More than 60 charities, churches and other tax-exempt groups have been contacted by the Internal Revenue Service about alleged improper political activities, the agency disclosed.

While the IRS is prohibited by law from disclosing the names of the groups, it said that about a third are churches. Groups found to have broken IRS rules related to political intervention can lose their tax-exempt status.

The disclosure about the investigations by the IRS comes on the heels of reports that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is under investigation by the agency for violating the terms of its tax-exempt status in a probe that NAACP chairman Julian Bond claimed stemmed from comments he made that were critical of President Bush.

In a statement last week, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson denied the claim, saying, "Any suggestion that the IRS has tilted its audit activities for political purposes is repugnant and groundless." According to reports that surfaced last week, the civil rights organization was charged in an Oct. 8 IRS document of "distributing statements in opposition of George W. Bush for the presidency," during its July convention in Philadelphia.

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