Sleeping With the GOP

A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton's Campaign

Sharpton's latest FEC filing lists him as collecting nearly $5,000 in expense reimbursement. The campaign also owes him $50,000 in pay through December 31. It's the only time he can recall running a campaign on trust. Since Sharpton 2004 now owes ($348,450) almost as much as it's raised ($382,766), and since the Rev has left a notorious trail of other liens in his wake, it's a peculiar level of trust.

Angels for Al

The same paucity of payments is true for a collection of other Stone-Halloran associates working in the campaign. Ernest Baynard, another Golisano campaign veteran who helped set up the Sharpton-at-the-beach e-mail address and does press and research for the campaign, hasn't been paid a cent and is listed as a $20,000 debtor. Ironically, while working for Sharpton, Baynard's Meridian Hill Strategies has been simultaneously retained by another campaign Stone helped launch, arch-conservative Larry Klayman's run for the U.S. Senate in Florida. Two other ex-Golisano consultants, Joe Ruffin and Andre Johnson, ran Sharpton's campaign in the Washington, D.C., primary last month, and unlike Halloran and Baynard, were actually paid for it, a total of $12,900. (Johnson is owed an additional $3,500.)

The Archer Group, a San Francisco– based consulting company that reeled in $246,000 from Golisano, dispatched its two top executives, Michael Pitts and Ron Coleman, to New York back in September. In all this time, the company has only been paid $5,000 by the campaign for "logistics." The campaign filing lists the company as owed only another $5,000 for "rent"—on an office/ apartment at 50 West 34th Street, where the company used to run its Sharpton operations. Pitts, whom Stone gratuitously described as "a 300-pound black Democratic operative," says they were recruited by Halloran "to do a national field operation plan." Admitting that it makes him "uneasy" that Stone is so involved in the Sharpton campaign, Pitts says he nonetheless participated in at least five strategy sessions with Stone to plan field operations, labeling him a "Mr. Know-It-All Kind of Guy." Calling Stone's involvement "sinister," Pitts simultaneously dismissed it, saying Stone "just wants to be disruptive" and "likes to be in the shit."

All the other payments to Archer were made not by the campaign, but by NAN, which Stone has reportedly been quietly subsidizing. Pitts acknowledged that they signed a $20,000-a-month contract with Sharpton, but says the price was subsequently reduced. He says they were paid entirely by NAN until December, ostensibly to run a voter registration operation. But Pitts concedes that all they did was a registration plan, never any registration, and that they began "to focus more on scheduling" for the Rev, saying that many of the events they scheduled across the country were "shared events," part campaign and part NAN.

"We knew some of these things were commingled," he said. "We heard from Charles that it had been ruled that our arrangements had gotten a bit too hazy." Was there, he asked, "a hazy thing" about being paid by NAN to do scheduling for the campaign? "Yeah, you get caught up in the middle of it."

In early December, Pitts says they went on the campaign payroll. But by the end of December, the 34th Street office was vacated and Coleman was back in California. Pitts stayed with it, spending most of the last few weeks in South Carolina, and moving on this week to Michigan, where Sharpton plans a major effort. Elizebeth Burke, another Golisano aide, worked with Coleman and Pitts, first at Sharpton's campaign office at the hospital workers union, and then at the Archer apartment. She says the $5,000 payment to Archer is "laughable" compared to the amount of campaign work the company did. Burke was paid $1,000 a week, half by NAN and half by the campaign, and says she did "all the logistics" for him across the country, "working with debate organizers and creating campaign events."

Burke says Pitts and Coleman told her that Stone made "at least two loans in six figures to NAN, totaling well over $200,000"—and that they were all "stunned to hear about it" because Stone, she said, "has to know that he'll never get it back." She also recounted how in December, Sharpton personally wrote a $10,000 check for Archer's services that bounced. "We found out the account didn't exist; it was a closed account." The campaign and NAN, which she calls "a shell," were in such disarray that "the only way we were staying afloat was through other sources that might not be legal, Republican sources."

Credico, who's remained in close touch with Stone throughout the Sharpton adventure and who heard the Maddox story from him, says Stone told him he took a $270,000 promissory note from Sharpton. Stone also told Credico that Sharpton ran up $18,000 on his credit card last year, covering some of the costs of a California trip, including a fundraising dinner thrown by NAN. "I can't believe Roger's still involved with Sharpton," Credico said. "All he does is complain to me about Sharpton owing him all this money. Last time we had dinner, I told him, Why don't you just get out of it?" Credico has his own complaints about the campaign's finances, saying that Stone and Halloran promised to send him to Iowa but never did, setting him back the price of an airplane ticket from California when he rushed back to New York.

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