A year ago, I broke the story that Wells Fargo was the lead sponsor of the NAACP’s 101st annual convention. I put the NAACP on blast for getting in bed with an “unequal opportunity lender.”
The relationship came on the heels of the NAACP dropping its three-year-old racial discrimination lawsuit against the subprime mortgage lender.
The NAACP has refused to disclose the financial terms of its “partnership” with Wells Fargo. But as a 501(c)(3), what it does in the dark eventually will be made public. So I made a mental note to check the civil rights organization’s IRS Form 990 to see how much it had been paid to hook up with the predatory lender.
It’s clear what the NAACP has become; now they’re just negotiating the price. So frankly, I put the issue on the backburner. That is until Saturday.
During the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ ethnic media watchdog workshop at the New York Times, IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit led a session on “key documents you can't live without.” Those documents include IRS Form 990, which nonprofits must file and make available for public inspection.
Back in the day, one had to go to a nonprofit’s office and demand to see its most recent filing. In the age of the Internet, one merely has to visit Guidestar and search its database.
It was serendipitous that someone asked Horvit to look up the NAACP’s Form 990.
A review of the NAACP’s 2009 Form 990 shows the organization raised a little over $3.5 million for its centennial convention in New York City, which I attended.
In 2008, the NAACP raised $3 million for its 99th annual convention in Cincinnati.
The 990s set a baseline. I will update the story as information becomes available.
Meanwhile, the NAACP’s partner is under investigation by federal regulators and all 50 state attorneys general for illegal foreclosures by its mortgage servicers.
On Saturday, the New York Times editorialized:
Americans know that banks have mistreated borrowers in many ways in foreclosure cases. Among other things, they habitually filed false court documents. There were investigations. We’ve been waiting for federal and state regulators to crack down.
Prepare for a disappointment. As early as this week, federal bank regulators and the nation’s big banks are expected to close a deal that is supposed to address and correct the scandalous abuses. If these agreements are anything like the draft agreement recently published by the American Banker — and we believe they will be — they will be a wrist slap, at best. At worst, they are an attempt to preclude other efforts to hold banks accountable. They are unlikely to ease the foreclosure crisis.
The NAACP’s hookup with Wells Fargo is more than a disappointment. It’s a measure of the extent to which the nation’s oldest civil rights organization has lost its way.