FEC Complaint Details Illegal Travel, Contributions and High Living
National Legal and Policy Center, Feb. 2
Washington, DC — The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) today filed a formal Complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Rev. Al Sharpton, his presidential exploratory committee, and businessman LaVan Hawkins.
The Complaint is the second NLPC has filed against Sharpton. The first resulted in a Conciliation Agreement under which Sharpton has to pay a $5,500 fine for late filing of disclosure documents.
The Complaint alleges numerous violations of federal election law, including a failure to disclose in-kind contributions, a failure to disclose expenditures, and the acceptance of contributions in excess of legal limits.
The Complaint also cites a questionable “consulting fee” of $25,000 paid to Sharpton personally by Mr. Hawkins’ company, and suspicious campaign contributions by Hawkins’ employees.
In one instance, Sharpton did not report any in-kind contributions for an Atlanta fundraising event hosted by Hawkins in early 2003. According to an April 2003 Ebony magazine article, Hawkins “spared no expense.” Sharpton was transported to the event in the Hawkins Food Group private jet, along with Hawkins’ personal chef, who was picked up in Detroit. Guests enjoyed fresh crab cakes and beef tenderloin, “washed down by $200 bottles of Cristal champaign.” Hawkins and his wife have contributed the legal maximum of $2,000 each to Sharpton’s campaign.
According to the same Ebony article, “Hawkins worked the crowd, at times talking business and world politics with guests, at other times, seeming to “shake down” guests for donations.”
Media reports indicate that Sharpton may have visited over 100 cities related to his presidential campaign in 2002 and 2003. This extensive political travel is not reflected anywhere in Sharpton’s FEC filings. In response to the first NLPC Complaint against Sharpton, the FEC cited to Sharpton the requirement for a potential candidate who becomes a candidate to report all previous contributions and expenditures on the first report.
There is also the question of the $25,000 paid to Sharpton by Hawkins Food Group for “consulting.” According to the Complaint, “While Al Sharpton has been described in many ways, “business consultant” is not the term that typically is used. This payment by an individual who subsequently became a major donor and then some to Sharpton’s campaign is all the more questionable given the statement by the Sharpton campaign that records for some of his “consulting” work were destroyed in a fire which also destroyed other records about honoraria and income earned by Sharpton.”
In 1997, Sharpton also used the excuse of a fire, claiming that records had been destroyed relating to his nonprofit group, the National Action Network, just after he had promised to make the records public.
In the Complaint, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm concludes, “At its core, this case illustrates the calculated and willful violation of two of the pillars of campaign finance law: contribution limits and financial disclosure…The Sharpton campaign has brazenly sought to run an off-the-books campaign. The evidence is overwhelming and beyond dispute.”
NLPC promotes ethics in public life, and sponsors the Government Integrity Project.