1 of 2
James Evans

Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairman James Evans said Friday he's filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service challenging the tax-exempt status of the local branch of the NAACP.

Evans said the president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, Jeanetta Williams, violated an IRS prohibition against getting involved in political campaigns by telling local media outlets the organization was targeting Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan.

That was because Buttars used the word "black" in a floor debate during the 2008 Legislature to negatively describe the "baby" being divided by a school finance bill, saying, "This baby is black, I'll tell you. This is a dark and ugly thing."

Despite the controversy, Buttars earlier this month avoided a primary by winning the GOP nomination outright at the Salt Lake County Republican Convention. He'll face Democrat John Rendell and a third party candidate in November.

Williams, who had called on Buttars to resign and promised to recruit candidates to run against him, said after the convention that the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would "be campaigning against Buttars for sure."

Williams did not immediately return phone calls for comment on Friday.

"Jeanetta clearly stepped outside the bounds," Evans said when asked why he chose to file the complaint. "I didn't decide to do it. It was obvious it had to be done because she violated her tax-exempt status."

Evans said the fact that he is black did not give him pause.

"If I had any pause, it would be because of people that I love and respect that have been saddened. But rules are rules," he said. "To me it does more damage when organizations that are supposed to be there to fight for equality choose to act unequally."

Tax-exempt organizations can participate in nonpartisan activities such as voter registration and education, according to an IRS tax guide. The organizations, however, are "absolutely prohibited" from participating or intervening in political campaigns. That includes campaign funding and statements made supporting or opposing political candidates. Violations could lead to revocation of the organization's tax-exempt status, the guide said.

An IRS spokesman had no comment about any specific allegations.

The controversy surrounding Buttars' comments lasted throughout the session. Buttars apologized for the remark but continued to make news, at one point calling his critics a "hate lynch mob." He also failed to appear at a scheduled meeting with NAACP leaders because the media had been invited.

This wasn't Buttars' first run-in with civil rights leaders. Buttars had previously come under fire for calling the landmark school desegregation ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, "wrong to begin with" during a 2006 radio interview.

E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]