Sharpton Inc.: Civil Rights Leader Accused Of Making Money Through Shakedowns

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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How has civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton made his money over the years?

According to The New York Post, the debt-ridden MSNBC host has generated revenue for himself and his nonprofit organization, the National Action Network (NAN), by peddling influence.

Sharpton’s most common tactic is by selling his silence, The Post reports. But there is other evidence that Sharpton lobbies lawmakers directly in some instances.

“Al Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they didn’t come to terms with him,” Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal & Policy Center, told The Post. “Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns.”

Sharpton’s money-making methods have made their way back into the spotlight following reports that NAN has an unpaid tax bill to the tune of $4.8 million.

Some Sharpton watchers claim that the Rev’s recent meeting with Sony co-chair Amy Pascal has all the makings of a shakedown scheme.

According to The Post, Pascal was “afraid of the Rev” and met with him last month to discuss forming a “working group” on racism after hacked emails showed Sony executives making racially charged remarks about President Obama and others.

In a typical Sharpton shakedown, companies pay Sharpton to not protest and to not boycott their products. With his influence in the black community, a Sharpton-led protest could be expensive.

Sharpton has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations and sponsorships from a number of large companies, including Macy’s, Pfizer, General Motors, Honda and Chrysler.

According to The Post, Sharpton began asking GM for donations in 2000. They declined to contribute to Sharpton or NAN, but finally began doing so in 2006 after Sharpton threatened a boycott over the planned closure of a car dealership in the Bronx.

Honda began sponsoring NAN events in 2003 after meeting with Sharpton, who complained that the company was not hiring enough African-Americans.

Pepsi also paid Sharpton $25,000 a year as an adviser between 1998 and 2007 after he raised a fuss that the company’s ads did not feature enough African-Americans.

The Post highlighted another case in which Sharpton was believed to have been lobbying then-New York Gov. David Patterson on behalf of a company which was interested in winning a lucrative contract to place video slot machines at a Queens racino — a racetrack-casino.

A 2010 investigation conducted by the State of New York Office of the Inspector General found that in 2008 Plainfield Asset Management, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, which at the time had a $250 million investment in Capital Play, one of the three companies bidding for a license to operate video slot machines at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, made a $500,000 contribution to a group called Education Reform Now.

That group, in turn, sent the money to NAN. The donation was funneled in that manner, according to The New York Times, because contributions to Education Reform Now are tax-deductible, while contributions to NAN — which is considered a lobbying organization — are not.

Capital Play and NAN had something in common — NAN’s then-executive director, a man named Charlie King, was also a lobbyist for the company.

Sharpton denied any impropriety, saying that most of the contribution from Plainfield went to pay King’s salary.

As the competition for the Aqueduct Racetrack license heated up, representatives with Capital Play’s successor, AEG consortium, contributed another $100,000 to NAN.

Members of AEG were under the impression that Sharpton was lobbying then-Gov. David Patterson for the license.

“Individual members of the AEG team also apparently believed that contributions to entities associated with the Rev. Al Sharpton had, in some fashion, advocated for AEG,” the report reads.

The inspector general report uncovered emails in which Sharpton’s influence on the deal was mentioned.

“Sharpton lobbied [then-Gov. David Paterson] hard over the weekend on our behalf,” one AEG member wrote in a 2009 email.

In another email, an AEG executive sought to use Sharpton to discredit one of the group’s rival bidders, SL Green.

“We are going to need it, and we are going to need…Sharpton to piss on hard rock,” reads the email, which was undated.

Sharpton denied lobbying for AEG, and Patterson denied that he met with Sharpton to discuss the company’s contract.

One person who has worked with Sharpton on behalf of two companies told The Daily Caller that Sharpton’s ways may have changed in recent years as “his financial situation has changed dramatically.”

“There was a time when he was financially short of cash, both personally and in his organization,” Sharpton’s former associate told TheDC. “Now that he has the patronage of the President and a fat contract at MSNBC and he’s received with open arms by the mayor of New York City, I don’t get the impression that his financial situation is as difficult as it was 10 years ago, 5 years ago.”

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