While others have been busy reheating the leftover “Bush AWOL” story or rustling through archived articles about John Kerry’s voting record, The Village Voice this week delivers a first-rate investigative report on Democratic hopeful Al Sharpton’s strange bedfellow, GOP operative Roger Stone.

Wayne Barrett (with reporting help from Adam Hutton and Christine Lagorio) documents that Stone, one of the Watergate dirty tricksters and a long-time Bush family ally, is serving as Sharpton’s strategist and financier. By orchestrating a last-minute (and legally questionable) campaign check-writing blitz, Stone helped Sharpton qualify for federal matching funds. Stone also has helped underwrite Sharpton’s National Action Network, Barrett writes. Funds from the nonprofit and the campaign have been co-mingled in possible violation of election laws.

As Salon’s Joe Conason says today, Stone’s interest in Sharpton is rooted in the GOP’s desire to undermine Democratic efforts to unseat George Bush. The combative Sharpton has promised he will continue to “slap the donkey” until the Democratic convention. Backed with taxpayer funds (thanks to Stone’s efforts), Sharpton remains a player whose motives for staying in the race seem, well, suspect.

Readers of The New York Times learned of the Stone-Sharpton link January 25. Too bad for them, though. They only got part of the story. Voice readers got the whole deal.

— Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.