Sharpton’s Funny Money

The feds are looking into the financial affairs of the Rev. Al Sharpton. What took them so long?

Last week, F.B.I. agents served subpoenas to several of Mr. Sharpton’s current and former colleagues, as part of an investigation that is believed to be probing campaign finance violations during his 2004 presidential primary bid, as well as potential tax shenanigans at his National Action Network.

True to form, Mr. Sharpton reacted with outrage that the agents delivered the subpoenas to his associates’ homes at 6 a.m., accusing investigators of trying to disrupt the work of his organization. (Note to Reverend Al: It doesn’t take the resources of the federal government to disrupt your work, since there’s never been any evidence that you actually do anything.) For good measure, he also compared himself to Martin Luther King and Adam Clayton Powell.

The timing of the investigation must be galling to Mr. Sharpton, who has recently been breaking bread with the Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaigns. His efforts over the past decade to transform his public image from greedy charlatan to sober statesman have been nothing if not strenuous. The tracksuits he wore when he perpetuated the Tawana Brawley hoax have long been replaced by pinstripes. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Reverend Al who stoked mayhem in the streets, such as the rally outside Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem when he exhorted the crowd to oust the “white interloper” who ran the store (subsequently, a fire was set in the store, and seven people died). And Mr. Sharpton has put a lid, for now, on his anti-Semitism, no longer touting his long, personal ties with hatemongers such as Khallid Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan.

But the feds don’t seem to have bought Al Sharpton’s new act. It’s stunning, actually, that Mr. Sharpton has managed to avoid scrutiny of his financial dealings, even as he has run for the U.S. Senate, mayor of New York and the Democratic presidential nomination.

Now he is receiving the attention he deserves. Let the investigation proceed, at full speed.

Sharpton’s Funny Money