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Thursday, December 13, 2007

A closer look at Al Sharpton's finances

Al Sharpton may have skated too close to the edge of his financial shenanigans for the last time. Federal authorities seem to be serious about investigating all sorts of allegations of financial misconduct.
Teams of federal agents swooped down on up to 10 close associates of the Rev. Al Sharpton Wednesday, demanding the flamboyant clergyman's financial records since 2001.

Sharpton's former chief of staff said he was roused at his Harlem home about 6:30 a.m. by two FBI agents who handed him a subpoena to bring the records to a federal grand jury the day after Christmas.

Several employees of Sharpton's National Action Network also got wakeup subpoenas to testify before the Brooklyn panel, the rabble-rousing reverend's lawyer said.

The FBI and IRS are investigating whether Sharpton improperly misstated the amount of money he raised during his 2004 White House run to illegally obtain federal matching funds, a source familiar with the probe said.

Sharpton, although forced to return $100,000 in matching taxpayer funds after an investigation two years ago, denied any wrongdoing at the time.

The feds are also looking into allegations of tax fraud, including whether Sharpton commingled funds from his nonprofit National Action Network with several of his for-profit ventures, the source said.

Lawyer Michael Hardy shrugged off the probe, which sought a vast array of business, political and personal records, as a federal fishing expedition.

"I can't think of a time when the Rev. Sharpton wasn't under investigation," he said.

Sharpton was not among those subpoenaed in the synchronized sweep of friends and employees.

"It was like a sting or a raid," said Carl Redding, who spent eight years as the head of Sharpton's staff. "They converged on everybody."

As many as 10 people were subpoenaed, Redding said. The court papers also sought a wide range of financial records, from invoices of expenses paid by cash to cash receipts to bad debt records from the years 2001 to 2007.

Sharpton's quixotic run for the Democratic presidential nomination has raised questions of financial impropriety - including charges that he spent campaign funds on swanky hotels.
How ironic it would be if it was his ambition to be the head demagogue on racial justice by running for president that served to finally bring him down.

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