Al Sharpton got a 70 percent raise from his nonprofit last year, bringing his compensation above $412,000, according to new tax records filed last week.
The leading nonprofit watchdog, Charity Navigator, says $150,000 is the median compensation for the top executive at comparable organizations.
At more than $412,000, Sharpton’s compensation “is far beyond what we see in charities of this size,” even on the East Coast, says Charity Navigator’s spokeswoman, Sandra Miniutti.
National Action Network employed 34 workers throughout 2014, spending just over $1.9 million in total compensation.
Sharpton’s pay hike is well outside of what’s normal, Miniutti says; a standard increase for a nonprofit executive is between 1 percent and 3 percent. A raise of over 70 percent “is a pretty big jump in his compensation,” she says. “We typically don’t see that.”
Sharpton says that for a few years, he received no compensation at all from National Action Network. The organization’s tax filings confirm that in 2007 and 2008, he received no pay, and in 2006, he received less than $5,000.
So, Sharpton tells National Review: “My salary remains the same. For three years, they paid me nothing, and the board agreed they would pay me the three years [of] nothing.”
Even so, the timing seems somewhat peculiar, given that in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013, Sharpton received between $240,000 and $250,000 — up from around $72,000 in 2005, before his salary hiatus. And in 2011, National Action Network paid him more than $541,000.
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Sharpton’s explanation doesn’t fully satisfy Miniutti. “Generally speaking, that’s not how nonprofits operate,” she says. “They generally don’t not pay their CEOs, then kind of make it up down the line. It may be a red flag, it’s certainly unusual, and it’s not how charities typically operate.”
Charity Navigator listed National Action Network on its watch list last year, citing several of the nonprofit’s financial irregularities detailed in a lengthy New York Times article examining Sharpton’s finances.
#share#National Action Network’s 2014 submission to the Internal Revenue Service shows that the nonprofit is in its best financial shape in years. For the first time in more than a decade, it ended the year with positive net assets (just over $26,000) and no tax liabilities.
“I told you,” Sharpton tells NR, referencing the final $780,000 in payroll taxes that National Action Network paid off in the past year.
Still, the nonprofit’s filings raise at least a few red flags.
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The nonprofit spent more than $262,000 on travel, including first class or charter flights, throughout the year. (National Review has already detailed Sharpton’s preferences for first-class flights and upscale lodging.)
In 2014, Sharpton’s nonprofit paid nearly $102,000 to CGK Partners, a consultancy that recently listed Charlie King, once listed as National Action Network’s acting national director, as its chief executive officer.
National Action Network no longer lists Noerdlinger Media as an independent contractor. In 2013, it had paid more than $126,000 to the company, run by Rachel Noerdlinger, a former Sharpton spokesperson who went on to serve as chief of staff for Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray. She later left after a series of news articles highlighted, in the New York Times’s words, “ethics lapses, unpaid parking tickets, [and] a boyfriend with a serious criminal past.”
Noerdlinger now works as a managing director at Mercury, a public-relations firm where King is co-chairman. In September, the New York Daily News reported Noerdlinger’s job responsibilities include working with National Action Network and Sharpton.
National Action Network also paid more than $104,000 to D. Johnson Design, Inc., for “consulting services.”
#related#A source familiar with National Action Network says it helps the nonprofit line coordinate special events and bring in sponsors. Dwight Johnson Design posts a partial client list on its website, including Verizon and NBC. The phone company was a sponsor of National Action Network’s annual convention last spring, as was Time Warner, NBC’s parent.
National Action Network’s tax filings says it gave $11,850 in charitable contributions but does not list the recipient. A spokesperson for National Action Network says the funds went to churches and other civil-rights organizations. He also confirmed that none of these charitable contributions went to Education for a Better America, an organization run by Sharpton’s daughter Dominique.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center and as the Tony Blankley Chair for the Steamboat Institute.