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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Bad Timing.

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It isn't really all that likely that the IRS is engaging in a politically motivated attack on the NAACP by launching an investigation into the group's tax-exempt status. But this is one of those cases where the timing of its actions is guaranteed to raise questions. On Oct. 8, agency officials sent the NAACP a letter seeking more information about its activities, because the group's chairman, Julian Bond, had "condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush on education, the economy and the war in Iraq," at the NAACP's annual convention in July. (Tax-exempt organizations aren't supposed to engage in political activities.)

IRS Commissioner Mark Everson noted that "the IRS follows strict procedures involving selection of tax-exempt organizations for audit and resolution of any complaints about such groups. Career civil servants, not political appointees, make these decisions in a fair and impartial manner." Those career civil servants might have thought a little harder about the consequences of sending a letter raising such hot-button political issues less than a month before the election.

 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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