NEW YORK - The Rev. Al Sharpton angrily denounced federal authorities yesterday for investigating him and his civil- rights organization, suggesting that the Justice Department was retaliating against him for his civil-rights advocacy.
"I have probably been under every investigation known to man and I can't remember a time that I've not been under investigation," Sharpton said at the Harlem headquarters of his civil- rights organization.
He continued: "The issues raised are issues that we've learned over and over again, particularly when we are approaching an election season."
Sharpton, 53, called the news conference after reports emerged yesterday of a federal probe into his finances. The U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, where the investigation is based, declined to comment.
The FBI and the IRS are investigating Sharpton for tax fraud and possible campaign-finance violations stemming from his 2004 presidential bid, according to a person familiar with the investigation. They also are investigating the National Action Network and several businesses he runs.
A grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence in the case at the end of the month.
Sharpton said he thought the timing of the investigation was suspicious, coming just weeks after he led a march on the Justice Department to demand federal intervention in the Jena Six case in Louisiana and better enforcement of hate crimes.
The charges against the six black students accused of attacking a white student in Jena, La., led to the September demonstration by Sharpton and other activists who alleged that local authorities were prosecuting blacks more harshly than whites.
Sharpton and his lawyer, Michael Harding, said between eight and 10 Sharpton associates, employees and former employees - including one man who worked for him 12 years ago - received subpoenas Wednesday asking them to produce documents related to the Sharpton's finances and those of his civil-rights organization.
Neither Sharpton nor his spokesman, Charlie King, received a subpoena. Sharpton said he was cooperating with the probe.
Sharpton agreed in 2005 to repay the government $100,000, plus interest, for taxpayer money he received during his failed effort to win the Democratic presidential nomination the year before, though he denied wrongdoing. The Federal Election Commission had determined that he spent more of his own money on the campaign than the qualifications for federal matching funds allow. In 1993, Sharpton pleaded guilty to not filing a state income- tax return in 1986. *