Al Sharpton's corporate shakedown operation
Which is more disgusting? Companies paying Al Sharpton so that he won't call them racists, or Sharpton himself who has developed a routine corporate shakedown operation - the most professional among all the racialists making a buck off their outrage?
Want to influence a casino bid? Polish your corporate image? Not be labeled a racist?
Then you need to pay Al Sharpton.
For more than a decade, corporations have shelled out thousands of dollars in donations and consulting fees to Sharpton’s National Action Network. What they get in return is the reverend’s supposed sway in the black community or, more often, his silence.
Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal met with the activist preacher after leaked e-mails showed her making racially charged comments about President Obama. Pascal was under siege after a suspected North Korean cyber attack pressured the studio to cancel its release of “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un.
Pascal and her team were said to be “shaking in their boots” and “afraid of the Rev,” The Post reported.
No payments to NAN have been announced, but Sharpton and Pascal agreed to form a “working group” to focus on racial bias in Hollywood.
Sharpton notably did not publicly assert his support for Pascal after the meeting — what observers say seems like a typical Sharpton “shakedown” in the making. Pay him in cash or power, critics say, and you buy his support or silence.
“Al Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they didn’t come to terms with him. Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal & Policy Center, a Virginia-based watchdog group that has produced a book on Sharpton.
The Pascal incident is small potatoes. Sharpton's shakedown operation has taken in an astonishing amount of money over the years:
In 2008, Plainfield Asset Management, a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund, made a $500,000 contribution to New York nonprofit Education Reform Now. That money was immediately funneled to the National Action Network.
The donation raised eyebrows. Although the money was ostensibly to support NAN’s efforts to bring “educational equality,” it also came at a time that Plainfield was trying to get a lucrative gambling deal in New York.
Plainfield had a $250 million stake in Capital Play, a group trying to secure a license to run the coming racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Capital Play employed a lobbyist named Charlie King, who also was the acting executive director of NAN.
Sharpton has said that most of the Plainfield contribution went to pay King’s salary.
King’s company, the Movement Group, was paid $243,586 by NAN in 2008, tax records show.
Harold Levy, a former New York City schools chancellor who was a managing director at Plainfield at the time, has denied the contribution was made to curry favor with Sharpton or anyone else. But a year later, as the battle for the racino license heated up, NAN raked in another $100,000 from representatives of the AEG consortium, which was the successor company to Capital Play.
Sharpton's front group, the National Action Network, has been under investigation several times for, among other things, failing to pay payroll taxes and messy, shady bookeeping. It's apparent that Sharpton uses the charity to funnel cash into his and his crony's pockets.
Sharpton has a knack for skirting the law but not going too far over the line when he does transgress. Besides, in New York, he is virtually untouchable and at the federal level - well, Eric Holder and his successor are not lining up to investigate his dealings.