WASHINGTON – The government delivered good news and bad news to Al Sharpton (search) Thursday: The Democrat will get $100,000 in public money for his presidential bid -- and will face an investigation into his campaign's finances.
The Federal Election Commission (search) is examining whether the New Yorker spent too much of his own money on his campaign. Presidential candidates who accept public financing (search) agree to spend no more than $50,000 of their own resources.
If the FEC finds Sharpton exceeded that limit, it could order him to pay back the $100,000, with any additional government grants his campaign may receive before the commission's inquiry is completed.
At issue is whether any of the $53,981 in money owed to Sharpton by his campaign was outstanding for more than 60 days. FEC auditors found Sharpton already was owed $47,821 in debts or loans outstanding for more than the two-month limit.
Sharpton campaign manager Charles Halloran said the campaign believes the FEC should only impose the $50,000 limit for any personal money Sharpton puts into the campaign starting Thursday, the day the commission voted to give him the government money, and not date it to when Sharpton applied for the public funding in January.
Halloran said Sharpton believes that either way, he hasn't exceeded the limit. But if the commission counts to January and finds Sharpton surpassed the cap, the campaign is ready to go to court to challenge the interpretation, Halloran said.
John Kerry (search) locked up the Democratic nomination last week when his last major rival, John Edwards, bowed out. Any government funding Sharpton's campaign gets will still be of use, however; the campaign was about $485,000 in debt as of Feb. 1, according to the most recent campaign finance report filed.