WASHINGTON – Al Sharpton's (search) cash-strapped presidential campaign may soon lose the government money it started getting earlier this month.
The Federal Election Commission (search) voted Monday to suspend public financing for the New York Democrat's campaign. The FEC found that Sharpton exceeded the program's $50,000 limit on contributions by candidates to their own campaigns.
Sharpton has 20 days to respond before the commission suspends his monthly matching funds. The taxpayer-financed program offers a monthly government match of up to $250 for each private donation, up to total grants of about $18.6 million.
Most candidates accepting public financing received their first grants in January after showing they had met the program's requirements, which include raising $5,000 in each of 20 states in donations of $250 or less from individuals.
The FEC found Sharpton eligible March 11 and provided an initial $100,000 grant. If the commission finds Sharpton had already spent more than $50,000 of his own money on the campaign when he applied for the government funds, it could order him to pay back the $100,000.
Sharpton contends that the FEC should only impose the $50,000 limit for any personal money he put into the campaign starting March 11, the day the commission voted to give him the government money, and not the date when he applied for the public funds in January.
Sharpton had raised about $643,000 as March began, including at least $159,000 in loans. Sharpton spent all he raised and then some, starting this month about $634,000 in debt.