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Edwards-Friendly 527 Funding Sparks Controversy

By Matthew Mosk
John Edwards' populist message has, without a doubt, helped distinguish him from the other Democratic candidates competing in Iowa.

But a central tenet of that message -- the idea that he is campaigning free from the influence of the powerful forces that control Washington -- is being challenged in light of the most recent federal election filings by one of the outside groups advocating on his behalf, and has sparked a round of dueling memos by the campaign managers of the Barack Obama and Edwards campaigns.

As The Post reported Friday, the independent expenditure group Alliance for a New America recently received nearly $500,000 from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a 97-year-old socialite who is the widow of Paul Mellon and daughter-in-law of industrialist Andrew Mellon. It is at least the second check Mellon has written to an Edwards-affiliated entity. The first, for $250,000, came in 2006, to the One America independent group that helped support Edwards' political efforts in between his presidential bids.

"These latest revelations make it clear why Edwards was able to announce that he could accept public funds while still spending all he needed to spend in Iowa," wrote Obama campaign manager David Plouffe in memo released this morning. "His campaign simply exploited the biggest loophole in the campaign finance system in order to get public matching funds while arranging through allies to benefit from a 527. That's how they avoided the spending limits that are a condition of the public matching funds."

Edwards himself invoked the Mellon family name just one month ago, and for very different reasons, when a New Hampshire voter at a town hall meeting in Bow asked about the last time a president stood up to powerful and wealthy forces in America.

"The ones who are best known are not recent," Edwards replied. "I mean Teddy Roosevelt did it, he did it very clearly, and he did it, I might add, in a time where there was a huge concentration of wealth and power, because he was back in the days when -- you know, some people refer to it as the Gilded Age -- back in the period where, you know, the Rockefellers and the Mellons and the Carnegies, all these people, owned most of America or a big chunk of America and they used their money and power to dominate what was happening in the government and to dominate what was happening in the economy."

Edwards said he saw a lot of similarities between those times and today, and credited Roosevelt for standing up to those influential families. "It's the easiest thing in the world to turn your head and say, listen, it's just the way it is, there is nothing we can do about it, we just have to accept it.... We have to accept that they have a lot of power, they have a lot of influence and they're going to control a lot of what's going to happen in the democracy....

"If we continue in the cycle -- which is what's happening now -- if we continue in the cycle where what we do is we try to see, you know, who can raise the most money from whomever they can get it from to win this election and then be beholden to the people who helped them, nothing will change," he continued. "That's my whole point. Nothing will change."

Edwards brushed off his rival's criticism. "I'm very proud of my record," he told the Associated Press. "Unlike other candidates, including Sen. Obama, I've never take money from a Washington lobbyist, never taken money from a PAC." He added: "If Sen. Obama and his campaign want to focus on negative attacks they can do that, but that is not what I'm going to do."

Added Edwards campaign manager and former congressman David Bonior in an afternoon memo: "David Plouffe, Senator Obama's campaign manager, is unfortunately using the oldest political trick in the book by trying to mislead voters by linking two things together that are not linked. Plouffe, who himself worked for a 527, knows very well that the John Edwards campaign is completely independent and cannot control any outside group or communicate with it."

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 29, 2007; 4:55 PM ET
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What a reach from the kid from Illinois campaign manager.I believe the issue just might be the war and the economy stupid.

When the young man states it is time for a change, he is right. Having raised over thirty million has a ring of the same old Washing game to me.

Posted by: rlhemmert1 | December 31, 2007 12:38 AM | Report abuse

It is the same Edwards contradiction that has plagued his campaign from the start. He talks the talk but he does not walk the walk.

There is probably some coordination between these 527s and the Edwards campaign even if it is in the form of former Edwards staffers now running the 527s that are now running the pro-Edwards ads.

But that is hard to prove and by the time it can be proven the campaign will have long been over and if Edwards violated any campaign finance laws, his campaign can just simply pay a fine and be done with it.

The FEC has only two of the six members seated so candidates such as Edwards taking matching funds can pretty much disregard campaign finance laws by using these 527s. It is somewhat hypocritical but you can't fault Edwards for trying when he has nothing to lose.

The larger problem is with the whole McCain-Feingold bill which has made the problem worse by allowing the 527s. It is harder for candidates to respond to these 527 ads then it would be to respond to ads placed by opposing candidates. Candidates can at least be held accountable for their own ads. Most of the 527 organizations are ad hoc groups so there is little accountability for inaccuracies in their ads.

Unless you are a political consultant, is there anyone who still thinks McCain-Feingold was a good idea?

Posted by: danielhancock | December 30, 2007 1:31 AM | Report abuse

The corporate MSM is so afraid of Edwards he is never mentioned even though he is a strong second or third in the polls and is the candidate that easily beats all GOP contenders (who get media attention all the way down to Fred Thompson for some reason).

If you see the Washington Post or any other media outlet mention Edwards, it will be a hit piece. No matter how much they wish it to be so, the Democratic nomination isn't a 2 horse race (between a couple of DINO's). There is a real progressive running, and I sincerely hope John Edwards wins.

Posted by: meade | December 29, 2007 10:06 PM | Report abuse

When is the last time anybody spoke with Rachel Mellon?

Posted by: Malia2 | December 29, 2007 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Edwards is not credible at all. What is he saying about Rachel Mellon (and he better be asked)? The lady has spent 3/4 of a million dollars promoting him over the last 2 years. Is he going to say he's never met her? Had no idea where the money came from? Never asked and no one in his organization ever asked?

Those farmers in Iowa know about dishonest lawyers, even if they're not multi-millionaires.

Posted by: Malia2 | December 29, 2007 8:48 PM | Report abuse

NO more Clinton dynasty and corrupted Health Industry.
Its time to end 20 years of Clinton/Bush political


Barack Obama once quoted " if the United States had not gone to war in Iraq, the US Army would have had more resources to deal with the greater threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan"







Posted by: jkojs | December 29, 2007 7:32 PM | Report abuse

To paraphrase the late, great Groucho Marx ...

I'd never belong to a political campaign that would accept me.

They're all the same. Venal, mendacious, and The Problem, not The Solution.

All of them. Every single one -- except Kucinich and Ron Paul, who don't (and probably shouldn't) have a snowball's chance in Hell.

Posted by: phoenixresearch | December 29, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

RE: Edwards pulling a fast one with 527s

Read the research the DailyKos did on Edwards' 527.

(1)A 527 is supposed to advocate "issues" NOT candidates. The 527 ads supporting Edwards clearly advocate for him, so it's not abiding by the law. When you advocate for a candidate, you're supposed to set-up as a PAC.
(2)The donors of the 527 INCLUDE PACs (see link on DailyKos).
(3)The 527 is run by an Edwards campaign manager (Nick Baldick) who was on his payroll this past spring.
(4)This isn't the first time Edwards has done this. Before the 2004 Iowa caucus, another Edwards aide, Jonathan Prince, left to work with a 527 that spent money on advertising for Edwards in Iowa.

Edwards may be hiding behind a smokescreen of "legalese" but it is clear that he is exploiting a loophole in campaign finance laws to get more advertising dollars spent on his behalf in Iowa. Also, since PACs are contributing to the 527, Edwards is benefiting from PAC money.

He is playing a game of "the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing" - only they do. Edwards is playing a game of "legalese" with this 527 issue - he talks against them, but when he can't raise as much money as his rivals, he sends out his top brass to start/work with 527s to funnel advertising dollars into Iowa on his behalf, then claims that he is not "coordinating" with them and makes a false show of "asking them to stop". Edwards is a phony. And it's one thing if some totally separate group sets up a 527 - it's quite another if your own people have a history of leaving your campaign before the Iowa caucus (in 2004, now in 2008) to work for a 527 which funnels advertising dollars into Iowa on your behalf.

Posted by: writeava | December 29, 2007 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Edwards peaked a day or two ago. Iowans love an underdog, and as soon as Obama started winning, they had to try Edwards on for size. Happens in every election. Now that he's finally getting the scrutiny that Obama and Clinton have received for months, he won't seem quite so squeaky clean.

Posted by: uhbkeys | December 29, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

How's that love child coming along?

Posted by: rahaha | December 29, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

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