The “Reverend” Al Shapton enjoys nearly unfettered access to President Barack Obama:
Yeah. I supported President Obama when he was running, and to be honest, he felt that it was something he didn’t expect because I lived and led a[n] organization in the home state of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. So, I had more to lose.
All I ever said that I wanted from him was access. I’ve not asked for a patronage job for a friend of mine. I don’t get government money. Just access: “We want to talk to you about education. We want to deal with you about jobs. We want to be in the room when you’re dealing with agendas. I’m not going to always agree with you.”
I don’t agree with drones. I don’t agree with Guantanamo Bay, but I agree with a lot of what he’s doing ’cause that’s why I supported him. Anybody that supports a candidate is probably going to agree with them when they get in ’cause – duh – that’s why they supported ’em.
In fact, The Reverend Al has become Barack Obama’s “go to guy” on issues of race:
It was a heady consultation for Sharpton, who spent years on the outside dreaming of a place in the pantheon of the civil rights leaders he revered as a teenage street preacher in Brooklyn, and it’s an irony lost on no one that his rise to White House adviser has come thanks to Barack Obama, whose restrained personal style couldn’t be any more different from Sharpton’s. If anything, the Ferguson crisis has underscored Sharpton’s role as the national black leader Obama leans on most, a remarkable personal and political transformation for a man once regarded with suspicion and disdain by many in his own party. It’s a status made all the more surprising given that Obama, America’s first black president, ran on a platform of moving beyond the country’s painful racial divisions while Sharpton is the man who once defined those divisions for many Americans.
What brought them together, according to numerous sources I’ve spoken with about this over the years, is a shared commitment to racial justice, and a hardheaded pragmatism that has fueled their success. “He realized I wasn’t as irrational or as crazy as people thought,” Sharpton told me in an interview this week, and indeed Sharpton not only visits the White House frequently, he often texts or emails with senior Obama officials such as Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to hold that job and who, like Sharpton, views the Ferguson crisis as a pivotal one in Obama’s presidency.
Sharpton has quite a nefarious past:
Three decades ago, the overweight, track-suited, medallion-bedecked Sharpton led a rally against a white-owned clothing store in Harlem that was subsequently burned to the ground by a deranged black protester, killing eight people. Around that time, he was convicted of defaming a white upstate New York prosecutor he falsely accused of raping black teenager Tawana Brawley in the 1980s, an infamous case that made him famous as the caricature of an inflammatory inner-city preacher immortalized by Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of the Vanities. Sharpton often, regrettably, played to type: During the 1991 Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, Sharpton stoked black rage after a Hasidic Jewish driver killed a young boy with his car. At the child’s funeral, Sharpton railed against Jewish “diamond merchants” who bought their wares from apartheid South Africa, then ran down black kids in Brooklyn. There was his much-mocked stint as an FBI informer in the 1980s.
Being an Obama confidante has some pretty darned big advantages. You don’t have to pay taxes:
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.
Not even payroll taxes:
In financial statements for 2007 and 2008, the group’s accountant noted that the organization’s “existence has been dependent upon” loans from Mr. Sharpton and “the nonpayment of payroll tax obligations.”
“These circumstances create substantial doubt about the organization’s ability to continue as a going concern,” the accountant wrote.
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.
And he still owes:
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. A spokesman for the State Department of Taxation and Finance said state law did not allow him to provide any further details.
It’s great to be king. Apparently it’s pretty darned good even to be king’s jester. You can skip out on the millions you owe and still the IRS won’t touch you. You get your own show on MSDNC.
You can resist paying taxes. Much.