Thursday’s New York Times investigates Fred Baron’s role (Serge F. Kovaleski and Mike McIntyre, “Lawyers’ Ties Hint at Extent of Hiding Edwards’s Affair”, Aug. 14; AP/L.A. Times; commentary at Deceiver, Jeralyn Merritt/TalkLeft, Greg Pollowitz/NRO Media Blog, DBKP; earlier). And more from DBKP here and here. P.S. And I didn’t realize until reading USA Today’s profile that scandal figure Andrew Young has served not only as a loyal Edwards foot soldier, but also as a lobbyist for the North Carolina trial lawyers’ association.
Per Marisa Guthrie at the magazine Broadcasting & Cable, ABC News was able to force John Edwards’ hand in part because it had been tracing the Fred Baron money trail (which, it will be recalled, Edwards supposedly had nothing to do with). “According to multiple sources, Edwards was apoplectic that ABC News broke the story on its website and began promoting it early on Friday” because the former North Carolina senator — who, y’know, was beating up on himself so bad and wanted nothing more than to come clean with the American people — “had hoped to control the news cycle by making his admission late on a Friday night when the country was watching the Olympics and the long weekend yawned ahead.” Earlier here and here.
Many commentators have questioned whether Edwards was telling the truth about when the affair ended. (Despite her family’s publicly expressed wishes for a paternity test, Rielle Hunter says she won’t allow one; whether this refusal is or is not related to her presumably ongoing financial dependence on Fred Baron’s largesse is not for us to know.) A second question is whether Edwards was telling the truth on ABC when he said he hired Hunter first for her filmmaking skills and began the relationship later, thus dodging charges of having put his mistress on the payroll. Sam Stein at Huffington Post examines chronologies here. Relatedly, Advice Goddess Amy Alkon has this to say about the L.A. Times’s straightfaced description of Hunter as a filmmaker: “Katie, honey, in this town [L.A.], we know to look at imdb.com to see if somebody actually is a filmmaker. This is a good dating tip for you, too, dear, because half the guys you’ll meet at the bar in this town are ‘producers.'”
More: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers.
Where’s the trial lawyer bringing a class action on behalf of all of the people who were defrauded when they gave money to John Edwards’s presidential campaign? It’s certainly a much more plausible claim of causation, reliance, and financial injury than the typical class action.
More seriously, I hope someone somewhere is investigating whether Fred Baron violated federal campaign finance law when he set aside tens of thousands of dollars to pay Rielle Hunter hush money without disclosing the payments on behalf of Edwards. Edwards said he was in the Beverly Hilton to help keep the story from becoming public, which makes it seem unlikely he’s telling the truth when he said that he had no knowledge that Baron moved Hunter to California. Alas, ABC didn’t ask the right follow-up questions, such as how Edwards thought meeting Hunter in a hotel room would help keep the story quiet. And “Fred Baron” appears nowhere in the New York Times story, even as he is a major fund-raiser for Barack Obama today. Obama is still running for president, right?
We described the Dallas attorney as poster boy for legal ethics for his astoundingly brazen conduct in the scandal over an asbestos testimony-coaching memo. Now his name is hitting front pages on the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter affair:
Dallas lawyer Fred Baron told The Dallas Morning News today that he paid relocation and housing expenses for the woman that former presidential candidate John Edwards has confessed to having an affair with.
Mr. Baron, who was chairman of Mr. Edwards’ presidential campaign finance committee, said he paid money for Rielle Hunter to move from North Carolina to another location. …
He said Mr. Edwards did not know about the arrangement.
(Gromer Jeffers Jr., “Dallas lawyer Fred Baron paid for Edwards’ mistress to relocate”, Dallas Morning News, Aug. 8).
More coverage of Edwards’s (partial or otherwise) confession: ABC News, AP, Memeorandum, Marc Ambinder, Ben Smith/Politico, News & Observer, Just One Minute, Shaun Mullen/Moderate Voice. Readers will remember that Ted had the story very, very early, before it was much noticed even on the blogs (more). As for Edwards’s own credibility, Mickey Kaus, whose news judgment in pursuing the matter now stands vindicated, has this to say: “There is now one player in this scandal with far less credibility than the National Enquirer, after all.”
“I decided independently to help two friends and former colleagues rebuild their lives when harassment by supermarket tabloids made it impossible for them to conduct a normal life,” Baron, a Dallas trial lawyer said in a statement, Rob Christensen reports.
“John Edwards was not aware that assistance was provided to anyone involved in this matter,” Baron said. “I did it of my own voilition and without the knowledge, instruction, or suggestion of John Edwards or anyone else. The assistance was offered and accepted without condition.”
York points out:
Hunter and Young, the recipients of Baron’s generosity, were not high-ranking officials in the Edwards campaign. How Baron got to know them and how he decided to fund their move to California, and why he decided to do so without Edwards’ knowledge, might be the subject of more questions as the Edwards matter goes forward.
Blogger Gina Cobb hopes the window of Baron’s generosity is still open:
I am touched and moved by your generosity. I especially like the part about “The assistance was offered and accepted without condition.” Accordingly, I would like to request the same generosity from you. Henceforward, I would like you to rent me an enormous house and pay my living expenses in perpetuity. I can assure you that the assistance you offer will be accepted without condition.
And see Ted’s follow-up post.
Having been completely and utterly stuck for almost two years by the courts without being able to accept any investment offers or other equitable partnerships to grow Rocketboom at all, we have since been frozen like ice… and without any additional resources to grow.
“Litigation hamstrings start-up business” is sort of a dog-bites-man story in the US, but what provides the frisson of irony here is that some of Baron’s Rocketboom legal troubles stem from being sued by his father over a $810k loan–and his father is one Fred Baron, well known to the Overlawyered crowd. Young Andrew has a happy ending; after jettisoning his original star, Amanda Congdon, and defeating her in court, he’s parlayed the loan from his daddy into a seven-digit distribution deal with Sony. Two Americas indeed. (Separately, if Rocketboom gets that sort of deal with a million views a month, I’m sure Walter and I will be happy to sell distribution rights to Overlawyered’s quarter-million monthly views for a pro-rated number of what Sony paid Rocketboom…)
Aides to candidates Clinton and Obama feverishly work an AAJ/ATLA trial lawyers’ conclave down Puerto Rico way, sensing that the money behind the flagging John Edwards candidacy may be “looking for a new candidate to get behind”. It’s “a testament to the crucial role played by the legal profession in Democratic fundraising. Trial lawyers have proved to be the financial mainstay for Edwards’s two presidential bids, as well as for the Democratic Party in general.” Quotes longtime Overlawyered favorites Fred Baron, Thomas Girardi and Robert Montgomery (Matthew Mosk, “Top Candidates’ Teams Look to the Lawyers”, Washington Post, Jan. 28).
So suggests Robert Novak, which, if true, puts to question any claims Obama has for being a different kind of Democrat. One wonders how long the prosecutions of Mel Weiss, Dickie Scruggs, or the Kentucky fen-phen lawyers would last. Of course, one recalls, the Clinton administration wasn’t any better when it buried a prosecution of Fred Baron in the Baron & Budd script memo scandal. Baron, who was the head of the ATLA trial-lawyer lobbying organization, is now Edwards’s finance chair, though the media has yet to note this hypocrisy by the supposedly anti-lobbyist Edwards.
A look at the largest donors for Obama and especially Edwards shows a disproportionate number of active members of (the trial lawyers’) 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? Are we to believe that the critical difference is the lobbyist registration papers, at which point money becomes tainted and dirty?
August 7 AFL-CIO Democratic debate:
OLBERMANN: Senator Edwards, I have a question for you. You made your substantial fortune as a trial lawyer. Trial lawyers are now contributing significantly to your campaign. How is that any better than lobbyists?
Alas, Edwards dodged the question, but it has perhaps contributed to the recent NY Times press coverage.
At YearlyKos, John Edwards and Barack Obama sought to distinguish themselves from Hillary Clinton by saying they didn’t take money from registered lobbyists, and Clinton was booed for defending herself. (Also: Franke-Ruta.)
I found this curious: after all, 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). 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? Are we to believe that the critical difference is the lobbyist registration papers, at which point money becomes tainted and dirty? Are any reporters going to ask that hard question, or will they let the two candidates demagogue from the high ground as they take millions from the most pernicious special interest group in America?