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Thursday, February 12, 2004

Sharpton's GOP Backers

I've commented on most of the Democrats running for President -- more extensively on the ones who have received more votes. In retrospect, I should have said more about Dennis Kucinich, third place finisher in Maine and Washington state. He's the only one of the candidates I've seen "live."

As it turns out, I've said very little about Reverend Al Sharpton. I've certainly been entertained by some of the things he has said in the debates and he seemed fine on Bill Maher's show on HBO. However, some papers and magazines are reporting a story that makes me question Sharpton's politics.

Specifically, the The Village Voice reports a troubling story called "Sleeping with the GOP" by Wayne Barrett, with Adam Hutton and Christine Lagorio. Barrett and colleagues explain the strange relationship between Sharpton and long-time GOP "operative" Roger Stone.

Stone was the guy who arranged the "Cuban riot" in Florida in 2000 that stopped the presidential recount in Miami (Dade County). His ties to the Republican party go back to Nixon. Here's the scoop:
investigation has documented an extraordinary array of connections. Stone played a pivotal role in putting together Sharpton's pending application for federal matching funds, getting dollars in critical states from family members and political allies at odds with everything Sharpton represents. He's also helped stack the campaign with a half-dozen incongruous top aides who've worked for him in prior campaigns. He's even boasted about engineering six-figure loans to Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) and allowing Sharpton to use his credit card to cover thousands in NAN costs—neither of which he could legally do for the campaign.
Stone has apparently loaned the Sharpton campaign $270,000, which is a fairly large part of the Reverend's operating funds. By contrast, his FEC matching funds figure was only $150,000.

The journalists theorize that Sharpton is angry about the Democratic party taking the African American vote for granted, so he is selectively making attacks on other candidates so as to teach the party a lesson. Allegedly, this explains some of his political maneuvering in NYC in 2001.

Dean supporters have perhaps the strongest beef, given the attack Sharpton levied in the televised debate on January 11, which coincides closely with the former Vermont Governor's collapse in the Iowa polls:
Sharpton took center stage at a debate confronting Dean about the absence of blacks in his Vermont cabinet. Stone told the Times that he "helped set the tone and direction" of the Dean attacks, while Charles Halloran, the Sharpton campaign manager installed by Stone, supplied the research. While other Democratic opponents were also attacking Dean, none did it on the advice of a consultant who's worked in every GOP presidential campaign since his involvement in the Watergate scandals of 1972, including all of the Bush family campaigns.
This sounds similar to the often-repeated story that Ralph Nader received a couple of million bucks from Bush supporters in 2000 to sap Gore votes in key states.

The Voice story is long and includes a lot of detail. Some Roger Stone staffers and political allies apparently kicked in $250 to help Sharpton meet minimum state thresholds so as to qualify for matching FEC monies.
In Florida, Stone's wife, Nydia; son Scott; daughter-in-law Laurie; mother-in-law Olga Bertran; executive assistant Dianne Thorne; Tim Suereth, who lives with Thorne; and Halloran's mother, Jane Stone (unrelated to Roger, he says), pushed Sharpton comfortably over the threshold, donating $250 apiece in December.
Alas, a Blog is on this story too, with a lot of quotes from the Black Commentator. Here is that journal's take:
the revelations are a deathblow to his actual goal: to become the recognized leader of African Americans. Although the story has been framed in terms of treachery to the Democratic Party, or as evidence of Sharpton’s visceral disdain for white “liberals,” the tale will resonate somewhat differently among African Americans. Sharpton comes across as a hapless stooge of the worst elements of the GOP.
The journal says that African American are still looking for a national leader with a strong voice. Tennessee Representative Harold Ford, Jr. has been on TV a great deal lately, and I'm looking forward to the coverage of his visit to Kentucky today. Perhaps Ford can provide the much-needed voice.

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