- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

The Rev. Al Sharpton said yesterday that he will not file a quarterly financial report with the Federal Election Commission, required of presidential candidates, until he makes an official announcement of his intent to run later this spring.

"We are in the late stages of the exploratory phase," Mr. Sharpton said, answering questions during an appearance at George Washington University. "We will do whatever is required when we make an official announcement … next, we will get together our campaign staff."

Earlier in the day, Mr. Sharpton's aides said that the quarterly report did not apply to them because the campaign was only exploratory, citing the advice of the candidate's lawyers.

Mr. Sharpton was the lone Democrat of the nine who have appeared at various candidate forums not to turn in a quarterly financial report by Tuesday's deadline.

His campaign treasurer, Luis Miranda, and a key adviser, Roberto Ramirez, did not return calls. A longtime Sharpton attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, declined to comment.

Election commission officials said that since Mr. Sharpton registered his campaign in January something required once a candidate receives $5,000 in contributions or spends $5,000 on campaign activities they expected him to file the quarterly report.

"He registered with us. We were expecting a report, because we assumed with the registration he crossed the threshold," said Kelly Huff, spokeswoman for the election commission.

She said the commission would evaluate whether Mr. Sharpton should have filed if and when someone challenges Mr. Sharpton's failure to file.

Any penalty the FEC might assess if he were found delinquent would depend on how many days late his filing is, what kind of money he raised, and what explanation he had for being late.

Several insiders and people around Mr. Sharpton have portrayed his inner circle as disjointed and in need of organization.

The failure to file a campaign-finance report, even if he did not have the $5,000 minimum to report, "will just give people a reason to dismiss him," said one Sharpton supporter.

"This just hurts his credibility," the source said on the condition of anonymity. "I don't know why this happens."

Last night, Mr. Sharpton delivered a 20-minute speech to 150 George Washington students, most of them white, outlining his criticisms of President Bush's leadership, the refusal of the Augusta National Golf Club to have female members, and affirmative action.

Mr. Sharpton did not criticize, or even mention, his opponents in the Democratic primary, all of whom have been fair game during most of his previous public speaking engagements.

He did allude to the overall Democratic defeat in last fall's elections, contrary to the midterm victories usually won by the party out of the White House.

"We must bring more people to the party," Mr. Sharpton said. "And if we run the same traditional clubhouse campaign, we will get the same results as 2002."

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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