Sleeping With the GOP

A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton's Campaign

Just as Stone has a history of political skulduggery, Sharpton has a little-noticed history of Republican machinations inconsistent with his fiery rhetoric. He endorsed Al D'Amato in 1986, appeared with George Pataki two days before his 1994 race against Mario Cuomo, invited Ralph Nader to his headquarters on the eve of the 2000 vote, befriended Bill Powers when he was the state GOP chair, and debuted as a preacher in the church of a black minister who was also a Brooklyn Republican district leader. The current co-chair of his presidential campaign gave as much to Bush-Cheney as he did to Sharpton, and many of the black businessmen supporting this campaign or NAN have strong GOP ties. His conduit in the Bloomberg campaign, Harold Doley III, was the son of the first black with a seat on Wall Street. A major NAN backer over the years, Doley Jr. was appointed to positions in five Republican administrations, including Bush's.

Stone, whose Miami mob even jostled a visiting Sharpton during the recount, said recently in The American Spectator that if Sharpton were to run "as an independent" in the 2006 Hillary Clinton race, she would be "sunk," implicitly suggesting that this operation may be a precursor to another Stone-Sharpton mission. In his book Too Close to Call, New Yorker columnist Jeffrey Toobin exposed Baker's tapping of Stone, as well as Stone and his Cuban wife Nydia's role in firing up Cuban protesters, with Stone calling the shots the day of the shutdown over a walkie-talkie in a building across the street from the canvassing board headquarters. The Stone mob was chanting Sharpton's slogan "No Justice, No Peace" when the board stopped the count, which was universally seen as the turning point in the battle that made Bush president.

The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush campaign was planning a special advertising campaign targeting black voters, seeking as much as a quarter of the vote, and any Sharpton-connected outrage against the party could either lower black turnout in several key close states, or move votes to Bush. Both were widely reported as the consequences of Sharpton's anti-Green rhetoric in 2001, a result Sharpton celebrated both in his book and at a Bronx victory party on election night.

A Mysterious Marriage

The Stone involvement in the Sharpton campaign began in early March at a lunch at Gallagher's, a midtown steak house that Stone frequents. Stone and Sharpton do not disagree that two mutual friends, Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf and anti-Rockefeller-drug-law activist Randy Credico, helped to arrange it. Sheinkopf and Credico say Stone asked them to arrange the meeting, and Credico recalls "repeated pressure" from Stone to put it together. Stone says both are "mistaken" and that Sheinkopf suggested it to Sharpton and that Sharpton sought the meeting. Sharpton was scheduled at one point to fly to Miami for the get-together, says Credico, but canceled. Sheinkopf says it was "certainly Stone who initiated it," though he agreed that "Sharpton needed to talk to people who know how to do presidential campaigns."

Sharpton, who brought lawyer Sanford Rubinstein and NAN director Marjorie Harris Smikle to the lunch, said everyone present—including Sheinkopf and Stone—believed he needed to hire experienced staff. Stone discussed the daunting requirement of raising at least $5,000 in 20 states to obtain federal matching funds and outlined some of "the things he had to do," according to Sheinkopf, to achieve it. Credico recalls that Stone "mentioned Halloran's name," dumping on the inexperienced consultant, Roberto Ramirez, who Sharpton was then using. "They had a natural affinity," Sheinkopf said, "and agreed to continue talking."

Credico said Stone explained his interest in working with Sharpton by saying that they had "a mutual obsession: We both hate the Democratic Party." Stone told Credico that he "would have some fun with Sharpton's campaign" and "bring Terry McAuliffe to his knees." Stone, Credico, and Sheinkopf walked to Stone's apartment after the lunch, and Stone was elated with the tenor of the meeting.

Sharpton was already negotiating a deal with Frank Watkins, who ran both of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns, so he took no immediate action on Stone's suggestions. Halloran was busy anyway with another Stone- arranged assignment—running the parliamentary campaign for the United Bermuda Party, ironically the white-led party seeking to unseat the island's first black government. Halloran had also managed a Stone-run campaign in New York in 2002, spending nearly $65 million of billionaire Tom Golisano's money and getting the Independence Party candidate a mere 14 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial race. Stone, whose firm represented the prior Bermuda government, did initial work in the 2003 race there and left, recommending Halloran. Sharpton says that when the Bermuda job was over in September, he hired Halloran to work under Watkins, but that when he discovered that Jackson and Watkins were "sabotaging my campaign" and were really with Howard Dean, he replaced Watkins with Halloran.

Halloran is a capable operative who claims he did advance work in the first Clinton campaign, and that he worked as a consultant in a statewide Democratic race in Georgia and as a volunteer for Al Gore during the recount battle. He has become so close to Stone over the last two years, however, that he stays at Stone's 40 Central Park South apartment when he's in New York working for Sharpton. Halloran and his wife celebrated Stone's 50th birthday with him and his wife last year, and the two operatives talk virtually every day. By his own account, Halloran made so much money in the Golisano and Bermuda campaigns, he has so far worked for Sharpton since September 4 without receiving a single cent in pay.

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