Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich Owe the IRS Thousands from Political Action Committees

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Go ahead: Break election laws and violate tax rules, inviting federal fines you never pay.

You might just end up like civil-rights leader Al Sharpton, who now hosts MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, a nightly news show that serves as a de facto soapbox for his liberal political views.

On the program, Sharpton regularly defends the IRS, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department, against conservatives’ criticism that the agency gave special scrutiny to right-leaning nonprofit groups,

“There was no conspiracy for the IRS to target conservatives. So why are some Republicans so obsessed about all of them?” Sharpton shouted during a show last February.

What Sharpton doesn’t tell viewers is that his 2004 presidential committee owes the U.S. Treasury $19,500 a decade after being caught accepting illegal campaign contributions, according to federal records. It also owes the Federal Election Commission several thousand dollars in unpaid fines, even after paying off a separate $208,000 penalty in 2009 for several campaign violations.

Sharpton’s saga, while extreme, is hardly unique.

Dozens of political committees together owe government agencies—and therefore, taxpayers—more than $1 million in outstanding penalties, back taxes, and other liabilities, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal records shows. Some debts are more than 15 years old.

The government’s anemic campaign law-enforcement efforts and plodding debt-collections process are largely to blame for this growing cache of overdue debt, owed by Democrats and Republicans alike. Overburdened regulators spend little time chasing offenders, especially political committees that fade into insolvency and irrelevancy after violating the law.

Consider the FEC: Tasked by law with fining political committees that break election laws, the agency itself has no real power to make them pay.

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Source: Daily Beast | Dave Levinthal / Center for Public Integrity

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