BY JOHN SHIFFMAN INQUIRER STAFF WRITER With a hidden FBI camera rolling inside a New York hotel suite in 2003, an unsuspecting Rev. Al Sharpton, Democratic candidate for president, spoke candidly. Sharpton offered to help Philadelphia fund-raiser Ronald A. White win a multimillion-dollar business deal, if White helped him raise $50,000 for politics.
White offered $25,000. “If you bring my guys up on this hedge fund, and I have the right conversation,” White said, “I’ll give you what you need.”
“Cool,” Sharpton said.
The Inquirer obtained an account of the May 9, 2003, conversation, which was recorded as part of the Philadelphia City Hall corruption case. The tape helped spark a separate inquiry into Sharpton’s 2004 campaign and his civil-rights organization, the National Action Network. The FBI-IRS probe resurfaced publicly Wednesday, when Sharpton aides received subpoenas. […]
When Sharpton and White teamed up in 2003, each had a need and a talent. Sharpton had access to business and government officials, and needed help fund-raising for his fledgling national campaign. White had access to campaign donors and was always looking for connections into business and government deals.
To qualify for matching federal funds in the presidential campaign, Sharpton needed to raise $5,000 in each of 20 states. According to a spreadsheet created by White’s office staff, White and Hawkins raised contributions for Sharpton in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania. White solicited funds from donors in Texas, New Jersey, Alabama and Maryland, and made plans to raise money in a half dozen other states.
Some contributors, however, were reluctant to help White contribute to Sharpton because they didn’t want their names attached to the controversial preacher in public records. One businessman in Philadelphia is heard on one wiretap expressing such concern. White convinced him to move the money through White’s political action committee instead.
On a few calls, Hawkins expressed his concern about Sharpton’s shortcomings as a candidate. He was sloppy with campaign finances, Hawkins said, worrying that some campaign funds might get mixed with personal or National Action Network funds.
“He’s a train wreck — a plane crash waiting to happen,” Hawkins told White. MORE