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Sharpton Keeps Campaign Funds Under Wraps

April 19, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — He speaks like a candidate, participates in events involving White House hopefuls and even has traveled to Iowa, but Al Sharpton is the only one of nine Democratic candidates who hasn't filed a presidential campaign finance report.

The New York minister says he doesn't have to, arguing that he is merely testing the presidential waters and that until he officially announces, he doesn't have to disclose who is financing his effort or how much money he has raised.

Not so, say some campaign finance watchdogs.

"From all outward appearances, in my view, he looks like a candidate," said Larry Noble, head of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and former Federal Election Commission general counsel. "If he is a candidate he should file all the reports a candidate is required to file. I don't think it serves anyone very well for him to be acting like a candidate and refusing to disclose the political contributions."

Sharpton stepped into the presidential race in January and has traveled to such early election tests as Iowa and South Carolina. He has participated at several forums as part of the field of Democratic candidates, including an address to the Democratic National Committee meeting.

And when Sharpton speaks, it's as if he's a candidate.

In Des Moines in February, he said: "It is time for Democrats to be Democrats ... and that's one of the reasons I am embarking on this race."

Last month in Washington, he said: "I'm in the Democratic primaries. I'm not running in any other primaries until after I'm the nominee."

But in an appearance Thursday before George Washington University Democrats, Sharpton said he considers his effort "exploratory" and doesn't believe he has to disclose his financing.

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