Have you ever wondered how Al Sharpton sorts through all of the many racial crisis management situations in the country and decides where and when the attention of his National Action Network will be focused? The New York Post has been doing some digging and found that there’s more than a little method to the madness. Whether it is cash or influence, it appears that if you have a corporation or organization looking to do business and you don’t want to be singled out and identified as a racist, you can cut a deal with Reverend Al.

Want to influence a casino bid? Polish your corporate image? Not be labeled a racist?

Then you need to pay Al Sharpton.

For more than a decade, corporations have shelled out thousands of dollars in donations and consulting fees to Sharpton’s National Action Network. What they get in return is the reverend’s supposed sway in the black community or, more often, his silence…

“Al Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they didn’t come to terms with him. Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal & Policy Center, a Virginia-based watchdog group that has produced a book on Sharpton.

This is a report well worth reading because some of it beggars the imagination. A Connecticut hedge firm group, Plainfield Asset Management, is on record as having ponied up $600,000 in two separate payments (funneled through another non-profit group) to Sharpton’s group while trying to curry favor with him during tricky government negotiations, or at least to avoid attracting fire from him. His group apparently had also been pestering General Motors for donations for many years without success. Then Al decided to protest GM in front of a dealership they were closing and suddenly the payments began. He pulled a similar move with American Honda in 2003, and also landed a $25K per year “consulting” gig with Pepsi after he threatened them with a boycott which mysteriously never happened after the checks started coming in.

One of the strangest tales in the article, however, deals with Sony Entertainment and the same woman made famous in recent stories about their leaked emails, Amy Pascal. While no money seems to have changed hands (yet), there was certainly a meeting of the minds.

Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal met with the activist preacher after leaked e-mails showed her making racially charged comments about President Obama. Pascal was under siege after a suspected North Korean cyber attack pressured the studio to cancel its release of “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un.

Pascal and her team were said to be “shaking in their boots” and “afraid of the Rev,” The Post reported.

No payments to NAN have been announced, but Sharpton and Pascal agreed to form a “working group” to focus on racial bias in Hollywood.

I’m not saying that any of this will come as some sort of stunning surprise to our readers, but the boldness and audacity of it is almost breathtaking. And it’s all being done pretty much right out in the open. As a devout capitalist, I sort of have to tip my hat to Sharpton here. Good work if you can get it.