Audit: Sharpton campaign owes US nearly $500,000

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal auditors have concluded the Rev. Al Sharpton's 2004 campaign owes the government nearly $500,000 for illegal donations and other financial improprieties. Sharpton has been feuding with the Federal Election Commission for years over his accounting in his failed run for president, for which he received $100,000 in so-called government matching funds that authorities later concluded he did not deserve because he hadn't followed campaign laws.

The auditors have now determined that Sharpton owes $486,803 to the U.S. Treasury because of his campaign's taking improper donations, largely from the National Action Network, a not-for-profit corporation that Sharpton leads but is separate from his campaign committee.

Sharpton will appeal the finding, aides said Friday, which would extend an already years-long fight with the government over how he raised and spent money to run for president.

The audit report is "a gross violation of Reverend Al Sharpton's right to perform his paid duties as president of the National Action Network, a traveling minister, lecturer, and an author who was promoting a book during the time period being audited," said his spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger.

Sharpton's campaign finances came under scrutiny as he campaigned, speaking at churches where he collected "love offerings" that are common to traveling preachers.

At the same time, he was campaigning for president, and paying for much of it with his personal American Express card.

Some of the costs were paid by the National Action Network, some by a different company called Rev-Als Production Inc.

"Virtually no effort appears to have been made by Sharpton 2004, the candidate, NAN, or Rev-Als. Production Inc. to keep any sort of detailed records demonstrating what payments paid for which travel," the report found, noting what it called the campaign's "nearly complete failure to produce any information on this subject in the course of the audit."

The FEC audit is just the latest in a long list of money problems for Sharpton.

Last summer, federal prosecutors decided not to seek criminal charges against him over unpaid taxes after a lengthy grand jury investigation.

The IRS obtained a $931,397 lien against Sharpton. City and state officials said he owned them another $933,577. Separately, the National Action Network said in its most recent tax filing that it owed at least $1.9 million in payroll taxes and related interest.

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