subsequently posted to the Cincinnati NAACP’s website.[4]

You should know that this is not the first time Mr. Smitherman has crossed the line and placed the NAACP’s tax exempt status in jeopardy. In 2007, Mr. Smitherman announced plans to run for a seat on City Council and only stopped after officers at the NAACP National Office were informed of his stated plans and pressured to stop him from running while remaining president of the local. You should also know that concerned citizens have alerted the NAACP National Office to Mr. Smitherman’s current violations and the national office has, to the best of my knowledge, done nothing to bring the local branch into compliance. These facts may be important when determining whether the NAACP has acted in good faith to comply with the restriction on political campaign intervention and the other prohibitions outlined above and if so what sort of penalty should be imposed. (I understand that violations may result in denial or revocation of the organization’s tax-exempt status and the imposition of an excise tax on the amount of money spent on the prohibited activity.)

I thank you for your consideration of this important matter. Please feel free to contact me at (513) 353-8780 or by writing me at the address and e-mail address provided above if I can be of further assistance or you need me to provide additional information or you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,


Nathaniel Livingston, Jr.

Enclosures

cc: IRS EO Classifications, Mail Code 4910DAL, 1100 Commerce Street, Dallas, TX 75242-1198. Transmitted via first class mail and electronic mail to eoclass@irs.gov.

Angela Ciccolo, Esq., NAACP Interim General Counsel, NAACP National Headquarters, 4805 Mt. Hope Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21215. Also transmitted via facsimile to (410) 358-9350 and electronic mail to aciccolo@naacpnet.org.

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[1] A copy of the report is attached.
[2] A audio copy of the show is available online at http://blip.tv/file/2038774.
[3] A copy of the letter is attached.
[4] http://www.naacpcincinnati.org.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done, Nate.

Somebody made a pdf of your letter and uploaded here.

Anonymous said...

Here is the actual IRS page with the procedure and a link to the proper IRS form to report violatiosn of tax exempt status. You might get further using this.

http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=139029,00.html

natasha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Nate - You might want to forward this NAACP press release as an amendment to your complaint.

4/14/09: Democratic Party Fails African Americans in Cincinnati###

Also, a casual experiment on the Cincinnati NAACP's website turned up the following:

Keyword search "Republican" turned up 16 results.Keyword search "Democratic" turned up 31 results.It's interesting to contrast the tone of the two sets of documents, especially the "Democratic" hits.

Anonymous said...

Like crabs in a barrel. We will always try pulling each other down.

Nathaniel Livingston, Jr. said...

I agree. I'm so tired of Chris Smitherman and the Smart-Mouthed Little Punks trying to pull down Mayor Mallory, former Mayor Tillery, State Senator Kearney, Councilmembers Cole and Thomas, Earmon Powell, and every other Black person who dares to disagree with Chris.

Anonymous said...

good work, continue to follow up until you receive a response...