On a New High, Sharpton Hits a New Low

Wayne Barrett, Village Voice, Dec. 7

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This story will spotlight four individuals close to Sharpton who helped expose Jackson, instantly catapulting Sharpton to the top ranks of African American leadership. (See “What Al Did to Jesse“). While it is virtually impossible to establish that an intimate relationship existed without confirmation from a party, a compelling case can be made that Sharpton appeared to engage in one with Marjorie Harris (also known as Marjorie Fields-Harris), the executive director of his National Action Network and the woman named in two Daily News gossip pieces.

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Harris’s registration efforts, by the way, consist largely of an 877 helpline number that simply gives callers with questions NAN’s number, an occasional card table at a shopping center, and radio commercials Harris made herself. She didn’t even register in New York until August 2001, almost two years after she joined NAN, and the city election board says they do no work with her organization. With so much energy spent on bluster at NAN, there has long been little left for actual programs.

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Though she specifically refused to answer questions about her sudden surfeit of expensive accessories, Smikle noticed a $7,000 Rolex, mink coats, and David Yurman jewels appraised at $1,500 and $4,000. She bought a Caddy at Dick Gidron’s Bronx dealership, where NAN did all its business and where the owner, a convicted felon, was one of the Rev’s financial supporters, even paying off part of his personal debts. Telling the Voice last Friday that she was still making payments on the car and did not get a discount, she registered and insured it in New York under her own name, and sent it off to North Carolina for her mother. Sharpton was so close to her mother he called her every Sunday night. Smikle did not know she also bought a Mercedes in December 2002 until the dealer called him at home to see if he was happy with it. He could not figure out how she was paying for it all.

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Indeed Harris’s NAN workload is so scant that her bio, which she’s distributed to various places recently, says she’s the “former executive director” of the organization. Sharpton confirmed that in a Voice interview, saying the position “is vacant.” But Harris said she has “no idea” why he’d say that and that’s she’s continuously served in that capacity for five years. Sharpton and she say they are working on a book about the campaign, which they intend to market through an agent, though the most Harris has ever written is a couple of op-ed pieces. Several ex-employees who remain uncritically loyal to Sharpton admit that they can’t explain what Harris actually does, or why he publicly promotes her, with one top aide saying he had to leave because of “the appearances of impropriety” between Sharpton and Harris.

The Harris saga is not just a question of sex; it’s a window into the dysfunction of Sharpton’s universe. NAN’s domain name was purchased in September 2003 and no one’s ever talked to the company that bought it; they just stopped posting. The Voice sent a donor up to the 125th Street office in December 2003 to make a $25 contribution and the check was never cashed. Sharpton’s campaign owes $479,050.72, having stiffed many vendors and staffers, most of them black, just as he and NAN have stiffed everyone from travel agencies to limo companies to the firm that had the title on a $46,880 SUV Sharpton leased from Gidron. The Federal Election Commission even wants its $100,000 in public matching funds back because Sharpton has refused to comply with a subpoena for detailed campaign records. The subpoena involves the over-the-limit expenses billed to Sharpton’s credit card to cover Marjorie and Eddie Harris’s travel.

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