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 voters.
“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 office.”
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 as “neo-fascists.”
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 activism
Presence in election 2000