John Edwards and the money power

“We are not going to lose the race for lack of funds”, said Dallas trial lawyer Fred Baron, finance co-chairman of the Edwards campaign (and poster boy for legal ethics) as the Wisconsin primary approached. (Rob Christensen and John Wagner, “Edwards sees no reason to surrender”, Raleigh News and Observer, Feb. 12). The challenge for Edwards’s fund-raising was spelled out by the Washington Post last month (Paul Farhi and Thomas B. Edsall, “Filling War Chests Key As Campaigns Progress”, Jan. 21): “The North Carolina senator has received a higher percentage of large donations than any other major candidate — 83 percent were between $1,000 and $2,000, the maximum allowed by law. Many of these donations came from plaintiffs’ attorneys, members of Edwards’s former profession. This means that many of Edwards’s donors have ‘maxed out’ and can give no more money. For Edwards to become fully competitive in the race for cash, he will have to find new contributors beyond his trial-lawyer base.” Why, even many of the paralegals, receptionists, bankrupt support staffers of law firms and their nonvoting husbands have maxed out (see Hill News, May 7, 2003). For more on Edwards’ fund-raising, see Feb. 3; Jan. 27; Jan. 23, 2004; Aug. 5 and Apr. 7-8, 2003; and Jul. 18 and May 1-2, 2002. More: Kerry press secretary Stephanie Cutter imprecisely describes Edwards campaign as “wholly funded by trial lawyers” (Adam Nagourney and David M. Halbfinger, “Kerry and Edwards Square Off as Dean Abandons Campaign”, New York Times, Feb. 19)

Edwards’s self-reinvention as the candidate of trade protectionism has provided another reason for sensible voters to steer clear of him. As Alex Tabarrok notes: “In his stump speech, John Edwards is fond of empathizing with the plight of a 10-year old girl ‘somewhere in America,’ who goes to bed ‘praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn’t have the coat to keep her warm.’ Yet, as John Tierney points out, ‘clothing has become so cheap and plentiful (partly because of textile imports, which Mr. Edwards has proposed to limit) that there is a glut of second-hand clothing, and consequently most clothing donated to charity is shipped abroad. The second-hand children’s coats that remain in America typically sell for about $5 in thrift shops.’ (emphasis added)”. See “Nader Searches for His Roots”, New York Times, Feb. 15. To be sure, Edwards has some familiarity with the internationalization of markets: when the populist Senator and his wife left their Massachusetts Avenue mansion to trade up to a nicer mansion on P Street, they disposed of the old one “for $3 million to the Hungarian government for use as an embassy”. (Marc Fisher, “Regular Guys Who Live In Mansions”, Washington Post, Feb. 17). See also Byron York, “John Edwards Cares about YOU!”, Roll Call/National Review Online, Feb. 17. (& welcome WSJ “Best of the Web”, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and (thanks!) Steve Bainbridge readers)


  • John Edwards

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