NEW YORK (AP) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton angrily denounced federal authorities Thursday for investigating him and his civil rights organization, suggesting that the Justice Department was retaliating against him for his political activism.
"I have probably been under every investigation known to man and I can't remember a time that I've not been under investigation," Sharpton said at a news conference at the Harlem headquarters of his National Action Network.
"The issues raised are issues that we've learned over and over again, particularly when we are approaching an election season."
Sharpton called the news conference after reports emerged Thursday of a federal probe into his finances.
The FBI and the IRS are investigating Sharpton for tax fraud and possible campaign finance violations stemming from his 2004 presidential bid, according to a person familiar with the investigation. They are also investigating the National Action Network and several businesses he runs.
A Brooklyn grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence in the case at the end of the month.
At the news conference, Sharpton and his lawyer, Michael Harding, said between eight and 10 Sharpton associates, employees and former employees -- including one man who worked for him 12 years ago -- received subpoenas Wednesday asking them to produce documents related to the Sharpton's finances and those of his civil rights organization.
Neither Sharpton nor his spokesman, Charlie King, received a subpoena, and Sharpton said he had no idea what the investigation was about.
Sharpton said he thought the timing of the investigation was suspicious, coming just weeks after he led a march on the Justice Department to demand federal intervention in the Jena Six case and better enforcement of hate crimes.
The charges against the six Black students accused of attacking a White student in Jena, La., have led to demonstrations around the nation, including one organized by Sharpton in Washington on Nov. 16. Activists have alleged that local authorities in Louisiana were prosecuting Blacks more harshly than Whites.
Sharpton also suggested that the probe may be intended to dilute his influence in the 2008 presidential campaign. He said he was on the verge of taking a more visible role in the campaign and hinted that he may endorse a candidate on a scheduled visit to South Carolina next week.
He also criticized the way that federal investigators served the subpoenas, apparently delivering them at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. He said "four single mothers" with small children were subpoenaed about "stuff two or three years old."
"Even I would have thought that they would not have handled a matter like this in such a disrespectful and insensitive way," he said.
Sharpton said he was cooperating with the probe.
"Most of my staff has been questioned by every investigator in the world," he said. "They have never not given documents, they have never not answered questions."
Sharpton agreed in 2005 to repay the government $100,000, plus interest, for taxpayer money he received during his failed effort to win the Democratic presidential nomination the year before, though he denied wrongdoing.
The Federal Election Commission had determined that he spent more of his own money on the campaign than the qualifications for federal matching funds allow.
In 1993, Sharpton pleaded guilty to not filing a state income tax return in 1986.