Obama Adviser Al Sharpton Is Facing Mounting Money Problems
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.”
Indeed, Mr. Sharpton’s influence and visibility have reached new heights this year, fueled by his close relationships with the mayor and the president.
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.
Behind the scenes, he has consulted with the mayor and the president on matters of race and civil rights and even the occasional high-level appointment. He was among a small group at the White House when Mr. Obama announced his nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to become the next attorney general.
Mr. Obama also spoke at the organization’s convention in April, its primary fund-raising event.
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.