Questions About Sharpton’s Finances Accompany His Rise in Influence

Russ Buettner, New York Times, November 18, 2014

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who came to prominence as an imposing figure in a track suit, shouting indignantly at the powerful, stood quietly on a stage last month at the Four Seasons restaurant, his now slender frame wrapped in a finely tailored suit, as men in power lined up to exclaim their admiration for him.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hailed him as a civil rights icon. President Obama sent an aide to read a message commending Mr. Sharpton’s “dedication to the righteous cause of perfecting our union.” Major corporations sponsored the lavish affair.

It was billed as a “party for a cause,” in honor of Mr. Sharpton’s 60th birthday. But more than a birthday celebration, or a fund-raiser for his nonprofit advocacy group National Action Network, the event in Manhattan seemed to mark the completion of Mr. Sharpton’s decades of transition from consummate outsider to improbable insider.


Obscured in his ascent, however, has been his troubling financial past, which continues to shadow his present.

Mr. Sharpton has regularly sidestepped the sorts of obligations most people see as inevitable, like taxes, rent and other bills. Records reviewed by The New York Times show more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses. And though he said in recent interviews that he was paying both down, his balance with the state, at least, has actually grown in recent years. His National Action Network appears to have been sustained for years by not paying federal payroll taxes on its employees.

With the tax liability outstanding, Mr. Sharpton traveled first class and collected a sizable salary, the kind of practice by nonprofit groups that the United States Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration recently characterized as “abusive,” or “potentially criminal” if the failure to turn over or collect taxes is willful.

Mr. Sharpton and the National Action Network have repeatedly failed to pay travel agencies, hotels and landlords. He has leaned on the generosity of friends and sometimes even the organization, intermingling its finances with his own to cover his daughters’ private school tuition.


Mr. Sharpton’s newly found insider status represents a potential financial boon for him, furnishing him with new credibility and a surge in donations. His politician-heavy birthday party, at one of New York City’s most expensive restaurants, was billed as a fund-raiser to help his organization. Mr. Obama also spoke at the organization’s convention in April, its primary fund-raising event.


Mr. Sharpton acknowledged his financial troubles in recent telephone interviews. He said all of the debts were being paid, thanks to vastly increased revenues from donors. And he pointed out that he had lent the organization money himself, while at times not taking a salary.

“You can say I’m not a great administrator,” he said. “You can’t say that I’m not committed.”


Problems keeping his personal and professional affairs in order have threatened Mr. Sharpton’s rise from the streets for decades.

In 1990, he was acquitted of felony charges that he stole $250,000 from his youth group. Then in 1993 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for failing to file a state income tax return. Later, the authorities discovered that one of Mr. Sharpton’s for-profit companies, Raw Talent, which he used as a repository for money from speaking engagements, was also not paying taxes, a failure that continued for years.


With Mr. Sharpton focused on the 2004 presidential race, National Action Network’s finances were reaching crisis levels, tax documents and other public records show. The group’s revenues totaled just over $1 million in 2004, about half of what they had been two years earlier. Nevertheless, it picked up expenses from Mr. Sharpton’s presidential bid: $181,115 in consulting and other costs that should have been charged to his campaign, the Federal Election Commission later found. The group also faced court judgments for several hundred thousand dollars in unpaid office rent and hotel bills.

To stay afloat, the nonprofit became reliant on money that was supposed to go to payroll taxes, according to its financial statements. The amount National Action Network underpaid the federal government in taxes went from about $900,000 in 2003 to almost $1.9 million by 2006, records show. Mr. Sharpton, making more money from a new radio contract, tried to help by forgoing a salary from 2006 through 2008 and giving the organization a $200,000 no-interest loan.


In 2009, when the group still owed $1.1 million in overdue payroll taxes, Mr. Sharpton began collecting a salary of $250,000 from National Action Network. The recent Treasury report that called that sort of practice abusive also said only 1,200 organizations in the nation owed more than $100,000 in unpaid payroll taxes, which would put Mr. Sharpton’s group among the most delinquent nonprofit organizations in the nation.

Mr. Sharpton denied in a recent interview that the payroll tax shortfall was intentional. Contradicting the statements by the group’s accountants that this was how the organization was surviving, he said the underpayment stemmed from disagreements over how to classify certain workers, after the I.R.S. began investigating the group in late 2007. The agency demanded that some people who were working as independent contractors be treated as employees, he said, so the organization needed to retroactively turn over their payroll taxes.

“It cost us a lot to go through the investigation,” Mr. Sharpton said. “If we didn’t have the legal fees, we could have paid all the taxes.”


Today, Mr. Sharpton still faces personal federal tax liens of more than $3 million, and state tax liens of $777,657, according to records. Raw Talent and Revals Communications owe another $717,329 on state and federal tax liens.

Mr. Sharpton said the federal liens resulted from a demand by the I.R.S. that he pay taxes on earnings from speaking engagements that he had turned over to National Action Network. He said he was up to date on payment plans for both the federal and state liens, so, he said, the outstanding balance was much lower than records showed.

But according to state officials, his balance on the state liens is actually $220,000 greater now than when they were first filed during the years 2008 through 2010. {snip}


National Action Network’s revenue has increased sharply, to more than $4 million in both 2011 and 2012, the year of the group’s most recent tax filing.

Much of that revenue appears to be from large corporate sponsors. A person who handled solicitations at a company that has supported the group said National Action Network often requested $50,000 or $100,000 to sponsor events.

Mr. Sharpton said his birthday party grossed about $1 million, enough that he expected to be able to clear up the organization’s tax debts, removing a cloud that has long hung over the group and himself.

“I think it shows we were able to continue to fund-raise, despite it being challenging,” he said. “We were able to turn it around.”

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  • Steve_in_Vermont

    What’s unfortunate about this is the fact that so many influential people have affiliated themselves with Sharpton for political gain. The American public is not stupid, at least most of them aren’t, and they understand how these politicians are “playing the game”. They also understand if you want to know someone look to see who they associate with. And they wonder why they are held in such low esteem.

  • To me, all these financial improprieties are small potatoes, compared to slandering a white detective based on the “good” word of a black teenaged liar, and provoking a murderous riotous pogrom.

    By all rights, Al Sharpton should have been laughed out of public life just for those things.

    But now? He is essentially the mayor of New York (his former spokeswoman is Bill de Blasio’s black wife’s chief-of-staff, the one involved in that soap opera relating to her getting a residency rule exemption, her dating a convicted murderer, and her son getting arrested this weekend, among other things), Attorney Genera of New York State (Eric Schneiderman promised when campaigning in 2010 to “give Al Sharpton a corner office”), New York State Governor, and now President of the United States.

    Sorta like a ghetto Rasputin.

    • me


    • LexiconD1

      Tawana Brawley, all those years ago, should have done that. I don’t have any idea why anyone would take this guy seriously.

      Or why he’s called ‘reverend?’ He has NO qualifications to be called one. He doesn’t even have a college degree.


  • dd121

    How can Sharpton be broke? He takes bribes and doesn’t pay taxes.

    • OS-Q

      By outspending his earnings. Some people are just gifted at losing money.

      • TruthBeTold

        “Some people” should be in quotes.

        • OS-Q

          “Some people” or Some “people”? To be fair, the mostly white leadership of California manage to double the revenue of the state but triple expenses in a ten year period.

          • WR_the_realist

            Democrats will do that every time.

          • The Worlds Scapegoat

            Arnold Schtoopidfoker screwed his maid, and screwed the people.

          • Max

            It is because Cal. supports millions of “people” approximately the color of Sharpton, more-or-less. That gets real expensive. Just scale up Sharpton 10^7

          • OS-Q

            Sounds like a good Common Core math problem! Err, sorry I meant “Math Situation”

      • Ike Eichenberg

        There is a phrase… can’t remember… something like bigger rich, no maybe digger rich…

        Shoot I just cant think of it.

        • The Worlds Scapegoat

          Start at “A” and work your way to “Z” until you find the word you were looking for. I think you will find it between “M” and “O”.


        • I think it was rigger rich, right? Or was it chigger rich?

      • Eating dinners at 5-star restaurants probably helped, when he actually paid.

        • OS-Q

          True, but I bet he saved 15% or more by not tipping

    • You can be financially broke but not cash broke at the same time.

      It helps a lot if you have the ability to scream RACISM to cower the creditors and the IRS.

  • Frank_DeScushin

    Any of us whities would be arrested for skipping out on hotel and dinner bills or being millions of dollars in tax arrears. Sharpton, on the other hand, meets with the President and gets his own TV show. And what will Sharpton unintelligibly yell about on that show? Well, white privilege and the rich not paying their fair share, of course. Oh, the irony. Liberals have no integrity.

  • $harpton also refused to pay the libel judgement against him in the Tawana Brawley “rape” hoax. He’s a sleazebag, so his continued tax-evasion should come as no surprise.

    • mael

      They got Tawana, though. She quit her job to stop the garnishment.

    • LexiconD1

      Johnny Cochran, and a group of other Sharptongue ‘supporters,’ paid off the fine, for him.

      They left TB to twist in the wind…

    • shmo123

      His buddies were paying it for him, or so I read. Whether they still are or not is anyone’s guess. How anyone could help the ugly little rat is beyond me.

  • Luca

    I thought that charlatans, pimps and street hustlers didn’t have have to pay taxes.

    Sharpton is all three.

    • APaige

      I guess now that he wears a suit, people forget he once looked like Fat Albert auditioning for Run-DMC.

  • [Guest]

    You and I would be in prison. But not the “reverend.”

    Black privilege means never having to pay your taxes.

    • Max

      Maybe he can have Willy Nelson do a concert to raise money, especially in view of HIS tax delinquency experience.

    • Earl P. Holt III

      Just like Jesse Jackass, when he was found to be supporting his black bastard and its “baby-momma” from the receipts of his Tax-Exempt organizations…

  • John

    Sharpton.. “If we didn’t have the legal fees, we could have paid all the taxes.”
    Me… “If you’d done the right thing to begin with and not tried to dodge paying taxes and skirt the law, you wouldn’t have any legal fees to contend with in the first place.”

    • Max

      Don’t overcomplicate things. He’s having a bad time managing things as it is.

      • The Worlds Scapegoat

        That’s almost as hard as maff (math) to figure out.

        Maff be raciss – Nomsane


  • Yves Vannes

    Before they fell out a few years ago Bill O’Reilly would often “bail out” his good buddy.

  • MekongDelta69

    I tried (I swear) to comment in The New York Slimes Comment Section, but since their comments are moderated, guess what?!?

    Of course – It never saw the light of day…

  • JohnEngelman

    I hope Russ Buettner keeps his job with The New York Times after this. Nicholas Wade didn’t.

  • TruthBeTold

    “…at the Four Seasons restaurant…”

    The first thing that popped into my head when I read that was “Animal Farm”.

  • WR_the_realist

    Much of that revenue appears to be from large corporate sponsors. A
    person who handled solicitations at a company that has supported the
    group said National Action Network often requested $50,000 or $100,000
    to sponsor events.

    Corporations will happily fund our enemies, paying protection money to Al Sharpton so he won’t send them one of his rent-a-mobs. They fund La Raza too, for the much the same reason.

  • Earl P. Holt III

    “You crackas jes’ don’ unnerstan what I gots to spend to keep dis here “street ministry” o’ mine goin. I gibs lots o’ money to de yung womenses what ain’t gots no place to stay, an I gibs lots to de womenses what do my coiffure, and dem limos ain’t free, nether. I also gibs lotsa money to de alumni fund at dat semetary where i dun got my divinetty dagree.”

    I may have to run fo’ President again, so I can get all dem comps…”

  • Max

    “…Mr. Sharpton’s group among the most delinquent nonprofit organizations in the nation.”
    Near the top, he is; more black excellence on display.

  • This person, i can’t call him a man, he is a leach, the worst kind of leach, he profits and gain fame from the plite of hate in our country. He is no differnt than a race hating skin head. Being that the prez. is cozy with him is rather discusting and dispicable.

  • Charles Martel

    Paying taxes is actin’ white yo!

  • RacialRay

    “Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hailed him as a civil rights icon.”

    That sour, cloying aftertaste on your tongues, Mssrs. de Blasio and Cuomo? That would be the finish from the reverend’s saggy buttcheeks.

  • mael

    You or I would be incarcerated by now. It must be nice being a protected species.

    • The Worlds Scapegoat

      It’s called white privilege.


  • gene

    I’m beginning to think that Clown Sharpton is one of those entities that many pols think is “too big to fail”

  • “Imposing figure in a track suit” is apparently the New York Times euphemism for “fat slob who can’t dress properly”, right out there with “protesters” instead of “rioting, looting arsonists”. With reporting like this, I remain delighted that the newspapers are dying off.

  • rommel10

    MSNBC when they hired Al made a mistake they will regret, they will never be able to fire him.hes here forever