John Edwards: U.S. presidential election, 2008/Campaign finance

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The following relates to campaign finance by former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), who is running for the Democratic primary nomination in the 2008 presidential race.


Contents

Trial / tort lawyer cash

Edwards's soft money

In March 2002, "[w]hen the Senate debated an overhaul of the nation's campaign finance laws", "popular first-term" Sen. John Edwards "took to the floor to make an impassioned speech about the corruptive influence of big money in politics," Holly Bailey wrote May 16, 2002, for OpenSecrets.org "Money in Politics Alert".[1]

"This legislation will go a long way to returning power in this government to where it started and where it belongs, which is with average Americans going to the polls ... Everyone should have as much voice in this democracy as someone who can write a $100,000 campaign check. Period," Edwards said.

In 2002, Edwards "poured nearly half a million dollars in soft money into Iowa and New Hampshire from his New American Optimists leadership committee[2] [now known as Edwards's One America Committee[3]] ... according to reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service. That made him by far the most generous of the major Democratic presidential contenders," Steven Weiss wrote January 9, 2003, for Capital Eye.[4] "Edwards, who made millions as a trial lawyer before running for Senate in 1998, collected more than 40 contributions of $10,000 or more into his committee from individuals who identified themselves as attorneys. Several law firms also made the list."

By May 2002, New American Optimists, "which accept[ed] contributions from other PACs ... [had] raised more than $1 million, half of which in soft money that Edwards so often decried during the campaign finance debate," Holly Bailey wrote.[5]

"Why the sudden change of heart?", Bailey asked. "Like other Washington lawmakers who have formed leadership PACs, Edwards has his eye on a higher office-in this case, the White House. To get there, he must have friends and name recognition, two things that leadership PACs have been proven to buy."[6]

In June 2002, Thomas B. Edsall wrote[7] in the Washington Post that Edwards, who was then "considering a bid for the presidency in 2004, raised $461,000 during the first quarter with his affiliated 527 committee, the New American Optimists."[8].

The "first check" to the New American Optimists leadership PAC was on November 2, 2001, "a $2,500 contribution from Louis B. Susman, a vice chair at Salomon Smith Barney in Chicago."[9]

Top donors/total contributions through November 25, 2002, included the following:[10]

  • Over $100,000: $900,000-Steven Bing, Producer (Los Angeles, CA); $200,000-Ronald L. Motley, Attorney (Charleston, SC); $189,000-Tab Turner, Attorney (North Little Rock, AR); and $125,000-John E. Williams, Jr., Attorney (Houston, TX), for a total of $1,414,000.
  • $100,000: Frederick M. Baron, Attorney (Dallas, TX); Wade E. Byrd, Attorney (Fayetteville, NC); Foster & Sear (Arlington, TX); Girardi and Keese (Los Angeles, CA); Law Offices of Reagan Silber & Trevor Pearlman, LLP (Dallas, TX); Wayne A. Reaud, Attorney (Beaumont, TX); Steven B. Sandler, Developer (Virginia Beach, VA); Law Offices of Shernoff, Bidart & Darras (Claremont, CA); and Wilkes & McHugh PA (Tampa, FL), for a total of $900,000.
  • $50,000-$100,000: $95,000-Shepard A. Hoffman, Attorney (Dallas, TX); $75,000-Joseph W. Cotchett, Attorney (Burlingame, CA); Waters & Kraus (Dallas, TX); and Lisa A. Baron, Attorney (Dallas, TX); $58,000-James R. Duffy, Attorney (Uniondale, NY) and Lopez, Hodes, Restaino, Milman, Skikos & Polos (Newport Beach, CA), for a total of $436,000.
  • $50,000: Bruce A. Broillet, Attorney (Los Angeles, CA); Russell Budd, Attorney (Dallas, TX); Clifford Law Offices, P.C. (Chicago, IL); Cooney and Cooney (Chicago, IL); Fisher, Boyd, Brown, Boubreaux & Hugeunard (Houston, TX); Wayne Hogan, Attorney (Jacksonville, FL); Thomas A. Moore, Attorney (New York, NY); John M. O'Quinn, Attorney (Houston, TX); Power Rogers & Smith, P.A. (Chicago, IL); Paul S. Minor, Attorney (Biloxi, MS); and Weitz & Luxenburg (New York, NY), for a total of $550,000.

According to the 2003 first quarter Federal Election Commission campaign reports for Edwards's 2004 presidential bid, "Edwards landed on the top of the Democratic money-raising heap, pulling in $7.4 million from donors ... And only a fraction of the funds originated in Mr. Edwards's home state of North Carolina. The rest came from a Who's Who of every class-action law firm in the nation," the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal reported April 21, 2003.[11]

"There is, for instance, Mr. Edwards's national finance co-chairman, Fred Baron (asbestos). Lawyers from his firm donated $56,250, people who lived at the same address as those lawyers gave another $24,000, and Mr. Baron provided a private airplane for the Senator on 15 different occasions. Of course, the Senator hasn't relied exclusively on Mr. Baron's aircraft--he's used jets from four other law firms too, including those from Girardi & Keese (toxic chemicals) and Wilkes & McHugh (nursing homes).

"There are donations from the 'Texas Five' law firms (cigarettes), which landed $3.3 billion representing the Lone Star state in the national tobacco settlement. And there have been contributions from lawyers at Milberg Weiss (shareholder lawsuits) and also from Ness Motley (lead poisoning/medical devices/whistleblowers/you name it)," WSJ/OJ reported in April 2003.

Related external links

Dodging campaign finance laws

Edwards, who reported in 2007 "that he had assets of nearly $30 million, came up with a novel solution ... to keep alive his public profile [after his 2004 defeat as the Democratic vice presidential candidate] without the benefit of a presidential campaign that could finance his travels and pay for his political staff..., creating a nonprofit organization with the stated mission of fighting poverty. The organization, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, raised $1.3 million in 2005, and — unlike a sister charity he created to raise scholarship money for poor students — the main beneficiary of the center’s fund-raising was Mr. Edwards himself, tax filings show," Leslie Wayne reported June 22, 2007, in the New York Times.[12]

Because "Edwards said the organization’s purpose was 'making the eradication of poverty the cause of this generation,' its federal filings say it financed 'retreats and seminars' with foreign policy experts on Iraq and national security issues. Unlike the scholarship charity, donations to it were not tax deductible, and, significantly, it did not have to disclose its donors — as political action committees and other political fund-raising vehicles do — and there were no limits on the size of individual donations," Wayne wrote.

"The money paid Mr. Edwards's expenses while he walked picket lines and met with Wall Street executives. He gave speeches, hired consultants, attacked the Bush administration and developed an online following. He led minimum-wage initiatives in five states, went frequently to Iowa, and appeared on television programs. He traveled to China, India, Brussels, Uganda and Russia, and met with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and his likely successor, Gordon Brown, at 10 Downing Street," Wayne wrote.

"In addition to the two nonprofit organizations, [Edwards] created a leadership political action committee and a 527 'soft money' organization that also shared the same name: the OneAmerica Committee. These two committees each allowed donors to give more than the $2,300 per person limit in a presidential primary or general election, and, in some cases, to give in unlimited amounts.

"From 2005, when he established them, through 2006, the committee and the soft money organization raised $2.7 million, most of which paid for travel and other activities that helped Mr. Edwards maintain his profile," Wayne wrote.

Political action committees

2002 election cycle: New American Optimists.
2004 election cycle: One America Committee.

Related external articles

Lobbyists

At the August 4, 2007, Daily Kos convention in Chicago, Hillary Clinton "drew boos and hisses from liberal bloggers when, unlike Edwards and [Barack] Obama, she refused to forsake campaign donations from the special interest industry," the Associated Press's Mike Glover and Liz Sidoti wrote.[14]

"I don't think, based on my 35 years of fighting for what I believe in, anybody seriously believes I'm going to be influenced by a lobbyist,... A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans," Clinton said.[15]

"Edwards and Illinois Senator Obama say they don't accept lobbyists' money, arguing that it has a widespread corruptive influence on the political process."[16]

Check the facts

"However, while eschewing contributions from Washington lobbyists, Edwards has accepted about $10,000 in contributions from lobbyists in his home state of North Carolina, according to the Center for Responsive Politics," CNN reported August 6, 2007.[17]

"The Edwards campaign said there is no inconsistency because his pledge did not extend to lobbyists representing local interests. ... the Edwards campaign also said it would return a $4,600 donation from the Credit Suisse bank, which is registered to lobby in Washington," CNN said.[18]

"Obama and Edwards showed up at the national convention of the lobbying group for the trial lawyers, the former Association of Trial Lawyers of America (who now call themselves the American Association of Justice)," Ted Frank commented August 5, 2007, in the Overlawyered Blog.[19] "There, they gave speeches (as did Clinton, Biden, and Richardson). A look at the largest donors for Obama and especially Edwards shows a disproportionate number of active members of that lobbying group. Indeed, John Edwards's finance chairman is Fred Baron, the former president of ATLA. If Obama and Edwards want voters to believe that Clinton is influenced by lobbyist money, what should we think about these two candidates' debts to trial lawyers?[20] Are we to believe that the critical difference is the lobbyist registration papers, at which point money becomes tainted and dirty?"

  • FundRace 2008, The Huffington Post's searchable database: "FundRace makes it easy to search by name or address to see which presidential candidates your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are contributing to. Or you can see if your favorite celebrity is putting their money where their mouth is."

Related external articles

Bundlers

Public Citizen relaunched the WhiteHouseForSale website for the 2008 elections.

As of July 27, 2007, John Edwards had 543 bundlers for a total of $22,955,566.00 raised. Follow John Edwards' total funds raised and a list of bundlers and amount raised here.

Check the facts

FundRace 2008, The Huffington Post's searchable database: "FundRace makes it easy to search by name or address to see which presidential candidates your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are contributing to. Or you can see if your favorite celebrity is putting their money where their mouth is."

Resources and articles

See also

References

  1. Holly Bailey, "It's Showtime: With an Eye on the 2004 Campaign, White House Wannabes Hit the Money Trail," Money in Politics Alert/OpenSecrets.org, May 16, 2002, Vol. 6, No. 53.
  2. IRS Form 8871. Political Organizations Notice of Section 527 Status for New American Optimists, filed February 28, 2002.
  3. John Edwards's New American Optimists website.
  4. Steven Weiss, "Laying the Foundation. Soft money contributions from leadership committees reveal the ambitions of presidential aspirants," Capital Eye, January 9, 2003.
  5. Holly Bailey, "It's Showtime: With an Eye on the 2004 Campaign, White House Wannabes Hit the Money Trail," Money in Politics Alert/OpenSecrets.org, May 16, 2002, Vol. 6, No. 53.
  6. Holly Bailey, "It's Showtime: With an Eye on the 2004 Campaign, White House Wannabes Hit the Money Trail," Money in Politics Alert/OpenSecrets.org, May 16, 2002, Vol. 6, No. 53.
  7. Thomas B. Edsall, "Study Suggests Law On Campaign Finance Will Benefit Liberals," Washington Post (Common Dreams), June 10, 2002.
  8. On March 31, 2002, New American Optimists ranked #5 with $790,014 cash on hand. Top 50 Nonconnected PAC’s by Cash on Hand as of March 31, 2002, IRS.
  9. Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action, "Edwards for President, Inc. Finances: New American Optimists," George Washington University.
  10. Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action, "Edwards for President, Inc. Finances: New American Optimists," George Washington University.
  11. "Favorite Son Candidacy. Tort lawyers open their wallets for John Edwards," Wall Street Journal/OpinionJournal, April 21, 2003.
  12. Leslie Wayne, "In Aiding Poor, Edwards Built Bridge to 2008," New York Times, June 22, 2007.
  13. About Us, New American Optimists website.
  14. Mike Glover and Liz Sidoti, "Obama, Edwards Criticize Clinton," Associated Press (Forbes), August 6, 2007.
  15. Kim Chapman, "Clinton Draws Fire From Obama, Edwards Over Lobbyists (Update1)," Bloomberg News, August 5, 2007.
  16. Kim Chapman, "Clinton Draws Fire From Obama, Edwards Over Lobbyists (Update1)," Bloomberg News, August 5, 2007.
  17. "Sen. Clinton slammed for taking $400K from lobbyists," CNN, August 6, 2007.
  18. "Sen. Clinton slammed for taking $400K from lobbyists," CNN, August 6, 2007.
  19. Ted Frank, "Assignment Desk: Edwards, Obama, and lobbyist money," Overlawyered Blog, August 5, 2007.
  20. "Trial Lawyers Help Edwards Make His Case. Excerpt from The Buying of the President 2004 Follows the Edwards Money Trail," knowmore.org.

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