Congress, where for 10 years he represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, to assume the NAACP presidency. The former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus had also spent seven years as a member of the Baltimore City Council.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Mfume continues to maintain a campaign committee. Maryland political insiders are buzzing about whether he is preparing to run for the seat that could become vacated by 72-year-old Sen. Paul Sarbanes in 2006.
Mfume denies that political aspirations or personal conflicts were responsible for his departure. He has, however, left the door to return to political office open: “If Sen. Sarbanes decides that he’s not running again, then that’s something I could think about.”
Regarding his relationship with Bond, Mfume says, “Nobody gets along 100% of the time. Julian and I have a mutual respect and when we disagree, we sit down and talk about it.”
Bond’s only comment about Mfume’s departure was in a released statement: “Mfume came to [us] when we were nearly bankrupt and our reputation under siege; he left sure re-election to the Congress to help save the NAACP. In short order, he and our former chair, Myrlie Evers-Williams, restored us to solvency and to primacy among civil rights organizations. He has been one of the most effective spokespersons for justice and fair play. We are saddened by his departure, but wish him well in his future pursuits.”
Once new leadership is in place, political analysts say the most pressing issues facing the NAACP are economic policies that contribute to the growing wealth and educational gaps among working-class African Americans. “Major wealth disparities and democracy are incompatible. If the NAACP can get a spokesperson that can, through the media, put that platform forward, it would be a great thing,” says Thornton.
Before that happens, the NAACP must contend with the IRS, which is questioning whether the NAACP is too partisan to be a legitimate nonprofit. If the government rules that Bond’s speech or the NAACP itself engaged in a partisan manner, it could revoke the group’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, potentially throwing it into worse organizational turmoil than it faced in the mid-1990s. Throughout his speech last July, Bond relentlessly attacked Bush’s policies on the war in Iraq, the economy, and civil liberties, and he browbeat Republicans in general. Bond also criticized Democrats in his speech.
Dawson questions whether the IRS investigation smacks of a political vendetta against the NAACP. “The leadership of the NAACP needs to recognize that the great majority of their constituents oppose the political platform and policy agenda of the current administration,” he says. “They’re already being scrutinized by the IRS; they’re going to be attacked on some level. I don’t think they can avoid that.”
Mfume’s Career Highlights
- 1979 Elected to Baltimore City Council
- 1986 Elected to Congress from Maryland’s 7th District
- 1993 Elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus
- 1996 Resigned from Congress to become NAACP president and CEO
- 1999 Spearheaded boycott and filed lawsuit against Adam’s Mark
- Hotels and Resorts on behalf of Black College Reunion guests
- 2004 Resigned from NAACP