Sharpton: Battles With IRS & FEC Over

NEW YORK (AP) - The Rev. Al Sharpton said he feels a weight has
lifted, now that his longrunning battles with the Internal Revenue
Service and the Federal Election Commission are finally resolved.

"This is the first time in years that nothing is hanging over
our heads," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview
Thursday.

The Federal Election Commission announced earlier in the day
that his campaign and his civil rights group would pay combined
fines of $285,000 for breaking a variety of election finance rules
during his 2004 presidential campaign.

The FEC's findings included that Sharpton's National Action
Network had improperly subsidized his political campaign by paying
for about $181,115 in expenses that should have been covered by his
election committee.

News of the fine had become public nearly two weeks ago, but the
settlement wasn't official until now.

While acknowledging that the campaign did make mistakes,
Sharpton said investigators found no evidence that anyone meant to
break the law.

"I think this completely vindicates our campaign staff from the
allegations that they were willfully doing things wrong," he told
The Associated Press.

He said his civil rights group will pay its $77,000 share of the
fine Friday. His dormant campaign organization will throw
fundraisers to come up with the rest.

Last summer, Sharpton resolved a major dispute with the IRS by
agreeing to make a series of payments for back taxes, starting with
an initial check for more than $1 million.

Federal prosecutors who had been investigating his finances also
decided not to seek criminal charges.

The FEC eventually concluded that Sharpton's election committees
had routinely filed incorrect campaign finance reports, didn't
refund excessive or prohibited donations, and failed to report a
fundraiser thrown for him in 2003 by Detroit businessman La Van
Hawkins.

Hawkins was later sentenced to 33 months in prison in connection
with an unrelated political corruption case in Philadelphia.

Since then Sharpton said he has "hired people who are more
careful" to handle both his personal business affairs and the
finances of his civil rights group.


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