Charity for Whom? Numbers Reveal Ugly Truth About Al Sharpton's 'National Action Network'


Don’t call it a comeback.

Sure, it may feel like a long time ago where most of America, regardless of color, regarded Al Sharpton as the least plausible cleric since Elmer Gantry. Long gone are the days of Tawana Brawley, the Crown Heights riots and the Freddie’s Fashion Mart attack.

Gone, too, are the days when Sharpton’s National Action Network would make regular headlines over the fact that, like a kind of pro-Black Lives Matter Global Network, it allegedly served as a personal piggy bank for a number of people, a substantial (but unsurprising) number of whom shared the surname “Sharpton.”

In fact, you might think Sharpton had disabused himself of the kind of behavior that once moved the anti-religious polemicist Christopher Hitchens to remark Sharpton was “a man who proves every day that you can get away with anything in this country if you can shove the word ‘Reverend’ in front of your name.”

He now hosts a weekend show on MSNBC, where, for one hour on both Saturday and Sunday, he wrestles with the news of the day and/or the teleprompter. (Mostly the teleprompter.) He recently visited the White House, where NBC News reported President Joe Biden confided in him he planned to seek a second term. He’s come a long way since Tawana, baby.

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However, in more proof that con-men are still going to con men, the New York Post reported Saturday that Sharpton’s National Action Network charity continues to be most charitable toward … Al Sharpton.

Not only did NAN pay Sharpton a base salary of $348,174 to be its president and CEO in 2021, the organization also gave him a $278,503 bonus and $22,117 worth of benefits, according to its latest tax filing.

Oh, but if you know anything about Rev. Al, you know that isn’t going to be the end of it. And, lo and behold, it wasn’t.

The Post reported that almost $1 million in NAN funds went to private jets and limos.

Do you think there should be a federal investigation into Sharpton's charity?

“It paid $291,833 to Apollo Jets, which brokers private plane flights — from Lear jets to 737s — and boasts on its website about celebrity clients like Derek Jeter and Shaquille O’Neal,” the Post reported. “NAN also spent $650,134 on Carey International, a high-end car service.”

And here I thought “reverends” were supposed to be humble folk, living simple lives. At least no one from NAN pretended Sharpton needed the Gulfstreams and Escalades because he had to make it home in a hurry to deal with the pressing personal needs of his congregation members. (I always wondered how he fit his pastoral duties in between all the cultural ambulance chasing…)

A spokeswoman for NAN told the paper that Sharpton, senior staff and families of individuals in high-profile cultural flashpoint cases were traveling aboard the planes to “important gatherings.”

Sharpton echoed those sentiments: “Some of it was me. Some of it was the chairman. Some of it was victims’ families,” he said. He also claimed that the cost of flights was reimbursed by a donor, but he didn’t name contributors.

Sharpton’s income from NAN was up significantly from 2020, when he received $347,183 in compensation (with no bonus).

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This was despite the fact the organization took in significantly less revenue in 2021 than in 2020, $7.3 million vs. $11.1 million.

While much of that can be attributed to the summer of our discontent that reigned in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, it still doesn’t explain why Sharpton’s remuneration almost doubled — and that’s not even taking into account the absurdity of Rev. Al’s own charity deciding Rev. Al needed a bonus. What, was he in danger of bolting to CPAC? Spending too much time at the MSNBC studios?

Quelle surprise, he wasn’t the only Sharpton getting paid by NAN, either; his daughters suckled more modestly at the nonprofit’s teat, with his daughters Dominique getting $78,670 for membership work and Ashley getting $59,950 for social media and consulting. Niece Nikki also got $15,800 for special events.

Of course, the NAN scam never really went away, people just stopped paying attention to it. In 2018, he took home a windfall of over $1 million from the group in various forms of compensation.

In 2017, Sharpton sold the organization the rights to his life story for $531,000 — an investment that the organization claims has turned a profit with projects like a feature-length hagiographical documentary on Sharpton’s life titled “Loudmouth.” However, if NAN made money off of the Rev’s life story, its tax filings certainly don’t indicate that.

Neither of these peccadilloes raised any major alarm bells, either. It’s not like Sharpton had to go on MSNBC and give a “Checkers speech” about his outsized compensation or the dodgy sale of his life story to his own non-profit; he simply shrugged, and so did the left.

Part of it was that grifters, by definition, are gonna grift. NAN has been around since 1991 and Sharpton for some time before then. Not once has the man been accused of either shame or incorruptibility. News is, by nature, man-bites-dog stories. “Dog bites man for 30 straight years,” even given the three-decade anniversary, simply isn’t a story to the liberal media. Part of that is the fact his grift has been surpassed by fresher, more transparent frauds like Shaun King and Patrisse Cullors.

But, the most important reason the left has shrugged is that Al Sharpton is one of them, doing their work. Sure, Sharpton seems to benefit handsomely from the organization, but surely it’s doing good things, right?

Well, it paid out $155,460 in victim assistance and a $2,400 scholarship, according to the tax filings. See? It did some good! We should stop talking about this. Especially since the tax filings didn’t indicate the name of the scholarship recipient. Let’s all move on before we potentially find out it was a black woman in a blond wig with a curious gray mustache who goes by the name “Gal Slarpton.”

Again: Don’t call it a comeback. Rev. Al’s been here for years, still grifting away.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture