Yesterday, Dr. Carl Horowitz of the NLPC staff spoke at the Colgate-Palmolive annual meeting in New York City in support of our resolution asking the company to disclose its charitable contributions. In the past year, Colgate had both ballyhooed and denied that it supports Sharpton’s group, the National Action Network (NAN).
Horowitz forced CEO Ian Cook to admit that the company is a donor to NAN. Cook did not explain why the company denied it in October 2009.
Here are Horowitz’ remarks:
I’d like to focus on recent donations by Colgate-Palmolive to National Action Network, headed by Rev. Al Sharpton.
Peter Flaherty, our organization’s president, raised this issue two years ago at this meeting. He noted in front of shareholders that Colgate-Palmolive had accepted a “corporate excellence” award from Sharpton. He then asked a logical question: Did Colgate-Palmolive give to National Action Network, and, if so, how much? It took substantial effort on his part to coax an admission from management that the company had given $50,000.
This past April at National Action Network’s 12th annual convention, Colgate-Palmolive again was listed on the event program as one of more than 40 sponsoring organizations. This once more begs the question: How much did Colgate-Palmolive give? And what is it getting for its money?
I appeal to management to answer the first question. But I can tell you about the second: It’s a bad deal.
Management apparently sees giving large sums of money to National Action Network as a business opportunity, a way of expanding its customer base. With Al Sharpton’s name attached to the corporate name and logo, more blacks presumably will buy its products.
The reality is that there is a major downside. Al Sharpton is a politician. And that role has fit him in ways that go well beyond his run for president in 2004. His job always has been to build and mobilize cadres to take over American institutions. He’s not some benign philanthropist or educator. To his credit, he doesn’t pretend to be one.
By giving money to his nonprofit organization, a company effectively expands an ongoing campaign to shake down companies who haven’t gotten with his program yet. The language may be soothing, with inevitable bows to “diversity” and “inclusion,” but it’s still a shakedown.
Given his long history of lawbreaking and bad publicity, Sharpton knows he has an image problem. That’s why he’s invested much time and money on an image makeover, excising his most outlandish and histrionic traits. He’s now a “pragmatic” problem-solver.
The effort has paid off. He’s close to President Obama, several members of his cabinet, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and other top public officials. He’s also allied with corporate and labor leaders, plus any number of major sports and entertainment figures.
But neither his core beliefs nor operating style can be camouflaged. In the end, reality bites. And the reality is that he remains an opportunistic racial politician with a double standard.
You see, whenever there is the appearance of a “hate crime” against a black by a white person, even if the evidence points to no crime whatsoever, he’ll turn a city upside down to see that heads roll. But reverse racial roles, and he will do everything possible to intimidate prosecutors into exonerating the accused. His roles in shaping public opinion in the cases of Bernard Goetz, Tawana Brawley, the Crown Heights riot, the Freddie’s Fashion Mart killings, the Sean Bell killing and the “Jena Six” (among others) all fit one pattern or the other.
And forget about some of these cases being “ancient history.” To this day, Sharpton is proud of every one of his street and media campaigns, most of all, the one virtually sanctifying Tawana Brawley, the 15-year-old girl in upstate New York whose accusations against several men in 1987 of “gang rape” proved a complete hoax.
Sharpton also tries to manufacture mass outrage against allegedly “racist” laws. Only days ago, for example, he compared a new Arizona law designed to discourage illegal immigration as something found in Nazi Germany. He also demands “reparations” from U.S. corporations that allegedly profited from slavery of a century and a half ago or more.
The details of career can be found in my lengthy report titled Mainstreaming Demagoguery: Al Sharpton’s Rise to Respectability, published last spring by the National Legal and Policy Center.
Knuckling under to Sharpton and people like him creates the impression of weakness. That means opportunities for them to force companies into “partnerships.” But reverse course and criticize them, and you’ll see how quickly these partnerships become boycotts, lawsuits and negative media campaigns.
Even by warding off such actions with a donation, capitulation is not good for the bottom line. First, there is no one “last” donation – only the last one for now. Second, being perpetually hostage to enemies redefines a company mission in ways that run contrary to shareholder interests.
Corporate giving must be connected to a business purpose. Giving tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to Al Sharpton over the years simply bankrolls a nonstop political campaign that works against the interests of shareholders.
I conclude by asking: Did Colgate-Palmolive this year donate funds to Al Sharpton? As an official National Action Network sponsor, the answer must be yes. That leads to two more questions: How much? And why?