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Monday, July 28, 2008

Project 21's Borelli on Civil Rights Shakedowns in Philadelphia Inquirer

By David Almasi:
An article critical of activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli was published Friday in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Said Deneen:
Al Sharpton is making headlines again, but it's not for one of his crusades. Instead, Sharpton, his National Action Network (NAN), and several major corporations that have donated to NAN have been subpoenaed in recent months by federal investigators.

While Sharpton's attorneys reported Tuesday that the criminal probe over millions allegedly owed in taxes by Sharpton and NAN has been dropped in lieu of civil action by the IRS, federal authorities remain tight-lipped over the status of any investigations.

Critics have long accused Sharpton of obtaining corporate contributions by threatening racial boycotts.

Sharpton denies this, saying "That's the old shakedown theory that the anti-civil-rights forces have used against us forever."

But there's plenty to wonder about. In November 2003, according to the New York Post, Sharpton picketed a DaimlerChrysler air show, threatening a boycott. After the company began sponsoring NAN's annual conference in 2004, however, Sharpton bestowed an award on it for corporate excellence. General Motors and American Honda also began giving to the group after similar threats.

Sharpton's not alone. Critics of Jesse Jackson claim he has perfected the art of the shakedown. Suspicions persist, for instance, about motives behind repeated generous contributions from mortgage giant Freddie Mac to Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. As the National Legal and Policy Center has reported, "Jesse Jackson's relationship with Freddie Mac began in 1998 when Jackson accused Freddie Mac of racial discrimination and encouraged major shareholders to sell their stock. Freddie Mac began financial support for Jackson's organizations and his criticism of Freddie Mac stopped."

Freddie Mac donated $150,000 to a Rainbow/PUSH conference earlier this month, even as Congress was debating a bailout of the struggling firm and Fannie Mae, a bailout that the Congressional Budget Office says might cost taxpayers as much as $100 billion.

A 16-year crusade against Anheuser-Busch for not having enough minority beer distributors ended with Jackson's sons being awarded a lucrative Chicago distributorship. Businesses that Jackson has criticized, including Toyota and NASCAR, have become sponsors of his annual Wall Street Conference...
Deneen then discussed her own experience challenging Jackson directly at the recent JPMorgan Chase and Company shareholder meeting. To read more about this or hear Deneen in action, click here.

To read the full Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, click here.
This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

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