Is Bush Covert Operative Behind Sharpton’s Campaign?

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An explosive piece in the Village Voice by investigative reporter Wayne Barrett reveals how the Rev. Al Sharpton’s presidential campaign is financed, staffed and orchestrated by conservative, Bush-backing Republican Roger Stone. [Includes transcript]

The Rev. Al Sharpton, finished third in South Carolina’s primary last night–far behind senators John Edwards and John Kerry. Edwards won 45 percent of the vote, with Kerry coming in second with 30, while the Rev. Al Sharpton, who had put much emphasis on the South Carolina, won 10 percent.

Speaking to supporters last night, Sharpton said, “We started a movement that will transform the Democratic Party.”

Well maybe in more ways than one. An explosive piece in the Village Voice entitled “Sleeping With the GOP: A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton’s Campaign” shows how Sharpton’s presidential campaign is financed, staffed and orchestrated by conservative, Bush-backing Republican Roger Stone who led the effort that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount in 2000 and helped make George W. Bush president.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We repeatedly called the Sharpton campaign for comment, and didn’t get it. Wayne Barrett, why don’t you lay out what you found? Welcome.

WAYNE BARRETT: Basically the story was that Roger Stone, a long-time Republican operative, who has done every Republican campaign since1972, and played a pivotal role–We all will remember what happened in Miami-Dade County in 2000. When the canvassing board was shut down by a Miami mob, that was basically put together and led by Roger Stone. So, he has been a pivotal player even in the most recent presidential campaign on the other side. And he has never done a Democratic Campaign in his whole life.

AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t he support Ed Koch??

WAYNE BARRETT: I asked him that in the interview. I said, have you ever done a Democratic campaign before, and He said Ed Koch. I say, but in the clips, you said were only supporting and working for Ed Koch in1981, because he was on the Republican line as well. So really, it is an extraordinary exception that he’s doing anything in a Democratic Campaign–Usually political consultants make money in campaigns. He’s not only not making any money in this campaign, the campaign manager he installed, Charles Halloran, who is on the ground tirelessly working for Al Sharpton, hasn’t been paid a cent yet. And he has worked for almost six months, as are other key political operatives associated with Stone. And I layed out six of them in the story. Most of them have not been paid at all, or in one case they had a $5,000 check. This is a company called Archer Group, which is a political consulting company. They’re only listed on the most recent campaign filing by Sharpton as being owed $5,000.They had as many as three people, and an apartment that they rented on West 34th street that they ran a separate operation out of. And all of those costs somehow add up to a grand total of $10,000 over a period of many months.

So, these are essentially donated services by this whole cadre of Republicans, Stone being a primary Republican political operative. They put together what I think is the most important financial side of the Sharpton campaign, which is the submission for Federal matching funds. He is the only candidate now seeking federal matching funds. The F.E.C. has yet to made a decision as to whether or not to give them to him. But he has a pending application. You have to raise $5,000 in 20 states. I think all of us who know Al Sharpton, all of the years we have known him as a major New York figure, would find it pretty unbelievable that he could put together a national network that would raise $5,000 in 20 states, but Roger Stone has played a pivotal role in doing that. And I lay out the money that he raised from family and friends in three critical states. Sharpton has only submitted 21 states, and Stone provided the juice in at least three of them.

So, he has played–Roger Stone, has played a pivotal role. I think the most disturbing aspect of this, of loans that Sharpton–I mean, that–excuse me, that Stone has arranged. $270,000 in loans to Sharpton’s National Action Network. It would not be legal for Stone to make a $270,000 loan to the Sharpton campaign, so he has made it to the National Action Network, and the National Action Network, which is Sharpton’s essentially shell, national organization, the National Action Network has dovetailed its services and dove-tailed its National operation with the Sharpton campaign in such a way that it is a complete blur financially, as to what which one is paying for what. All of the travel arrangements are being shared. All of the travel costs are being shared between the National Action Network, and the Sharpton campaign, as well as many other costs.

One point–Out in California–when there was a National Action Network event in California, Stone just turned over his credit card to Sharpton, and Sharpton ran up an $18,000 bill on it. So, he is laying out a tremendous amount of money. He is not as a political consultant usually does, making money in a campaign. There is no prospect that he will be repaid. Sharpton has a trail of personal leans, National Action Network leans, that go back years. There is no way that he is going to be re-paid. This campaign actually has more debt than it has total revenue. And so, how they expect that any of this is ever going to be paid, even the Federal matching fund application is only for $150,000. So, it’s a campaign run on a string, and the string goes right back to Roger.

AMY GOODMAN: If it was money given to the campaign it, would have to be reported, but if it’s Roger Stone’s personal credit card for The National Action Network, it doesn’t?

WAYNE BARRETT: It doesn’t have to be reported at all.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you know that he ran up a $18,000 debt?

WAYNE BARRETT: I cited sources on the record who Roger described the payments to. I cited people in the campaign. Who were told this, people who were being paid both by the National Action Network, and by the campaign, and I asked both Sharpton about it, and Stone about it; Stone wouldn’t comment, and Sharpton basically acknowledged both. He said, if he’s giving me $18,000 on his credit card for the National Action event, that’s fine. Technically, legally, that may well be fine, but it is hardly the way to support a Presidential campaign. If you are going to present the picture that Sharpton presents all the time, which is — you know, I’m the guy pushing the Demoncratic Party to the left. I’m the guy pushing the Democratic party into progressive causes… to do it on the tab of a Republican political operative and say I’m going to bring my show to the Convention and they’re either going to give me prime time T.V. on the floor of the convention, or I’m going to do it in the parking lot, which is what he says, and which is clearly what I think Stone is in this for. What Stone is in this for is to use Sharpton as a disruptive force. We’re all familiar in New York how often Sharpton has been a disruptive force in Democratic politics in New York. Mike Bloomberg might not have won the mayoral election in 2001 but for the actions of Al Sharpton which were so damaging to the democratic nominee, Mark Green. He said in his own book, that the presidential campaign of 2004 is going to be a repeat of what he did in 2001.

AMY GOODMAN: But it was not only Al Sharpton who made allegations and charges against Mark Green, saying that he was running a racist campaign, it was Fernando Ferrer, his competitor if I remember, and others as well

WAYNE BARRETT: It was Roberto Ramirez, who was Fernando Ferrer’s campaign manager, and in the early phase of Sharpton’s campaign, was also the campaign manager for Sharpton. He has been pushed out, essentially, and replaced by the Stone gang.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to investigative reporter, Wayne Barrett. Barrett has an explosive piece in the front page of “The Village Voice” today called “Sleeping with Republicans.” Now for people nationally hearing this story, you might also remember Roger Stone as a key figure in New Jersey–in suppressing the black vote.

WAYNE BARRETT: He has been an operative in every campaign. He comes out of Jersey politics, and that’s really where James Baker first noticed him. James Baker, was in the Reagan White House when Tom Cane was running for governor in New Jersey, and Roger Stone was running the Cane campaign. Baker put all of the white house marbles in–this was a key state they wanted to win. He was so impressed with the job that Roger Stone did there, that he remembered that in 2000. In 2000 when he was putting together the operation for the re-count in Miami, and in Florida generally, he called Roger Stone and recruited him to come back and take an active role in planning the street actions and the street tactics that were so effective. It’s so ironic that they were out there chanting “no justice, no peace.” There were Roger Stone operatives on the streets of Miami to help shut down the canvassing board. That’s the Sharpton slogan. In fact, Sharpton went down there and he complained about this publicly. He was physically jostled by the very crowd which was a combination of Brooks Brothers Republicans out of D.C. and various parts of the country, And a very substantial Cuban contingent that Stone put together. Stone’s wife is Cuban. Stone is very involved in Cuban politics in Miami, very right-wing Cuban politics in Miami. That’s why he was so instrumental in putting together the operation in Miami. He sat with a walkie-talkie in a building right opposite the canvassing board, and sometimes in an R.V. that they drove around Florida, where they were putting together the street tactics.

AMY GOODMAN: Wayne Barrett, the response of Al Sharpton; we couldn’t get him for the show today, but what did he say? You did an extensive interview with him as well as Roger Stone?

WAYNE BARRETT: Yes, I did. I have known Sharpton since he was 16. I have never heard him so hysterical as he was Monday when we did this interview. He was bombastic and screaming about this, and I quote him, as some form of Phony liberal paternalism and some form of a racist double standard. What he contended was that Bill Clinton had used Dick Morris as his pollster and political consultant, and that Dick Morris had handled Republicans like Trent Lott, and what was the difference between his scenario and the Bill Clinton scenario?

I think it’s transparently obvious that Dick Morris was first of all, primarily a Democratic pollster, and consultant, and secondly, Dick Morris wasn’t subsidizing and financing the campaign. Dick Morris was paid as a consultant. If you pay the bills, you call the shots. Dick Morris was a consultant on the payroll of the Clinton campaign to give advice and counsel. And he certainly has done Republican campaigns. There are consultants who just do Republican campaigns. There are consultants who just do democratic campaigns. As I said this is Roger Stone’s first adventure as a Democratic consultant. He is doing it for nothing, and he is investing his own money, indirectly and subsidizing this campaign. And that is a very unusual scenario, quite different.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting, the man that he has put in as campaign manager, Charles Halloran, you talk about his role in another campaign having to do with Bermuda.

WAYNE BARRETT: These are some of the are ironies. There are all kinds of anomalies that come out when you have this unusual marriage. Charles Halloran, when he came to take over the campaign on September 4, had just run an election in Bermuda where Roger Stone had installed him. Roger Stone and his company for many years had been the registered agent for the Bermudan government in the United States right up to when blacks took over the Bermudan government a few years back in1998. When the black government took over, Stone was kind of out of power. So, the white-led party, the United Bermuda Party, was seeking to regain control of the Bermuda parliament, and Charles Balloran was running the campaign. He ran it right up till august, and he left from Bermuda to take over the Sharpton campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharpton says when the Bermuda job was over in September, he hired Halloran to work under Watkins. Explain who Frank Watkins is.

WAYNE BARRETT: Frank Watkins is a true progressive. Frank Watkins is a white progressive who ran both of the Jesse Jackson campaigns in 1984 and 1988. Al Sharpton brought him in to run the campaign. And even as he was bringing Watkins in, Sharpton had the lunch that I describe in detail, with Roger Stone at Gallagher’s at midtown Steakhouse in New York. They had begun talking about the possibilities of bringing on Halloran. So, he brings in Watkins. Watkins starts running the campaign. There are apparently problems that develop between Watkins and Al Sharpton. Now, we’re all aware of the tensions and the competition that Al Sharpton has started with Jesse Jackson. There has to be a numero uno black man in the United States, and it’s going to be me says the Rev., and not Jesse Jackson. So with that underlying tension ,Sharpton gave me quotes in this story, which at least he has never been quoted before as saying. He said he thought Watkins was in there to sabotage his campaign on behalf of Jesse Jackson. So he dumped Watkins eventually, and replaced him with Charles Halloran. He said Frank Watkins was an agent of Howard Dean.

AMY GOODMAN: And Howard Dean–Al Sharpton’s role with Howard Dean?

WAYNE BARRETT: It’s obvious. We have all watched the debates, and we saw the way in which Al Sharpton went after Howard Dean, on I think questionable issues. The question of whether or not he should have a black person in a cabinet where there’s only .5% of the population of Vermont was black, I thinks that was a dubious issue, but he made a big splash with that in the Iowa Debate. I think it was damaging to Dean. He went after Dean on the Confederate flag issue, which I think was a much more legitimate issue…

AMY GOODMAN: Who did the research on Vermont?

WAYNE BARRETT: Roger Stone and Charles Halloran prepared him on this issue.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you know that?

WAYNE BARRETT: They fully acknowledge that. They fully acknowledge that. The fact is what I have in the story, which I find to be —These are the things that happen. Al Sharpton goes down in July to Florida, to the. NAACP National Convention. Many of the other presidential candidates did not show up, you may remember that. And so Al Sharpton has this extraordinarily explosive speech in which he wields an axe handle. Now Lester Maddox, we all remember him. He is a segregationist, Democratic governor of Georgia in the 1960’s, who became famous by chasing blacks out of his restaurant with an axe handle. So here’s Sharpton; Lester Maddox had just died, and here is Sharpton with an axe-handle, waving it above his head, and saying that we have to get rid of the axe mentality of the Democratic Party, because we still have an axe mentality in the Democratic Party. And the irony is Roger Stone came up with the theatrics and handed him the axe. Here is a Republican operative who hates the Democratic Party, and hates all of the progressive ideas in the Democratic Party. And he’s comes up with the theatrical move.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that he gave him the axe?

WAYNE BARRETT: A source on the record, who was involved in the campaign, and who had a discussion with Roger, told me that. Then I asked Al Sharpton, and he says, I don’t remember if he gave me the axe. I asked Roger Stone and he wouldn’t comment on it. There were many things that Roger Stone commented on in a 45-minute interview. He wouldn’t comment on that, and Al Sharpton said he doesn’t remember how he got the axe.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up this discussion, you have been researching this piece for a while. You got the F.E.C. filings on Friday.


AMY GOODMAN: What will happen now? Will this lead to further investigation?

WAYNE BARRETT: I don’t know what the going to do with the Sharpton campaign. I can’t imagine they can fairly certify it for matching funds. There are all kinds of problems with the submission. As much as Roger Stone worked on it and put it together, for example, you have to identify all employers and occupations. They failed to do that in about one third of the contributions. There are numerous states in which dubious things were done. Sharpton, believe it or not got a bank loan for $150,000 against the receipts of the Federal matching funds. He is already spending the Federal matching funds, and he doesn’t have them yet. Why a bank would give them that loan, I can’t say. That’s how deeply in hock the campaign is. It’s ironic to me to hear — First of all, I don’t think he got double digits in South Carolina. I think he got 9.5%. Secondly, I think he got 19% of the vote in South Carolina, meaning that both Kerry and Edwards doubled his percentage of the black vote. This is a dismal showing. This is a dismal showing. It doesn’t compare in any way to Jesse Jackson’s performance in 84’ or 88’, and yet he continues this charade. He did not win a single delegate. Now, if you look at all of his pre-primary public statements, he talked about winning delegates so he could go with the Convention with some leverage in delegates. He didn’t win a single delegate yet in any of the primaries. Yet, he goes forward as a potential time bomb to damage the Democratic Party at the Convention and maybe thereafter.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, and I hope we can get Reverend Al Sharpton on to answer these charges. Investigative reporter, Wayne Barrett with “The Village Voice.” The piece, cover story, “Sleeping with Republicans: GOP Operatives Finance and Orchestrate Al Sharpton’s Campaign.”

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