On a New High, Sharpton Hits a New Low

TV's Democratic minister of 'moral values' takes a hypocritical plunge

Long after Burke was gone, Sharpton, Harris, and another aide who traveled with them, Rick Wade, wound up with reservations for the same Boston Park Plaza suite on election night. The Voice obtained copies of the bill listing the three in a suite with one bedroom and a pullout bed in a large parlor room. When the Voice reached Wade and asked him what the sleeping arrangements were, he said: "I can't comment on that" and hung up. The room was reserved by the DNC for Sharpton, who insisted on king-size beds.

Yet Sharpton's lawyers contend that he "did not stay at any hotel provided by the DNC" that night and instead stayed at the Boston Harbor Hotel "at his own expense." They even came up with an invoice for $1,950 on Sharpton's credit card for two Harbor rooms and a limo that night, though the DNC was also reimbursing that card to the tune of $51,714 (as well as paying him $35,000 in consulting fees). Whoever was staying at the more glamorous and less politically congested Harbor ate a $65 breakfast the next morning, hard to do for one.

Asked how often she was in the office during the fall of 2003, Harris said she doesn't remember. Asked how often she was in the office the last two weeks, she couldn't remember that either. She says she neither signs checks nor "has ever had anything to do with incoming funds for the network," two of the usual responsibilities of a director. She concedes she only occasionally "visits" NAN's shabby 125th Street office, saying it's too "crowded." She also insists she does no NAN work at Trump Place, even though the voter registration helpline she runs is registered there. The Cole's reverse phone directory lists the voter registration subsidiary, the Truth Hamer Initiative, at her apartment, as does the group's website.

Indeed Harris's NAN workload is so scant that her bio, which she's distributed to various places recently, says she's the "former executive director" of the organization. Sharpton confirmed that in a Voice interview, saying the position "is vacant." But Harris said she has "no idea" why he'd say that and that's she's continuously served in that capacity for five years. Sharpton and she say they are working on a book about the campaign, which they intend to market through an agent, though the most Harris has ever written is a couple of op-ed pieces. Several ex-employees who remain uncritically loyal to Sharpton admit that they can't explain what Harris actually does, or why he publicly promotes her, with one top aide saying he had to leave because of "the appearances of impropriety" between Sharpton and Harris.

The Harris saga is not just a question of sex; it's a window into the dysfunction of Sharpton's universe. NAN's domain name was purchased in September 2003 and no one's ever talked to the company that bought it; they just stopped posting. The Voice sent a donor up to the 125th Street office in December 2003 to make a $25 contribution and the check was never cashed. Sharpton's campaign owes $479,050.72, having stiffed many vendors and staffers, most of them black, just as he and NAN have stiffed everyone from travel agencies to limo companies to the firm that had the title on a $46,880 SUV Sharpton leased from Gidron. The Federal Election Commission even wants its $100,000 in public matching funds back because Sharpton has refused to comply with a subpoena for detailed campaign records. The subpoena involves the over-the-limit expenses billed to Sharpton's credit card to cover Marjorie and Eddie Harris's travel.

The recidivist reinventor has survived so many sordid episodes—from his days as a confidential FBI informant to the defamation finding against him in the Tawana Brawley case to his suspicious ties this year with a top GOP dirty-tricks operative—that he appears impervious to revelation. He's entertainment. His core, it's said, will never waver. But he's operating now at a higher level and the larger he gets, the more vulnerable to fact he may become. His sidekicks are now whispering secrets about his wife the way they used to about Jackson. This time, he may have gone too far, and not even his magic tongue will keep him on that life-giving screen.


Research assistance: Eric Cantor, Deborah S. Esquenazi, Emily Keller, Eric Magnuson, Ben Reiter, and Daniel Ten Kate.

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