- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Finding less liberal partisanship in its next president could be a must for the NAACP if it wants to alter its image as being aligned with the Democratic Party.

“It would send the right signal if they picked someone who could care less about either party,” said conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. “Otherwise, it will become so partisan that they will lose their tax-exempt status.”

The Internal Revenue Service is investigating the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for partisanship to determine whether it can maintain its nonpartisan/nonprofit tax-exempt status.

NAACP National Board Chairman Julian Bond announced last week the formation of a nine-member search committee consisting of Republicans and Democrats to find a new president to replace Kweisi Mfume, an outspoken Democrat, who resigned effective Dec. 31.

Rupert F. Richardson, a board member on the search committee, said the partisan perception is a fair criticism, but not because of any overt actions taken by the board.

“I don’t think we are too tied to either party, but a majority of our members are Democrats and we are just not sure what to do about that,” she said.

She deemed it only “natural” for news organizations, politicians and others to stick the organization with a Democratic tag, but that a perception should have no bearing on picking a new president.

The search committee has yet to meet to discuss the necessary qualifications and background of a potential candidate.

Several names have been speculatively tossed about for the position: Camille Cosby (entertainer Bill Cosby’s wife); Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP District Chapter; and Maryland Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democrat.

Mr. Burns, the deputy majority whip in the Maryland House who is actively seeking the post, said the organization is only as partisan as the Republican Party’s lack of outreach to blacks.

“The NAACP is not partisan either way; it only fights for what is right and just,” Mr. Burns said.

But he added that in the current spectrum of race politics, “When Bush wins the presidency white folks win because they are evenly divided in both parties, but when Democrats lose [blacks] all lose, because we need people who represent our interests.”

One issue about the organization raised by Mrs. Richardson is the misogynistic perception stemming from the NAACP’s 95-year history without a female president.

“For this committee member, female applicants would be looked at favorably,” she said. “I won’t discriminate, but I would like to see them.”

Mr. Shelton, who has not formally applied for the position, said the NAACP should seek someone who will keep it moving in the right direction by being progressive in attacking issues of discrimination, racism, education and jobs, as well as being willing to take on new challenges.

“People should remember that the policies we initially fought against were not illegal — to fire someone because of their race, to force people to live in a certain place because of their skin color, to deny service and equal access to education,” he said.

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