Ford Bankrolled Sharpton Convention Featuring Biden

Biden and Sharpton photo

Ford Motor Company has applied for $11 billion in taxpayer funds for retooling, and has access to an additional $9 billion line of credit from the government. Yet, the company was a financial sponsor of Al Sharpton’s national convention last week that featured a speech by Vice-President Joseph Biden.

In a letter today to Steven Rattner, who directs President Obama’s auto industry task force, I wrote,

Ford’s financial support for Sharpton places into doubt the judgment of Ford executives. I can think of no expenditure farther removed from the core mission of saving the company and the American auto industry than bankrolling Sharpton. It is your responsibility to ensure that no more capital is wasted on controversial political causes, no matter how supportive they are of the administration you represent.

In a Complaint filed today with TARP Inspector General Neil M. Barofsky, I wrote,

Ford’s major donation to Al Sharpton’s group at this critical time calls into question CEO Alan Mulally’s commitment to what he called “shared sacrifice” at Congressional hearings in December.

Ford logoFord was a sponsor of the National Action Network 2009 National Convention (NAN) that took place April 1-4, 2009 in New York City. NAN was founded by Al Sharpton and the convention is his major fundraising event of the year. Dr. Carl Horowitz of the NLPC staff attended as observer.

NAN did not disclose the exact amount of Ford’s gift, but a “sponsor” designation for last year’s event cost $50,000. Ford has recently closed 17 plants in North America and has laid off over 50,000 employees. Last year, the company lost $14.6 billion.

Other corporate sponsors of last week’s event included American Honda, Anheuser Busch, Colgate-Palmolive, Comcast, Entergy, Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Macy’s, PepsiCo, Pfizer and Wal-Mart.

Bailout recipients GM, Chrysler and Citigroup were sponsors of the same event in 2008, but were not identified as sponsors for 2009.

Reportedly, sponsors of last year’s event received subpoenas as part of the federal investigation into Sharpton’s personal and organizational finances. NAN’s finances have been the subject of several investigations over the years. In 2008, the group reported that it owed $1.9 million in unpaid payroll taxes.

Last week’s event featured a speech by Vice-President Joseph Biden, and two members of the Obama cabinet, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Another participant was Senator Roland Burris (D-IL).

During last year’s campaign, Sharpton blasted Biden for calling Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Sharpton seemed pleased by the administration’s attention. He said, “I think it’s noteworthy that this is the first civil rights organization the administration has sent their top people to [and this is Biden’s] first trip to New York as vice-president.”

photo credit: AP/Wide World