John Edwards (D)

On gays: "I'm not comfortable around those people"

In May, veteran political consultant Bob Shrum published a memoir entitled No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner, and it includes a doozy of an anecdote about the supposedly progressive Edwards. According to Shrum, when he asked Edwards about gay rights in 1998, Edwards responded, "I'm not comfortable around those people."


"Coif Controversy"

In a now legendary gaffe that is likely to bedevil John Edwards throughout his entire campaign for the Presidency, he was found out in April for having gotten $400 haircuts--with money from his campaign! The New York Times gave a very important summation of the story on 4/20/07:

John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, announced on Thursday that he was reimbursing his campaign $800 to cover what his aides said was the cost of two haircuts -- yes, you read that correctly -- by a Beverly Hills barber, though, perhaps, the word stylist is more applicable.

. . .

Mr. Edwards has presented himself in the Democratic field as an advocate of working-class Americans, lamenting the nation's growing economic disparity.

Mr. Edwards was disparaged as "the Breck Girl" by Republicans when he ran for president in 2004. More recently, he was captured on camera, waiting for an interview to begin and presumably unaware that he was being taped, fussing with his hair for nearly two minutes.

That clip found its way to You Tube, with the song "I Feel Pretty" playing in the background. Posted on Nov. 8, 2006, it was viewed 289,288 times as of Thursday evening.

And for those of you who missed that YouTube video, here it is:



John Edwards likes to criticize Wal-Mart, but when he wanted a highly sought-after Sony PlayStation3 for his kids, as staff members brazenly tried to pull strings with the giant retailer. The Associated Press had the story on 11/17/2006:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Thursday that a staff member for former Sen. John Edwards -- a vocal critic of the retailer -- asked his local Wal-Mart store for help in getting the potential 2008 presidential candidate a Sony PlayStation3. Edwards said a volunteer did so by mistake.

Edwards told The Associated Press that the volunteer "feels terrible" about seeking the game unit at Wal-Mart a day after his boss criticized the company, saying it doesn't treat its employees fairly.

"My wife, Elizabeth, wanted to get a Playstation3 for my young children. She mentioned it in front of one of my staff people," Edwards said.



Trial lawyer background

Americans like candidates who were successful in business. But could they stomach a President who had made his fortune as a trial lawyer? In July of 2004, FrontPage magazine gathered together some eyebrow-raising facts about John Edwards' lawyering career, and about his ongoing connections to the trial-lawyer community:

During 20 years playing doctor as a trial lawyer, Edwards was involved in 63 cases and secured more than $152 million in verdicts and settlements, pocketing a third or more of that money himself and amassing a fortune of as much as $70 million.   Edwards was welcomed into the Inner Circle of Advocates, a society of 100 personal injury lawyers who had won cases of over $1 million.

. . .

In 2001 Edwards launched his New American Optimists political action committee, a 527 Leadership PAC to aid "Democratic candidates who support a reform agenda for giving people a greater control over their futures," i.e., who might support an Edwards presidential bid in 2004. More than 70 percent of its contributions came from trial lawyers, their law firms or family members.



The "Jennifer" case

Edwards's most questionable moment as a lawyer might have been his case on behalf of Jennifer Campbell, 5, whose brian damage Edwards successfully blamed on her parents' obstetrician and hospital. Incredibly, he delivered a closing argument in which he claimed to be channeling the injured girl. The Boston Globe had the story on 9/15/2003:

"I have to tell you right now -- I didn't plan to talk about this -- right now I feel her, I feel her presence," he said. . . "She's inside me and she's talking to you. . . . And this is what she says to you. She says, `I don't ask for your pity. What I ask for is your strength. And I don't ask for your sympathy, but I do ask for your courage.' "



Shady real-estate deal with Saudi lobbyist

Here was a real black eye for John Edwards during the 2004 campaign. While on a Senate committee investigating the 9/11 attacks, Edwards agreed to sell his home--to the PR lobbyist for Saudi Arabia! To make matters worse, he held onto the lobbyist's $100,000 deposit, until he was called out on it by the Associated Press on 11/1/2003:

While a participant in a congressional investigation into US and Saudi intelligence failures, presidential candidate John Edwards agreed to sell his home for $3.52 million to the public relations specialist hired by Saudi Arabia to counter charges it was soft on terrorism.

Edwards, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday he learned sometime during the course of the 2002 transaction -- months after the initial offer was signed but before the deal fell apart -- that Michael Petruzzello worked for Saudi Arabia.

Though the sale broke off nearly a year ago, Edwards hasn't returned or publicly disclosed Petruzzello's $100,000 deposit, which remains in a real estate escrow account as the senator decides what to do with it.



Medicare tax dodge

John Edwards can talk a good game about strengthening Medicare, but when it was his turn to pay in, he found an underhanded way to avoid paying his share. On 7/13/2004, the Wall Street Journal had the scoop on how Edwards dodged a whopping $591,000 in Medicare taxes:

While making his fortune as a trial lawyer in 1995, he formed what is known as a "subchapter S" corporation, with himself as the sole shareholder. Instead of taking his $26.9 million in earnings directly in the following four years, he paid himself a salary of $360,000 a year and took the rest as corporate dividends. Since salary is subject to 2.9% Medicare tax but dividends aren't, that meant he shielded more than 90% of his income. That's not necessarily illegal, but dodging such a large chunk of employment tax skates perilously close to the line.



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