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The Power Dozen

Illustration by Riccardo Vecchio  

Al Sharpton
WHO: President
WHAT: National Action Network

Earlier this month, Al Sharpton hosted his 55th-birthday party at the Soho Grand. Bloomberg showed up. As did City Council speaker Christine Quinn, Governor David Paterson, and the Democratic nominees for comptroller, John Liu, and public advocate, Bill de Blasio. Three days before, Quinn and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson honored Sharpton at a birthday rally in Harlem. Why does the city’s political class kiss his ring, even now, with his power diminished? More than any other unelected figure, Sharpton sets the racial tone. With his megaphone, Sharpton can confer credibility (as he did for Liu, who ran as the “minority” candidate against white councilman David Yassky) or he can contaminate. Just ask Mark Green. Sharpton’s tactics have grown more subtle. When he warned Attorney General Andrew Cuomo not to “disrupt the party” by challenging Paterson, the message was heard. Sharpton’s National Action Network has been accused of shaking down corporations, but his ultimate goal is stature, power, and acceptance.


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