Come on, you remember the episode of The Simpsons- Homer gets a new job, moves out of Springfield to Cypress Creek and works for the nicest guy in the world- Hank Scorpio. It is the life Homer always dreamed of-but of course that all comes crashing down when it turns out Scorpio is an international terrorist with nuclear capabilities.
Rev. Al Sharpton is no terrorist, but he leads an unexpected and bizarre double life of his own.
How to explain his association with the flamboyant millionaire and Republican advice consultant Roger Stone? Stone has worked on every GOP campaign since his involvement in the Watergate scandals of 1972, to aiding the contras in the 80s, and most recently, his mobilization of the mob shutdown of the Miami/Dade County canvassing board during the 2000 recount. Although Sharpton has denied that Stone is an adviser on his campaign, he meets with him on a weekly basis. Stone introduced Sharpton to Charles Halloran, who became his campaign manager when he replaced Frank Watkins. He has lent over $270,000 to the Reverend’s campaign, channeled through the Reverend’s Harlem-based, nonprofit organization National Action Network (NAN). Apparently, Stone has also given Sharpton the use of his credit card (accounts charged to NAN). Other cronies from the Stone camp, including Joe Ruffin and Andre Johnson, were recruited to run Sharpton’s campaign in D.C.
Stone’s most critical contribution came in helping Sharpton qualify for federal matching funds in late December of 2003. To qualify for matching dollars, a candidate has to raise $100,000-$5,000 from each of 20 states from individual contributions not exceeding $250. Sharpton had fallen short in a few states, including Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama- and Stone came to his aide, filling in the gaps with contributions from relatives, lobbyists and other friends.
Stone and Halloran also played pivotal roles in Sharpton’s brutal attacks on Gov. Dean. After Jesse Jackson endorsed Dean’s candidacy, Sharpton went off his rocker. His rhetoric became increasingly inflammatory: “Any so-called African American leader that would endorse Dean despite his anti-black record is mortgaging the future of our struggle for civil rights and social justice.” Using their research on the governor’s hiring records, Sharpton forced Dean to confess that there were no African-Americans or Hispanics in his cabinet. After an off-color remark about wanting to be “the candidate for the guys with the Confederate flags,” Dean suffered another crucial blow.
Stone got a perverse thrill out of watching the drama unfold. He defended Sharpton’s attacks on Dean, stating “If his party doesn’t produce a nominee and a platform that has appeal among the single most important part of the Democratic base, i.e., black and Latino voters, then they don’t have a chance,” Stone said. “I think he is doing his party a service.”
It remains to be seen what other services Al Sharpton may provide for the Republican Party, but his integrity remains questionable as long as they have him in their hip pocket. Is he a Republican stool pigeon? Perhaps not wittingly, but it seems outlandish for us to assume that he is too naive to know his campaign has been funded and orchestrated by Republican operatives. He could be the first victim of “electo-tainment”-the latest reality TV craze. In a way, you kind of have to agree with Stone: this is kind of amusing. Al Sharpton may mean well, but there is, after all, a little Hank Scorpio in us all