News & Politics

Barrett: Sharpton Scolds Maloney, and Naturally There’s an Ulterior Motive

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​Al Sharpton’s rush to issue a statement this week denouncing Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s use of the n-word in a magazine interview has once again made him a potential kingmaker. Thanks to Sharpton, Maloney may not stay in the 2010 senate race, making things easier for incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.

Interestingly enough, there happens to be a connection between Sharpton and Gillibrand — newly minted political consultant Charlie King.

An unsuccessful 2002 candidate for Lieutenant Governor and 2006 candidate for Attorney General, King was the national director of Sharpton’s National Action Network until this spring, when he stepped down and announced he was forming a new consulting business, The War Room. His first client was Gillibrand, at $5,000 a month.

While it was never reported during the two years that King was NAN director (Sharpton is president), King says now that he was never on staff, but was paid under the name of another consulting firm he incorporated in March 2007, The Movement Group. King is still a consultant to NAN, just no longer its national director.

So when the Rev climbed atop the front page of the Daily News to say he found the Maloney comment “alarming” and “disturbing,” he was doing his buddy Charlie a big favor.

Maloney was quoting a Puerto Rican friend who had told her that
Gillibrand’s support for English-only education was to Latinos the
equivalent of “saying the n-word” to blacks. She is now said to be
re-considering her decision to challenge Gillibrand. The national media
hubbub that followed the News headline has reportedly delayed, if not derailed, her planned announcement. Putting the n-word comment behind her might get Maloney back into the race, and Rachel Noerdlinger, the spokeswoman for NAN, told the Voice that Sharpton and Maloney have recently “exchanged calls and have agreed through Congressman Jose Serrano to meet very soon.”

King
says he was vacationing in Spain when the Maloney story broke and that
Sharpton “called me after he did it and told me to look at the Daily News.”
Insisting that he “didn’t talk to Reverend Sharpton before he did it,”
King said he was “off by half a day.” Asked what he does for
Gillibrand, King called it “general consulting.” Asked if he talked to
or saw her often, King replied: “not that often.” King says he’s known
Gillibrand for 13 years or more, having met her first in the Clinton
1996 campaign. He also later worked with her under Andrew Cuomo at HUD.

When the Voice called the Gillibrand campaign, staffers didn’t
seem to have any idea who King was. Though Gillibrand paid King’s War
Room, the company was not incorporated or licensed to do business in
New York until late June. The campaign’s filings reported the company’s
address as 110 Williams Street, but the Voice couldn’t find
King or any of his several companies — which also include CGK Partners
and 1st and Goal Productions — listed there. Asked about it, King said
his firm was “moving,” but offered no new location. While running NAN,
he did operate for some time out of the 45th Street offices of Storch,
Amini and Mueves, the law firm that incorporated The Movement Group and
includes King’s longtime friend Bijan Amini (the firm’s top two
partners were on the opposite side of the tobacco litigation Gillibrand
once worked on). In addition to political consulting, King says he is
acting as a lobbyist, with clients like North Carolina-based SAS
Corporation, and making a movie about education. 

King was
working for Sharpton at NAN when Gillibrand was selected in December by
Governor Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton in the senate. He
immediately contacted Gillibrand aides and set up the new senator’s
rushed visit to NAN’s Harlem headquarters the day after her selection.
He was there with Sharpton to greet her. Barely two months later,
King’s company was retained by Gillibrand’s campaign. Her campaign
filings indicate that the company was paid $5,000 on April 1 and
another $5,000 on April 7, and King indicated that the first payment
was for March. That means that King was on retainer with Gillibrand for
almost two months before Liz Benjamin reported in her Daily News blog that he was leaving NAN and forming the company on April 22.

Legal
questions affecting NAN’s IRS status might well be raised if its
national director was a paid political consultant at the same time that
he was president of a non profit. Not only was King doing that for
Gillibrand, his Movement Group has been acting as a consultant for a
variety of political campaigns all the time he was running NAN and
being paid by NAN in the same corporate name. His clients have included
three black assemblymembers, Keith Wright, Crystal Peoples and Kamir
Camara. While NAN is registered with the IRS as a 501-c-4, a section of
the tax code that allows it to be more engaged in politics than most
nonprofits, King’s multiple hats adds to all the legal issues that have
long engulfed NAN, culminating in tax liens and findings against it by
the Federal Election Commission. King assured the Voice that his “work for NAN always has allowed” him to do outside work, “whether it be for political candidates or otherwise.”  

Sharpton
lept to endorse Gillibrand in early June, earlier than he’s ever
endorsed a candidate in a statewide or citywide race (he never endorsed
Barack Obama for president and he endorsed Gillibrand for 2010 before
he endorsed Bill Thompson for mayor in 2009). The longstanding and
close King ties to Gillibrand, the day-after-selection Harlem embrace
by Sharpton, the premature Sharpton endorsement before anyone has any
idea who Gillibrand’s opponent might be, and the attempt at outrage
over the Maloney quote suggest a particular bond between the Rev and
Gillibrand.

Since Sharpton and Paterson have had a special
friendship for decades, it is even possible that Sharpton had something
to do with Gillibrand’s selection. Within hours of Paterson’s
announcement and even before the pilgrimage a day later to Sharpton’s
headquarters, he was telling Fox that her selection was a “good move,”
noting uncharacteristically that “Conservative Democrats are winning,
so politically it might be a plus” (Sharpton did not return Voice
calls about this, but his involvement in the senate sweepstakes last
year was widely reported). The Rev’s embrace of Gillibrand is
particularly curious since she represented a virtually all-white
district and has no history of identification with, or even support, of
major African American concerns.   

The other oddity is that
Sharpton, who has always enjoyed strong ties to Latino leaders,
attacked Maloney for her comment but said nothing about Gillibrand’s
support for English-only legislation, which was, after all, what
provoked the comparison Maloney made. In July 2007, Gillibrand was one
of only 22 Democrats to vote with 180 Republicans to bar the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission from suing workplaces that require
employees to speak English only. The bill, which was defeated by only
10 votes, was sponsored by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, a
co-sponsor of some of the most anti-immigrant legislation in congress.

The Daily News
Liz Benjamin blogged the day after the paper’s cover story about
Maloney that Gillibrand’s press office gave the paper two different
answers on the same day about what her current position is about
English only legislation. Benjamin reported that Gillibrand “once
touted” her English only position on her website and got an A rating
from supporters of English mandatory laws. The American Civil Liberties
Union, which has led the fight against these laws, says they
“discriminate against and punish those who have not learned English”
and are “inconsistent with the first amendment right to communicate
with or petition the government and the right to equality.”

In
addition to King’s Gillibrand work, his other major political effort is
an attempt to install Keith Wright as the head of the Manhattan
Democratic Party in September, when the nearly three decades of rule
under longtime boss Denny Farrell is supposed to come to an end.