Another word for extortion/blackmail, or the obtaining of a good or service through means of force, threats/intimidation, or abuse of power.
The first time I came across that stunning but little-known information was 13 years ago when I still subscribed to The New Yorker. In a profile on Rev. Jesse Jackson titled “Man of Faith” in the Oct. 22, 2001 issue of the magazine, Peter J. Boyer wrote on how Jackson had built his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (which brought in $17 million in revenue in 2000!) by shaking down corporations, hectoring them for their “economic apartheid,” which is just another expression for “racism.” In Boyer’s words:
From the beginning, Jackson’s economic campaign has been somewhat tenuous morally, mainly because his dealings with business look so much like shakedowns. As it happens, a meaningful portion of wealth has been redistributed in the direction of Jackson himself…. He travels in limousines and private jets, and he stays in hotel suites when he is away from his homes in Chicago and Washington. Travel expenses reported by Jackson last year amounted to more than a half million dollars.
In 2008, The New York Post helpfully identified the companies being
shaken down extorted by another con artist reverend, Al Sharpton.
Isabel Vincent reports for The New York Post, that almost 50 companies – including PepsiCo, General Motors, Wal-Mart, FedEx, Continental Airlines, Johnson & Johnson and Chase – and some labor unions sponsored Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) annual conference in April 2008.
NAN, which began humbly in Harlem in 1991 with Saturday-morning rallies at PS 175, now boasts 45 chapters across the country.
Terrified of negative publicity, fearful of a consumer boycott or eager to make nice with the civil-rights activist, CEOs write checks to NAN and Sharpton – who brandishes the buying power of African-American consumers. In some cases, they hire him as a consultant.
Anheuser-Busch gave him six figures, Colgate-Palmolive shelled out $50,000 and Macy’s and Pfizer have contributed thousands to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network “charity.”
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SHARPTON’S SUCCESSFUL SHAKEDOWNS:
1. General Motors: A GM spokesman told The Post that NAN had repeatedly – and unsuccessfully – asked for contributions for six years, beginning in August 2000. Then, in December 2006, Sharpton threatened to call a boycott of GM over the closing of an African-American-owned GM dealership in The Bronx, and he picketed outside GM headquarters on Fifth Avenue. So GM buckled under and gave NAN a $5,000 donation in 2007. The next year, GM gave $5,000 more, a GM spokesman said, calling NAN a “worthy” organization.
2. DaimlerChrysler: In November 2003, Sharpton picketed DaimlerChrysler’s Chicago car show and threatened a boycott over alleged racial bias in car loans, accusing the carmaker of “institutional racism.” Lo and behold, the next year Chrysler began supporting NAN’s conferences in May, which include panels on corporate responsibility and civil rights and a black-tie awards dinner to honor Martin Luther King Jr. In 2007, Sharpton gave Chrysler an award for corporate excellence.
3. Honda: In 2003, Sharpton targeted American Honda for not hiring enough African-Americans in management. “We support those that support us,” wrote Sharpton and the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, president of NAN’s Michigan chapter, in a letter to American Honda. “We cannot be silent while African-Americans spend hard-earned dollars with a company that does not hire, promote or do business with us in a statistically significant manner.” Two months after American Honda execs met with Sharpton, the carmaker began to sponsor NAN’s events – and continues to pay “a modest amount” each year, a spokesman said.
4. Hawkins Food Group: La-Van Hawkins, a partner in Hawkins Food Group (HFG), which owns and operates fast-food franchises nationwide, said HFG hired Sharpton as a consultant because the reverend skillfully persuades CEOs by wielding the statistic that African-Americans spend $738 billion a year. Hawkins said Sharpton’s “way of doing things was, ‘If we’re going to support you and you’re not going to support us, then we have to focus on telling the African-American community not to spend their money’.” HFG paid Sharpton an annual $25,000 fee. Hawkins himself had donated “over $1 million” to NAN. (Hawkins told The Post all this from the Yankton Federal Prison in South Dakota, where he was serving time for attempted bribery.)
5. Pepsi: Sharpton has snagged other gigs as a “consultant.” In June 1998, Sharpton threatened to call for a consumer boycott of Pepsi because the company’s ads did not portray African-Americans. Less than a year later, Pepsi hired Sharpton as a $25,000-a-year adviser until 2007.
6. Macy’s: Sharpton made the same complaint against Macy’s in 1998. So Macy’s appointed Sharpton an unpaid “adviser on diversity” but funds NAN’s annual conference. Macy’s Senior Vice President Ed Goldberg praised Sharpton as “the kind of guy you can sit down and talk to.”
7. New York developer Bruce Ratner: In 2000, Sharpton Ratner for paying low wages to workers at his Atlantic Mall in Brooklyn. “We will not allow you to enslave our communities, Mr. Ratner,” Sharpton told a rally. “You must meet with us – you must come to terms with the poverty you are creating using public dollars.” By 2004, Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner, began forking over thousands of dollars to NAN. Sharpton now strongly supports Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project, which includes a new arena for the New Jersey Nets.
8. MGM Mirage: In 2001 and 2002, Sharpton vowed to call a national boycott against MGM Mirage if it refused to meet with him to discuss alleged racism in hiring and employment at the company’s Detroit casino. In 2003, MGM named NAN one of its diversity “partners” in Detroit.
9. Wal-Mart: Since 2005, Wal-Mart has given yearly support to NAN, including sponsorship of a conference in April 2008, without disclosing the amounts. In 2006, in a case of the pot calling the kettle black (no pun intended), Sharpton’s rival in shakedown, Jesse Jackson, accused Wal-Mart of buying silence from critics of its employment practices by trying to “throw money at us.” So Sharpton rushed to the company’s defense– “Wal-Mart has in no way tried to persuade me with money,” he declared.
10. Anheuser-Busch states on its Web site that it gave NAN “between $100,000 and $499,000″ in 2007.
11. Las Vegas casinos: In 2002, NAN launched a Las Vegas chapter that solicits corporate and individual donations of up to $5,000 on its Web site. It’s unclear how much the chapter has raised, because Nevada does not require charities to report their revenues.
Sharpton, of course, denies
pressuring extorting corporations for cash: “That’s the old shakedown theory that the anti-civil-rights forces have used against us forever. Why can’t they come up with one company that says that? No one has criticized me.” He said, “Just because Pepsi and other companies had me on their board advising them didn’t mean that I wasn’t blasting them all the time.”
But Peter Flaherty, president of the conservative corporate watchdog National Legal and Policy Center in Virginia, said, “I think this is quite clearly a shakedown operation. He’s [Sharpton] good at harassing people and making noise. CEOs give him his way because it is a lot easier than confronting him. Sharpton went national just like a franchise. Each of [NAN’s] local chapters can now hit up businesses for support in their communities.”
NAN, a tax-exempt nonprofit, closely guards its corporate largesse. Most companies also keep the sums secret, and some would not divulge them. The corporations interviewed by The Post say they view their relationships with NAN as friendly and beneficial.
In 2007, then N.Y. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo found NAN had failed to file years’ worth of financial reports. So the group filed more records. In its 2006 IRS filing, NAN reported about $1 million in contributions and $1.1 million in expenses and programs. It owes the IRS $1.9 million in payroll taxes.
- General Motors
- Daimler Chrysler
- Johnson & Johnson
- American Honda
- Hawkins Food Group
H/t Clash Daily
Dr. Eowyn’s post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.