Sharpton Returns Public Funds

Friday, December 16, 2005

Al Sharpton has agreed to pay back $100,000 in public funds he received for his failed bid to win the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, after the disclosure that he had exceeded federal limits on personal expenditures for his campaign.

Sharpton, an activist minister from New York, will return the money to the federal government with interest in four payments, the Federal Election Commission announced yesterday.

Sharpton, who had hoped to use his presidential bid to displace Jesse Jackson as the most prominent spokesman for the nation's black community, has made two of the payments. The third is due on Jan. 10 and the last on Feb. 10.

Under federal election law, primary candidates can receive government matching funds for every contribution of $250 or less from an individual. In order to qualify, candidates may donate a maximum of $50,000 of their own funds to their campaigns.

At the start of 2004, Sharpton applied for the matching grants in an application certifying that he would not exceed the $50,000 personal contribution limit. On March 11, 2004, the FEC approved a matching grant of $100,000.

On March 20, 2004, Sharpton filed a disclosure report to the FEC showing that he had "exceeded the $50,000 personal expenditure limitation," according to the FEC. The commission stopped making payments, and on April 28, 2005, the commission decided that he should repay the $100,000.

Throughout his campaign, Sharpton had difficulty raising money. In his most recent disclosure to the FEC, filed on Jan. 1, he reported that he still had debts of $479,050, including $38,000 to campaign consultant Kevin Gray, $65,000 to campaign manager Charles Halloran and $55,743.58 to another campaign manager, Frank Watkins.

The campaign also owes Sharpton $145,146, which he spent to cover the cost of "Fundraising Letter Preparation -- Kinko's," according to the report.

-- Thomas B. Edsall

© 2005 The Washington Post Company