National Black Chamber of CommerceAs reported in yesterday’s POLITICO Influence, Checks and Balances Project recently referred the National Black Chamber of Commerce to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for potential abuses of its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

NBCC President Harry C. Alford has become one of the leading voices of the utility industry’s argument that minority communities will somehow be hurt by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan standards and pro-clean energy policies in the states.

National Black Chamber of CommerceThrough dozens of op-eds in major newspapers (examples here, here and here) and numerous national television appearances and appearances before Congress, Mr. Alford has aggressively attacked clean energy policies and promoted the ongoing use of fossil fuels on behalf of his allegedly large membership.

Discredited Study

In his most recent op-ed attacking the Clean Power Plan, he continues citing the discredited study his organization commissioned. This study was favorably cited by fellow travelers in the fossil fuel echo chamber, such as the National Review, Investor’s Business Daily and The Heartland Institute.

He has a history of such treatment by allies of the fuel lobby and has been lauded by prominent publications, think tanks, media celebrities, the Bush White House and elected officials such as Ted Cruz.

Central to his position as a credible authority are his repeated claims – under oath to Congress, in the media and online – that the National Black Chamber of Commerce represents huge numbers of black-owned businesses.

Contradictory Data

After an exhaustive and vetted examination of the National Black Chamber of Commerce’s available IRS Form 990s, President Harry C. Alford’s public statements and his testimony before Congress, Checks and Balances Project found that the data (see below) sharply contradicts Mr. Alford’s membership claims, even if he is afforded the most favorable assumptions:

  1. Failure to disclose relationships between officers and consultants on Form 990, Schedule J or Schedule L.
  2. Excessive lobbying activities, in violation of section 501(c)(3).
  3. Failure to inform its donors or members that membership dues or contributions for lobbying are not tax-deductible as charitable contributions.
  4. Failure to provide a full copy of its Form 990 (with a redacted Schedule B).

Other, multiple failures to file a complete and accurate Form 990 with the IRS, including details on its vendor relationships, compensation, lobbying activities and membership.

Checks and Balances Project has attempted at least three times to secure answers from Mr. Alford to basic questions about his organization, such as:

  • How many members the NBCC actually has?
  • Who those members are?
  • Why so much of his budget goes to consultants?
  • Who the consultants are?
  • Who occupies staff positions beyond his immediate family?

But Mr. Alford has repeatedly refused to answer ours or anyone else’s questions. With this IRS referral, the Checks and Balances Project hopes the public can get the information needed to more accurate assess who Harry Alford and the NBCC actually represent.



Read More

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Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.