Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Fiscal Distress

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December 10, 2011; Source: New York Post | The Rev. Al Sharpton has had a number of lives, emerging as a player in national politics defending President Obama in the African-American community against criticisms from Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, and, most recently as the host of the MSNBC show “PoliticsNation.” Those of us with New York City histories remember Rev. Al’s nonprofit provenance, his National Action Network, an activist group that provided the organizational structure for many of Sharpton’s protests. Even now, with Sharpton increasingly on the national scene, the Network is still actively conducting demonstrations around social and economic issues, for example the National Action Network Jobs and Justice rallies in twenty-five cities, a campaign to remove two Morehouse Parish school board members in Louisiana, and the Shake-Off the Violence tour in Harlem, involving NAN’s twelve-year-old Northeast Regional Director of the Youth, Victoria Pannell.

NAN is also financially troubled, according to an article in the New York Post. The Post’s investigative team, led by Isabel Vincent, reports that the National Action Network and two for-profit Sharpton companies were together $5.3 million in the red. The Post cites a debt of $1.6 million—$880,000 in unpaid federal payroll taxes (plus interest and penalties) and $206,252 in loans to the two for-profit Sharpton entities (Bo-Spanky Consulting and Sharpton Media LLC). Another entity, the defunct Rev-Al Communications, owes New York State $176,000. Despite his salary of $241,732 from NAN, Sharpton personally owes the IRS $2.6 million and the state $900,000 in income taxes. Sharpton representatives say that Rev. Al is on a repayment plan for his personal debts and that the Network is working on a plan to pay off its federal debt.

These are big numbers for a modestly sized organization to be in the hole for. Sharpton is articulate and quick-witted, but the mosaic of indebtedness of the nonprofit and other Sharpton-affiliated groups—as well as his own debts due to reneging on his taxes—makes it hard to believe that the long-troubled NAN can right itself financially as well as disgorge its tendency toward business dealing with for-profit organizations linked to the controversial activist himself.—Rick Cohen