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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/ 3/2008

Edwards and 'special interests'

By Michael Dobbs


John Edwards, Ottumwa, IA, Jan. 2, 2008.

UPDATED Jan 3: 5:30 pm


"Special interests control our government while members of the middle class who work hard and play by the rules are left behind."
"Alliance for a New America" website


Our focus today is Alliance for a New America, the shadowy advocacy group that praises John Edwards as the candidate who will sweep the "special interests" out of Washington. The organization emerged out of nowhere over the last few weeks with a series of mailers and television and radio ads in Iowa that have cost over $1 million, and seems likely to recede back into the shadows as soon as the election is over. Edwards has said he has no influence over the group, even though his former manager, Nick Baldick, has been identified as its organizing genius.


Hypocrisy alert?


The Facts

Alliance for New America is an independent advocacy group, known as a 527, after the item in the IRS code under which it operates. Under Federal Election Commission rules, it can raise and spend virtually unlimited sums of money promoting political issues, as long as it does not advocate the election or defeat of specific candidates. By promoting the candidacy of John Edwards without specifically calling on Iowans to vote for him, the Alliance appears to be operating in the gray area of election law.

Edwards has promised to "sever the connection" between politics and lobbying by cracking down on special interest money and inaugurating a new era of transparency and honesty. Alliance for a New America would appear to be a good place to start.

According to recent FEC filings, the principal financial contributor to the Alliance is the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, which includes many health care workers. During the month of December alone, SEIU locals around the country contributed around $1 million to the Alliance. A further $495,000 was contributed by a company called Oak Spring Farms, which is controlled by Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 97-year-old widow of billionaire Paul Mellon.

Barack Obama has dubbed all these funds "special interest" money, much to the ire of the SEIU and other unions. His campaign manager, David Plouffe, accused the Edwards campaign of "exploiting the biggest loophole" in the campaign finance system.

"It is completely out of bounds for someone to say that regular working Americans are somehow a special interest," said Dave Regan, president of SEIU district 1199 and a moving force behind the Alliance. "Our workers include nurses, health care workers, social workers, janitors. We are not some narrow special interest in the way that term is usually used."

Whether or not you consider organized labor a "special interest," Nick Baldick constitutes a prime example of someone who flits with ease from the world of political campaigns to the world of lobbying and public relations. He ran New Hampshire for Gore back in 2000. He then joined a lobbying/political consultancy group called Dewey Square, who registered him as a federal lobbyist on behalf of Northwest Airlines between 2000 and 2002. Dewey Square later said that Baldick had been identified "incorrectly" as a lobbyist and was in fact a "public affairs adviser."

Being identified as a lobbyist could cause problems for Baldick, who has contributed money to Edwards in both the 2004 and 2008 election cycles. Edwards says he has not "taken a dime" from federal lobbyists, and has promised not to employ anyone who has recently been registered as a lobbyist in his administration.

Baldick served as campaign manager for Edwards during the 2004 campaign, and provided services to the Edwards campaign as recently as June this year through his company S&B Public Solutions, according to the FEC records. He has also provided services to the Clinton campaign. A spokesman for Edwards said that the campaign had severed all relations with Baldick since he began working with Alliance for a New America. It is illegal for campaigns to coordinate activities with 527 groups.

UPDATE: The Obama campaign is backpedalling over its use of the term "special interest" spending to describe union money donated to 527s such as Alliance for a New America. It is a sensitive matter for them, as it has got them into trouble with the unions. I relied on a slide presentation by campaign manager David Plouffe when I wrote that Obama had depicted the 527 money as "special interest" money.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton says the language used in the slide presentation was an "oversight" and has subsequently been changed. See the rewritten version here. See slide 5, which now refers to "Outside Group Spending." Catty references by the Obama campaign to "special interest" spending by organized labor can be officially consigned to the Memory Hole.

The Pinocchio Test

Demonstrating "coordination" between the Edwards campaign and Alliance for a New America is extremely difficult. But there still seems something not entirely kosher about an advocacy group funded by organized labor and one of the richest families in America railing against "special interests." Let me know what you think.

VERDICT PENDING

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | January 3, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Social Issues, Verdict Pending  
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Comments

It is interesting to attempt to define 'special interest'. Is a group that collects dues and represents the specific needs of a group of Americans a special interest? In the case of organized labor, maybe. In the case of the NRA, I'd say definitely. I think there's enough ambiguity, however, that Edwards should put his money where his mouth is and really demand the ads be pulled if he's serious about stopping unwanted outside influence in campaigns. Not that it matters anymore, as the caucuses are tonight....

Posted by: Paul Holmes | January 3, 2008 6:23 AM | Report abuse

I think this is the reason that Dennis Kuccinich told his supporters to caucus for Obama instead of Edwards. Edwards is a little bit compromised on some of his stands by working for the hedge fund and also this.

Posted by: Goldie | January 3, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I don't think there is anything wrong with special interest groups supporting candidates. That is what democracy is supposed to allow. Political parties are special interest groups, after all. The problems arise when the special interest is controlled by a small non-democratic process, like Preston Gates paying for extravagant perks to the Bush administration in exchange for getting Microsoft Word declared the only document format allowed by the Federal Government. Venality is what we have to guard against, not special interest groups.

Posted by: Joe Bell | January 3, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"We are not some narrow special interest in the way that term is usually used."

That was the best quote in the column. Responding to charges of being a special interest, deny being a narrow special interest. They were all organized labor, and they were all in the health care field. That's narrow.

Yet I don't see why narrow special intersts are inherently evil or why broad ones aren't.

Of course the focus shouldn't be so much on how "pure" Edwards is about avoiding the lobbyists he wants to purge from the system. It should be on whether lobbyists in general are harmful.

Less government spending would mean less lobbying. There's your solution right there.

Posted by: The Angry One | January 3, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

This piece deals with a very important distinction that I like to make on this issue...that being WHERE a candidate takes his money from. I would like to believe and push for less 527 money in politics so more people could run for national office. Knowing that isnt likely to happen in our "money is speech" society, look at WHO is giving to that candidate...I support labor groups, workers, etc, so I dont mind that they give to Edwards - I like it. However, I am against insurance money, oil money, tobacco money, etc.. so I dont support people like George Bush. The problem many Americans make is that they think all money is "corrupt". I disagree. Follow the money and you will know to WHICH interests a candidate is beholden. Simple, Right?

Posted by: Randy Snyder | January 3, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Obama yesterday got a new team member...

a federally registered lobbiest..
yes, barrack is a new and different kind of politico... he's bush as a democrat!

Posted by: BO | January 3, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Until there is meaningful reform or equal public financing for all eligible candidates, the 527 money will continue to flow. After all, it is still legal. Right? I agree with the previous comment, if you want to know who the candidates represent, follow the money raised by the campaign. Hillary Clinton was pimping Democratic law makers to Home land Security and Pentagon contractor's lobbyist the weekend of 9/11 this year. And The Hillraiser were bundling up a storm. Can you see a difference there?

Posted by: Fascistfighter | January 3, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

My "special interest" group is your "concerned citizens" organization. It's one of those terms that has taken on a life of its own, rendering it useless as anything except a means of attacking any group which appears not to support you. By current usage a "special interest" group can be anything from the National Association of Manufacturers to a group of ten year olds selling lemonade to support their favorite candidate. It should be abandoned in favor of something implying a degree of control, like "owned by" or "vassal of" which would at least be closer to the truth.

Posted by: Don Shannon | January 3, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The popular conception of "special interests" is of lobbying groups that serve the wealthy and powerful. That does NOT include unions. Nor does it really follow that the "special interest" category should include a 97-year-old woman who has long been preoccupied with horses and art. Perhaps she likes the man's haircut.

Posted by: threedy | January 3, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Is Edwards exploiting a loophole in campaign finance by using "special interest" money & groups that lobby on his behalf?

http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=1427

.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 3, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Not very important

Posted by: MTgrassland | January 3, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

anyone who thinks that Obama or even Kucinich is only taking money from "Joe Q. Citizen" is dreaming. Does anyone really think that any of these guys are getting all their donations only from individuals who are not wealthy ?

Any group that exists for the purpose of raising and donating money is a "special interest" group. You can NOT get around it.

Posted by: give me a break | January 3, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Senator Biden seems to be the only candidate who has fought off those wishing to buy influence and curry his favor. The integrity of a poor man is all the evidence we need.

Posted by: Lars42 | January 3, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

The issue is not just whether every donation to a campaign comes from an idividual or is a "small" donation. Unfortunately, money is needed to get politicians elected to the highest job in the land whether they are good politicians or bad. The issue is a 527 group which skirts the boundaries of campaign finance laws to begin with by raising and spending money without limits are controls placed on them. The even bigger issue in this specific case is the breaking of one of the few regulations that exist concerning such groups and actually backing a specific candidate whether they actually speak that candidates name or not. The biggest issue of all is the candidate who pretends to be one thing, but is proven to be a liar and a hypocrite on this subject. John Edwards claims to be against lobbyists and special interest groups, yet he is profiting from the shady dealings of this 527 group run by his former campaign manager who worked for him as recently as 6 months ago.

The first campaign promise that will be broken and reveal the real John Edwards will be when Nick Baldick is given a prominent position in the Edwards Administration (if that were ever to come to pass). That would break the pledge that no lobbyist will have a job in his White House. Expect to hear the same argument again as Edwards splits hairs about whether Baldick was a lobbyist or "a public affairs adviser".

Posted by: diksagev | January 3, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

This is not appropriate material for a fact-check. What is the fact that you are checking?

Posted by: Economist for Obama | January 3, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

How can this be surprising? Edwards says one thing and does another. He's a massive fraud. I just hope the people of Iowa, especially those union members which Edwards and the union leaders seem to have snuckered don't vote for this fraud and ambulance chaser.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 3, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

To me, special interest groups are not broad-based, but essentially narrow in focus. I think that all of us would agree that hedge-fund managers constitute a special interest group. I define a special interest group as a relatively narrow group that wants to protect its ability to garner a greater share of the economic pie than the "little folk" on whose backs their profits rely.

Posted by: Mary Anne | January 3, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Failing to include unions in the definition of a special interest group renders the term meaningless, and confirms what another poster has identified as the term becoming merely a pejorative description of a group whom the person labeling them doesn't like.

A union has specific interests, some for the benefit of its members, some for its institutional benefit. There is nothing wrong with identifying them as a special interest group (and absolutely nothing wrong with them seeking to protect those interests).

Furthermore, in the context of political dialogue on the impact of money on purchasing influence, the same reasons one needs to worry about the NRA purchasing influence support worrying about a teacher's union purchasing influence. Self-serving definitions of special interests just means you are willing to allow rhetoric to talk past political opponents, instead of deal with the real fundamental problems in our democracy.

Personally, I have absolutely no problem with 527's, as I believe it is well within our rights as citizens to organize together for political speech purposes. The very essence of the First Amendment is to protect citizens rights to make political statements about the candidates. That doesn't mean that disclosure cannot be required on the recipient side (the politician) so that a clear light (perhaps optimistic) can be shed on who is supporting such a politician.

Posted by: EJB | January 3, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

You don't have to be a genius to figure this out. Edwards' former campaign manager is running this group to benefit him. They are explointing a loophole. This story should have been published and focused on months ago.

Many of Edwards' supporters didn't care a lick for him in 2004 when he was running as himself. They are being fooled if they think he is going to sever his hedge fund relationships and lobbying relationships once elected.

Posted by: alice | January 3, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

John Edwards walks the walk. Your "Fact Check" tells an incomplete and hence factually inaccurate story. Since this "news" arose, John Edwards has repeatedly said he wished 527s - including this one - would not enter the equation. Funny how the only coverage Edwards gets from the media is negative coverage. Amazing that he's in the public debate. Thank God he is.

Posted by: NiceTimingCheck | January 3, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't see much fact checking here, but there certainly is lots of speculation.

Posted by: Sandra | January 3, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

It's only a special interest if it can influence the US Government. The trial lawyers are the special interest that John Edwards represents. he and his cronies can make a maintenance problem that the manufacturer warned against and turn it into a defective product and make millions.

That is the special interest that Mr. Edwards is and will be beholden to.

Posted by: parnum | January 3, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

So, let's see;
A union contributed 1 million and a not for profit fund of philanthropist Rachel Mellon contributed $495,000 to a labor-backed group that is running ads in Iowa in support of Democrat John Edwards' presidential campaign.
_______________________________________
That's 1.5 million folks! Now let's talk about the real money that went into the Clinton and Obama bags. Yep, more than 100 million each. WaPo reported that last week, along with NYTIMES, LATIMES, and Chicago Tribune. BAH BAH BAMA should keep his mouth shut!!!

Posted by: Harried | January 3, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

this fact check piece from the Washington post seems in line with its ongoing favortism toward Obama and putting down Edwards. The whole day its online version shows Obama's big smile and Obama only, in the front. I am having the impression for a while.

Posted by: j h | January 3, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

It's all Bush's fault!

Posted by: Rob Iola | January 3, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

As to trial lawyers making millions by filing class action suits against corporations that injure the public. Would you rather the corporations just do as they damn well please with no outside control? Oh yes, Seven tabacco CEO's swore on the front and back of the bible that cigarettes were non-addictive and did not cause cancer, remember?.
The average American can not take a Corporation to court as an individual, and that's a fact!

Posted by: harried | January 3, 2008 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Note to Editors of WaPo: Please find a 'fact checker' who actually bothers to check facts.

Seriously, this whole series is crap. It really is a shame since this could be a fantastic addition to the Post if done well.

Posted by: arko medarko | January 3, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, edwards the ambulance chaser. He's the wrong choice for us fat people.

Posted by: ribru | January 3, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

The reason that WaPo is favoring the "TOOTHY" Obama grin over Edwards is that a Black Democratic nominee will give Neo-Cons such as Krauthammer, Wills, Novak, etc., a chance to exploit the four hundred year old legacy of Black/White American racism in the general election next fall.
And if he wins? well just another bought and paid for Clarence Thomas in the house.

Posted by: Harried | January 3, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

If you read the new york times article, it seems like the culprit is this washington state guy, david rolf. Where is the FEC on this type of stuff, why don't they investigate if seiu was running a part of the edwards campaign?

It will be interesting to see if seiu shoots themselves in the foot on this one.

Posted by: Ricky Bobbi | January 3, 2008 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I wish someone had the time and ability to fact check the Washington Post's coverage of the Edwards campaign. Above this article is another glamor shot of Obama. Edwards tells it like it is. The corporations have turned the Temple of Democracy into a sleaze pit of selling our government to the highest bidder. The Post is a corporation and is acting in its own interest. Unfortunately its reader suffer. A well informed electorate is essential for a democracy to function. The Washington Post ill serves its readership in its shrill and not very subtle smothering of one man's effort to return our government to its people.

Posted by: John Dodson | January 3, 2008 7:37 PM | Report abuse

John Edwards has been consistently ignored by the corporate media. When he isn't being ignored, he is being trashed by the corporate media. Why? Becasue the corporate media (Washington Post included) has an agenda that supercedes reporting to us in a fair and unbiased manor. The agenda is what is good for their pocket book. John Edwards was the only candidate who had the courage to speak out against huge tax breaks for corporations and the rich. Big media is giving its best coverage to the Republicans and settled on covering Hillary and Obama as the closest Democrats to their cash agenda. Its pathetic really. As soon as the primary is over and the corporate media's choices are our choices, we will be seeing the republicans handled with kid gloves and the dem candidates trashed. This is why no one can do anything about government coruption, because our media is in bed with them. This is why George W Bush can lie us into war. The corporate media carried his message and covered when he got caught. This is why most of America is dissappointed in congress and the media. This is why our democracy can no longer correct itself. Presidents come and presidents go, but the consistent nail in democracies coffin is Big Media- Washington Post included.

Posted by: Kevin Morgan | January 3, 2008 7:38 PM | Report abuse

The difference is if a group represents actual people, then it is not a special interest group, if it represents companies then it should be considered a special interest group. I am happy to see any group of citizens come together an get involved in their government. But when there are lobbyist who are pushing an agenda simply to make more money for investors, then it is questionable whether it is has the best interest of the country in mind. The "country" being defined as its citizens.

Posted by: RCD | January 3, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Obama for President!!

Posted by: John L. | January 3, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, edwards the ambulance chaser. He's the wrong choice for us fat people.

Posted by: ribru | January 3, 2008 07:29 PM
____________________________

Huh? I can find no logic here. I also can not find any humor.
Try chasing ambulances yourself, you might lose some of that butt-lard!

Posted by: Harried | January 3, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

You know, Michael, you should change the name of this column, "Fact Checker," if you're going to deal in half-truths and distortions. Your bias is showing, big time.

Posted by: zinger1 | January 3, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Ricky,

SEIU only had SEIU Local 775 president David Rolf from Washington state write to other local chapter presidents who support Edwards. They coordinated press strategy to roll out local SEIU endorsements with the Edwards campaign and visit the Edwards operation in Iowa in order to "discuss with the Edwards campaign what specific support they'd like to see from SEIU"

Big deal. Is Obama just mad that the SEIU likes Edwards better than him?

Posted by: Nick | January 3, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh, John L and all you other guys, sorry Edwards is the man for labor.

Tough luck.

Posted by: Nick | January 3, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Why should Edwards demand the group pull its ads for him, when the Swift Boat Veterans group probably pushed Bush over the top and despite the vociferous criticism of that group, Bush just kept saying it was not his people doing it.
The Alliance is actually pushing something that is true. America is saddled with special interest politics and needs major change. Edwards says flat out that he will do it. Good enough for me.

Posted by: George Doctorow | January 3, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Fact checker? Holy crap -- and you're going to start with Edwards? Why don't you start with the criminals who now run this country. Fact checker . . . whatever . . .

Posted by: tenstring | January 3, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

The gray area of law that John Edwards (along with most other candidates for office) is living in illustrates the uncertainty wrought by Chief Justice John Roberts' murky and ill-reasoned opinion in the Washington Right to Life case, which undercut the Supreme Court's previous affirmation of McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws in McConnell. The Roberts Court set up these ambiguities by failing to properly defer to the legislature on the campaign finance issue.

The clearest possible rule in this area is the one that has been repeatedly sought by Congress. It is also probably the most textually defensible under the constitution: Political money is not political speech, and it warrants no special constitutional protection.

Unfortunately, the conservative judiciary cabal sees meaningful campaign finance limitation as a hinderance to the advancement of socially conservative policy items. Mainstream media, they argue, carry a liberal bias. This bias can only be countered by expensive private political communication, like that financed by 527s and other PACs. The legal arguments advanced by conservative judges like Roberts to conceal thier ulterior policy agenda range from the merely tenuous to the patently absurd.

I, for one, applaud Senator Obama for recognizing the corrosive effects on large sums of private money on the public discourse and for refusing to take PAC money of any kind. I hope that when Senator Obama is President he will appoint judges that share this recognition. It's past time to bring sanity back to this area of constitutional law.

Posted by: Sean McDonnell | January 3, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

tenstring,

remember, this is about this seiu group and some union boss is washington, the fec needs to go after them not edwards.

Posted by: Ricky Bobbi | January 3, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

This is much ado about nothing, as the application of 'special interest' is highly malleable.

* * * *

Good comment worth seeing again:

This is why no one can do anything about government coruption, because our media is in bed with them. This is why George W Bush can lie us into war. The corporate media carried his message and covered when he got caught. This is why most of America is dissappointed in congress and the media. This is why our democracy can no longer correct itself. Presidents come and presidents go, but the consistent nail in democracies coffin is Big Media

Posted by: chauncykat | January 3, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Senator Biden seems to be the only candidate who has fought off those wishing to buy influence and curry his favor. The integrity of a poor man is all the evidence we need.

Posted by: Lars42 | January 3, 2008 01:53 PM

Thank you Lars42 for representing the credit card companies and other tax-dodging bank corpse that set up in Delaware where they can be represented by Joe Biden, who will guide their bankruptcy bill through the Senate, protecting them and raking ordinary working people over the coals. Give me a break.

Posted by: zi` | January 3, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

So according to the union leader, union money isn't special interest money ("'It is completely out of bounds for someone to say that regular working Americans are somehow a special interest,'" said Dave Regan, president of SEIU district 1199"). What a joke! Unions try to force all sorts of special, target changes in the work place and beyond. Of course, if you listen to them there are many good reasons for it; but, what special interest doesn't have good reasons for its positions!? The day unions are not special interests in the Democractic party is the day Manufacturers are not special interests in the Republican party. To say that the "little guy's" collective representation and action as typified by union leadership is not a special interest ignores reality. Perhaps its better to say defies reality.

Posted by: lovinliberty | January 3, 2008 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Well, how's about that. The Slide's title has been changed from "SPECIAL INTEREST SPENDING GROUPS" to "OUTSIDE SPENDING GROUPS" and Barack is getting nothing from the "OUTSIDE" either. Where did he get the $100,000,000 from that was reported in WaPo last week. Oh yes, $99,500,000 from "INSIDE" bribers, and $500,000 from little Johnny's piggy bank!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 3, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

While its true that unions, the Christian Right, environmentalists and so on are 'special interests', there is one group that has overwhelming and completely illegitimate influence on our politics and media (that's you Washington Post): corporations.

Reducing corporate power in our democracy is the number one priority of our times -- so many solutions to our problems, from health care to the War in Iraq to the climate crisis, are hindered because of corporate influence. John Edwards is the only one of the main candidates who is calling out corporations specifically and for that reason is deserving of support.

With that said, the level of cynicism about our democracy and our media in this country is at once astounding and understandable -- it feels more and more like a charade with each passing election. At some point that cynicism is going to translate into a broad-based, grassroots movement to take back power from corporations and restore a democracy worthy of its name.

Posted by: carl | January 3, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Face it -- we are all "special interests." When Americans band together to support or oppose something political -- a bill, a candidate, whatever -- that group is a "special interest." And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, that's how this whole democracy thing is supposed to work. Unions have (or should have) as much a right to raise money and push for and against issues and candidates on behalf of their members as corporations do on behalf of their shareholders, as issue groups like NARAL and the NRA do on behalf of their members, etc.

It's only when you try drawing lines to separate "good" special interests (i.e., the ones you like) from "evil" special interests (i.e., those you don't like) that the term starts to become a problem. If you want to deny the "evil" special interests the same rights that you want to claim for the "good" ones ("Free speech for me, but not for thee"), then we have a problem. Sorry -- it doesn't work that way.

But at the end of the day, this is all about money. Politics is expensive, and why shouldn't it be? It's important, and it costs money to get a message out. I for one don't care how much is spent, or by whom, as long as it's disclosed, and I've always thought that efforts to keep money out of politics are destined to fail. Time has yet to prove me wrong.

There's nothing inherently scandalous about money and politics. Heck, last year Americans spent $5 billion on Halloween and over $45 billion on their pets. Why shouldn't Americans -- even if grouped together as "special interests" -- spend a few billion on political causes and candidates, too?

If Edwards wants to have his cake and eat it, too -- claim that he doesn't take money from special interests and then claim that that's not a lie because the groups that support him aren't special interests according to his unique lexicon (what a lawyer!) -- fine. I think that's tacky at best, if not downright deceptive and dishonest, but then I don't support the guy because he's an ambulance chasing sleaze-ball, so what do I know?

Posted by: dcpost | January 3, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

I am amazed that the Post would post something so inflammatory on their website on the eve of the Iowa caucuses with such clearly flimsy, one-sided information. This story seems like it was planted by someone trying to undercut the Edwards campaign. To then post an "update" on the same page, after the damage is done is poor journalism in my book. Shame on you.

Posted by: doodler | January 3, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

This is a garbage post that seeks to redefine "special interest". The author should be ashamed of himself and so should the Washington Post.

Posted by: Kevin1231 | January 3, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Silly argument. Everyone is a special interest. I am one; I am especially interested in what I am interested in. Others have said it here: a "special interest" is someone that is not YOUR supporters. A "grassroots group of heroic Americans" is more like a group that bands to support YOU.

Posted by: steveboyington | January 3, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey Eugene! Are you watchin' the returns on CNN? OUR MAN EDWARDS, MAKING A STRONG SHOWING-MAYBE COMING OUT #1 IN IOWA!

I'm tellin' you, Edwards is THE right man for the job of President!

Posted by: Schmetterlingtoo | January 3, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

I think that the 'facts' will show your column is biased Against Democrats, and biased FOR Republicans.
You come up with the most inane 'facts' to explore for Democrats, but seem to be quite challenged to the spot any of blatant Republican turmoil, instead wondering whether Thompsons slug like persona is a 'true fact'.

Posted by: STOday | January 3, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Intern #1: Why is Bill Clinton in Iowa again?

Intern #2: I hear he'd like to cauc-us....

I say it all in song @

www.conservativemusiconline.com

Posted by: Lance Morrison | January 3, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Lance Morrison: A typical conservative intellect.

Posted by: Jim | January 3, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

There were people that complained that McCain Feingold was un-Constitutional because it limited free speech. After the Supreme Court rule on that now people are complaining that 527s have too much free speech.

Or maybe the complaint is that a candidate is not controlling a group that it has no authority to coordinate with under the law, let along control.

So if Edwards actually asked the 527 not to support him, he would be technically breaking the law. His choice than is to be a "hypocrite" or "break the law". Seems to me the cards are stacked against the guy.

Go figure.

Posted by: Jim | January 3, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

How does an ad or group "promote the candidacy" and without "advocating the election" of said candidate. No wonder people lack respect for both politicians and lawyers. On the more common flip side, 527 attack ads certainly advocate the defeat of certain candidates. Until they ban these ads and their unlimited funding, a requirement for running them should be immediate public disclosure of who is putting up the money.

Posted by: laurie | January 4, 2008 12:46 AM | Report abuse

I can't begin to start with how wrong this "fact check" is. Seriously, on one hand everyone is saying that special interest money is bad. Edwards isn't only saying it, he's the only candidate doing it--by choosing public financing and eliminating "big corporate money" from his campaign--AND outperforming all of the polls in Iowa, Edwards is clearly the candidate who's walking the talk. And people are responding to that message.

If you want to "check facts" how about a complete analysis of where all of the money is coming from and where it's going--you'll find special interest money all over every campaign in a huge way... except Edwards. No candidate can control all of the people who are supporting them, nor should they be expected to. Edwards has consistently been upfront and honest in this campaign. And he's the only candidate who has the courage to do what's right for the American people.

Posted by: Stephen | January 4, 2008 12:56 AM | Report abuse

You mentioned "one of the richest families in America" in your piece. If you were referring to the Edwards family, boy do you need to check your facts. While John and his wife may have done pretty well as trial lawyers, and may even have a net worth in the several millions of dollars, I'd bet they aren't even in the top 5% in American family wealth. Certainly not like Romney, or even Ron Paul.

Finally, your assessment that public interest groups such as Emily's list are like "special interests" misses the point -- special interests are about making money for corporate gain, not public good, or acting as a counterbalance to the traditional moneyed corporate stakeholder.

Not every stakeholder is a "special interest." Some of us are just regular people who want to get together to have our voices heard in response to those who have traditionally bought access to government.

You must be a Republican????

Posted by: Steve | January 4, 2008 2:27 AM | Report abuse

Uh, hey Steve. The article mentions Bunny Mellon as a contributor. I think that's who he was talking about as one of the country's richest families.

But I think the whole point of the article is off base. Congress had a chance to close the 527 loophole when it passed McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Reform. The Republicans controlled both houses of Congress when that passed, and they specifically decided to leave it in. Mitch McConnell was royally pissed about any attempt to put limits on campaign contributions and spending, openly admitting the Republicans did better in elections for many decades because they can collect more money. Unions offered to cut off all their campaign spending if the same limit was put on corporations, but Congress refused. Republicans even threatened an amendment that would make all union contributions illegal, but not corporate contributions, but that didn't fly.

If Congress doesn't have the guts to put real limits on campaign spending, you can't blame one of the candidates for benefitting from spending that's legal under the current law. And Edwards spent less than Obama in Iowa! Why is money contributed by hundreds of thousands of union members in small amounts somehow worse than money contributed to Obama over the internet, mostly by white collar workers?

Posted by: SharptonVoter | January 4, 2008 3:20 AM | Report abuse

Why doesn't the WP mention that in Iowa, Obama supporting 527 Vote Young paid for out of state students to return to caucus and the 527 Vote Hope is working to get voters out for Obama in California. They've raised $2 million.

Posted by: BJLeone | January 4, 2008 6:36 AM | Report abuse

I would vote for the candidate that votes to BAN lobbyists. Is there anyone out there so naive as to believe lobbyists actually speak for the average citizen with no money involved? Get real!

Posted by: Cheryl | January 6, 2008 6:14 AM | Report abuse

FYI "Steve", Ron Paul is nowhere near as rich as Edwards.

As AFAIK, "Special Interest" covers ANY organization who works to influence the government to:

1. Redistribute other people's money to them or their cause.
2. Force another entity to do something the interested party wants them to.
3. Force another entity to stop doing something the interested party doesn't like.

Posted by: AZ_Rider | January 29, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Special Interest Money is Nothing More Than Bribery

Members of Congress have managed to create a seemingly lawful system whereby they can legally accept money from lobbyists or other persons who represent special interest groups that are actively involved in trying to influence those same politicians in future votes. The special interest groups that contribute large sums of money to political campaigns want and expect "their politicians" to enact (or help in some way) legislation that favors the group that provided the money. In America today, we are living under a political system that not only allows, but encourages and condones the legalized bribery of members of congress. That is why I believe "America has the best congress that special interest money can buy."

Compare these two examples:

1. If a known drug dealer gives a police officer in a narcotics enforcement unit a $1,000. "Contribution" for the policeman's ball and says "I hope you consider looking the other way when I'm selling drugs on the corner." Whether or not the police officer takes any kind of official action that benefits the drug dealer, if he accepts the money, he commits the crime of bribery, right?

2. If a lobbyist or member of a special interest group gives a member of congress a $1,000. "Contribution" for his campaign and says: I hope you consider our position on any upcoming votes that affect us." Whether or not the congressmen or Senator takes some kind of official action that benefits that person or organization, if he accepts the money, isn't that still bribery?

Neither of these public servants should be taking money from people or organizations to influence their decisions they will make during the course of performing their official duties. Shouldn't both situations be considered illegal conduct by those involved? Well, not if you are a member of congress. Bribery is defined as "a corrupt activity in which a person offers or receives goods, money, services, etc. to sway a person's opinion, action, or decision." Merely accepting the goods, money, services, etc, is a crime. It is immaterial whether or not the person receiving the benefit, does anything. In the case of members of congress, however, receiving money is only considered to be bribery if the briber explicitly says to the politician (the one being bribed): "I'm giving you this money as payment for a yes or no vote on the house floor tomorrow."

The reality of political life in America today is that politicians are being bribed every day by special interest groups that want them to legislate in a way that benefits them and not the American people. Americans are bearing the brunt of this horrific situation in ways that affect us all every day of our lives. The current campaign finance laws are built on a legal fiction. The legal fiction is that campaign contributions from special interest groups are considered to be legal and within the law even though they are actually bribes. Money given to members of congress by special interest groups is nothing more than "legalized bribery." Through bundled contributions and PAC giving, industries, labor unions, and other special interest groups pay to persuade lawmakers to vote their way on the issues.

No matter how it is said, Special Interest dollars buys votes and it also buys elections. The real scandal in the nation's capitol is that this everyday bribery remains legal. Candidates who please their special interest money donors through their votes, are usually rewarded with more bribes, I mean more campaign contributions. This legalized bribery system has created a "Privileged Oligarchy" made up of selected members of congress and big donor elites from wealthy special interest groups. This oligarchy is currently governing this country and making decisions that oftentimes are not in the best interests of the American people, but rather in favor of the special interest groups.

Our elections should be about what American citizens want, not about what big special interest donors want.

I will support any legislation that defines the receipt of special interest money by members of congress as bribery and therefore illegal.

I also will support legislation that removes the monetary limits on individual contributions to campaigns, as the US Constitution does not give Congress the authority to set such limits because it limits the citizens' free speech rights.

I support the continuation of legislation requiring the full and immediate disclosure of all contributions to Federal election campaigns. No exceptions or loopholes allowed.

Although I do not fully support the concept of government financing of campaigns, the following two pieces of legislation, currently introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives, are a step in the right direction and I would support them as well. They are H.R. 1614 "The Clean Money, Clean Elections Act of 2007" and S.936 "The Fair Elections Now Act."

By:
JOHN W. WALLACE
Candidate for Congress
New York's 20th Congressional District
www.johnwallaceforcongress.com

Posted by: John Wallace | March 2, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

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