"Swingers" Producer Helped Get Hunter Contract with Edwards PAC
By Matthew Mosk
The woman who had a lengthy affair with former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards has said she met the former senator at the Regency Hotel bar in New York City, and thought he was giving off a special "energy."
But how did Rielle Hunter become a videographer for Edwards in the run up to his presidential campaign announcement? Two former Edwards staffers said this week that the brain behind the "webisodes" was actually a Hollywood producer whose hit titles include the indy film "Swingers" and "Scream." The producer, Cary Woods, set up a June 2006 meeting to introduce Hunter to Edwards's top political aides and to describe his vision for the personalized, web-based videos that would put Hunter and Edwards in close proximity for months -- including at the event where he formally announced his candidacy.
"The producer introduced us to [Rielle] and said, 'Hey I've got this cool idea,'" a former Edwards aide who was privy to the discussions with Woods said. That led to a lunch in Georgetown at the restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Fahrenheit, attended by Woods, Hunter and a top Edwards adviser.
Woods did not respond to messages left with his Los Angeles production company office and with the public relations agent at Plum TV, a New York-based lifestyle television network he helped found.
The Georgetown lunch yielded Hunter a lucrative deal in which Edwards's political action committee, the One America PAC, agreed to pay $114,000 to her production company for the "webisodes" and the footage used to create them in 2006.
There has been considerable discussion of those payments in recent days, particularly a final $14,086 payment made on April 1, 2007, after Edwards said his relationship with Hunter had ended.
Two former advisers to the One America committee said this week that this final payment was delayed months beyond the end of her original contract because the aides wanted to first make sure they got all the footage back.
"There was concern that, this person who everyone thought was kind of flaky, should not be left with 100 hours of footage of John Edwards," one of the sources said, on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. "This flaky videographer who is now gone, we don't want her out there with 100 hours of our footage."
The second source, who also declined to be quoted by name, agreed with that account. The payment "was an outlier because, any time you pay somebody, you wouldn't make a final payment for a house until you got the keys," the former Edwards adviser said.
Eventually, the committee collected the roughly 100 hours of footage and cut the check.
Contrary to some earlier reports, the One America committee did not intend to use money from the Edwards presidential campaign to pay that final bill, the source said.
Suspicions about the origins of that money stemmed from a $14,035 payment from the presidential campaign to the One America committee that arrived on the same day, April 1, as One America cut a check to Hunter's production company.
But according to a review of campaign finance reports, that $14,035 payment was actually approved by the presidential campaign on Jan. 9. The records identify the payment as being for "office equipment." In this case, the source said, the campaign took possession of the One America committee's office furniture, and was required to reimburse the committee for the cost.
"This payment was always in the contract," the former Edwards adviser said. "It had nothing to do with paying off Reille."
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