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John Edwards: A Workingman's Nightmare By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 28, 2004


SOME “TAXES” ARE INVISIBLE, hidden in the higher prices of things we buy.  One such “tax” is huge, costing the average American family of four at least $2,884 every year in the higher price tags of everything from hamburger to health care.

This government-imposed burden is higher in America than in any other industrialized nation on Earth. Call it the “Lawsuit Tax,” the huge cost that lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits adds to everything.

One member of Congress has done more to increase this secret tax on Americans than has any other lawmaker. John Edwards is a Democratic U.S. Senator from North Carolina, elected to his first and only term in 1998 with massive financial backing from his fellow trial lawyers.

 

Edwards was picked by 2004 Democratic candidate Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts to be his vice presidential running mate. If Kerry and Edwards are elected on November 2, this invisible “Lawsuit Tax” on American consumers will likely skyrocket as the trial lawyers who now own the Democratic Party and its candidates take control of the entire Executive Branch of the U.S. Government.

 

John Edwards was born in 1953 in Seneca, South Carolina. The first in his family to attend college, he earned an undergraduate degree from North Carolina State University in 1974 and a Juris Doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1977. He began his career as a lawyer by defending record companies accused of selling illegal copies of Elvis Presley recordings.

 

After moving to Raleigh in 1981, Edwards became a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, eventually specializing in cerebral palsy patient lawsuits that blamed their mothers’ doctors for causing this medical condition by waiting too long before performing caesarian sections to give birth to his clients. In one famous case Edwards swayed a jury and won a multimillion-dollar judgment by dramatically playing the part of the unborn child struggling in the womb.

 

Because of the courtroom success of Edwards and trial lawyers who have imitated him, doctors who used to perform caesarian sections in six percent of births now deliver 26 percent of babies by C-section. The procedure adds enormously to the expense of delivering a baby, as well as to prolonged healing, pain and injury to mothers. And as ABC “20/20” anchorman John Stossel reported, the old rate of cerebral palsy among children has not declined in the slightest. This suggests that Edwards built his entire career and $70 million fortune on a wrong assertion, perhaps even a lie. The failure to do caesarian births apparently never was a cause of cerebral palsy; had it been, its incidence would have declined measurably as caesarian births jumped more than fourfold.

 

But we now live in an age where lawyers play doctor, second-guessing medical experts, playing Monday morning quarterbacks, throwing out whatever dramatic statements can sway a jury even if untrue and preying on parents and others who refuse to accept less than a perfect medical outcome. Some parents prefer to blame the doctor, instead of a defect in their own genes or behavior during pregnancy or plain misfortune when a child is born with cerebral palsy or other problems. (The first trial lawyer steps have already begun, however, to file lawsuits against parents by their children – in one case, a lawsuit by a grown child arguing that his parents should have aborted him rather than given birth to a son with his medical problems.) As John Stossel noted, lawyers acknowledge that most doctors act expertly and responsibly, yet 76 percent of American obstetricians have been sued because, as one trial lawyer told Stossel, “that’s why they have insurance.” And doctors, vaccine makers and others on whom our health depends are quitting because the lawsuit risk and increased insurance cost it causes is becoming intolerable.

 

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. Most call themselves advocates for the poor, injured and powerless. Critics call them ambulance chasers who use their injured clients to persuade empathetic juries to render million-dollar judgments against doctors and companies, up to half the money from which goes not to the injured but to these lawyers.

 

In 1998 Inner Circle and other trial lawyers, including Edwards himself, put up 86 percent of the more than $9 million this political neophyte used to narrowly defeat incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth, a 70-year-old hog farmer, by 52 to 48 percent. Prior to his election Edwards had shown little interest in politics, not even bothering to vote in many elections. As a U.S. Senator, Edwards’ disinterest continued. Although assigned to the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, for example, he seldom attended its meetings unless some important witness brought out network television cameras or an issue before the committee was of special interest to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA).

 

Democratic Party bosses understood that John Edwards was not the Senator from North Carolina so much as the Senator from America’s trial lawyers, a special interest group eager to block any tort reform that might limit lawyer income and to enact rules and regulations that would open new realms for lawsuits. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, since the 1990 election cycle lawyers have made political contributions of more than $470 million, with more than 71 percent of this money going to Democratic campaigns and committees. 

 

Trial lawyers have become the Daddy Warbucks of the Democratic Party and one of the biggest players at its table of power. Their Senator, John Edwards, has from the outset been groomed to become the first trial lawyer President. In 2000, despite having only two years’ experience in any political office, this fledgling Senator was on the short list and was almost chosen to be the Vice Presidential running mate of Al Gore. People Magazine of the leftwing Time-Warner-CNN media empire declared Edwards “the sexiest politician” in the country.

 

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.

 

In fact, with rare exceptions such as Hollywood impresarios Steve Bing and Haim Saban and the investment firm Goldman Sachs, virtually every penny of Edwards’ political contributions from 1998 into 2004 has come from trial lawyer-linked sources. (Contributors have included low-paid staffers in law firms, one of whom admitted that she had been promised a $2,000 reimbursement for her donation to Edwards, an apparent laundering of an illegal campaign contribution by her bosses.)

 

Edwards’ presidential run in 2003 and 2004 flew via “Learjet Lawyers Airlines,” almost every day using the private corporate jets of six wealthy trial lawyer law firms. The campaign laws that politicians wrote for themselves required Edwards to reimburse this customized luxury travel at only the cost of a first class airline ticket for each flight. But even at this absurdly low bargain-basement price, his campaign reimbursed a single law firm $138,000 for the use of its jet aircraft.

 

That law firm is Baron & Budd P.C. of Dallas, Texas. Its controversial founder Fred Baron, who in 2000-2001 was President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), chaired the finance committee for Edwards’ campaign. (Baron is now co-chair of the Kerry-Edwards Victory ’04 Committee.)

 

Frederick M. Baron, now one of America’s wealthiest and most successful trial lawyers, was born in 1947 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and raised in Rock Island, Illinois. At age he 15 moved with his newly-remarried mother to Smithville, Texas east of the capital Austin.  He attended the University of Texas Austin in that most leftward of that state’s cities, earning his undergraduate degree in 1968 and Juris Doctorate there in 1971. In law school his mentor was Harvard-trained torts professor W. Page Keeton, who saw lawsuits as a way to change society.

 

Baron also heard a campus speech by Ralph Nader, became “totally proselytized,” and moved to Washington, D.C. for six months to work for this radical consumer activist and foe of corporations who has always been beloved and bankrolled by trial lawyers.

 

“My whole shtick in law school was that I thought everything ought to be regulated by the government,” Baron told the Dallas Observer in 1998. “And I was one of these really left-wing guys that thought that every agency ought to control every piece of our lives.” But in legal practice, he said, he soon recognized that regulatory agencies did little to change things. He also decided that he could do very well by filing toxic tort lawsuits in the name of doing good, of advancing a Naderite leftwing agenda.

 

Who is this trial lawyer at the center of power in today’s Democratic Party? As described by National Review reporter Ramesh Ponnuru in an investigation titled “Robber Baron? John Edwards’ Sleazy Friend,” Fred Baron developed new areas of health-related litigation, particularly concerning asbestos, a natural mineral widely used – indeed, virtually required of private contractors by some government agencies – as fire-proofing many decades ago before the potential of at least one variety of asbestos to cause mesothelioma lung cancer was recognized.

 

The Baron & Budd web site asks potential asbestos victims to contact the firm and includes a five-page list of lawsuits that resulted in settlements and court judgments that add up to more than $529 million – about 40 percent of which, more than $211 million,  went to the law firm. This list undoubtedly represents only a fraction of the firm’s cases, and it nowadays is common for lawyers to settle weak cases with a defendant agreement to pay a pittance to the injured parties but lavish legal fees to the plaintiff’s lawyers. Baron & Budd has been involved in nearly half of all asbestos litigation in the United States and in the process has gotten very, very rich.

 

“Asbestos lawsuits,” wrote Dana Joel Gattuso of the National Center for Public Policy Research, “-- the most expensive type of litigation in U.S. history, according to numbers released [in February 2004] by the RAND Corporation – are taking their toll on the U.S. economy, costing businesses a whopping $70 billion and bankrupting 66-plus companies. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates asbestos lawsuits have killed close to 60,000 jobs.”

 

730,000 asbestos claims had been filed as of 2002, up from 21,000 in 1982 when litigation and compensation costs were a mere $1 billion. By 2000 those costs had soared to $70 billion.

 

Baron & Budd has also been accused, based on an inadvertently-released law firm internal 20-page memo, a guide titled “Preparing for Your Deposition,” of coaching clients on what to say and not say when questioned by opposing lawyers, e.g., to deny ever seeing a warning label on an asbestos product. This memo, as Ponnuru summarizes what was said about it by U.S. Senator Jon Kyle (R.-Arizona), “is a document coaching witnesses to lie.”

 

“It is important to maintain that you NEVER saw any labels on asbestos products that said WARNING or DANGER,” the memo apparently to be read by would-be witnesses said. “Do NOT say you saw more of one brand than another, or that one brand was more commonly used than another…. You NEVER want to give specific quantities or percentages of any product names….Be CONFIDENT that you saw just as much of one brand as all the others. All the manufacturers sued in your case should share the blame equally!”

 

This Baron & Budd internal memo could also be used, Senator Kyle suggested, to prepare witnesses who might never have worked with asbestos at all, its descriptions in the Senator’s words going “well beyond what one would think necessary to refresh the memory of someone who had actually worked with the product. Instead, the memo appears to anticipate that clients will not have any previous familiarity with the product.”

 

Some would-be witnesses were old, ill and attempting to remember events from 30 years or more in the past. One question raised by legal scholars and others about Baron & Budd’s memo is whether its aim was to refresh faded memories – or create and implant new ones that could produce the most lucrative court judgment. “Do we implant memories? Yeah, probably we do,” said Baron. “Is that something that is wrong? I don’t believe it is.”

 

“What began 25 years ago as a crusade for justice for injured workers has transformed over time,” wrote Christine Biederman and fellow reporters in the August 13, 1998 Dallas Observer. “Asbestos is no longer used commonly in the workplace, and a host of workplace reforms have been enacted. Many of the largest asbestos manufacturers are bankrupted by lawsuits, and after a quarter century, many of the seriously ill workers have died or received settlements. Yet the flood of cases continues, fueled by workers with less obvious signs of injury and a huge, profit-fueled, settlement-driven litigation industry.” Marginal clients and smaller targeted companies only marginally involved with asbestos are used to keep this money-making machine operating.

 

As a leading law firm in this asbestos litigation industry Baron & Budd, wrote these Texas reporters, provided its clients “with sample questions and the ‘right’ answers for their depositions, with little regard for whether the answers were true.” They “implanted memories in the minds of the firm’s clients,” and “Exaggerated the threat to some workers’ health from asbestos exposure, employing what one former Baron & Budd paralegal described as ‘whore docs’ willing to blame virtually any lung ailment and a whole host of cancers on asbestos exposure.”

 

Senator Kyl and Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School Professor Lester Brickman have suggested that a large fraction – perhaps as high as 80 to 90 percent – of recent asbestosis and mesothelioma claims against companies are specious. (Even Clinton-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in 1997 wrote in one opinion that “Up to half of asbestos claims are now being filed by people who have little or no physical impairment.”)  “How have these claims been generated?” wrote Ponnuru. “By coaching witnesses to provide false testimony, Brickman and Kyle argue, and by faking medical tests.”

 

Prof. Brickman in a December 2003 Pepperdine Law Review article arguing that “asbestos litigation has become a malignant enterprise,” noted that one physician employed by trial lawyers admitted that he had no experience in diagnosing asbestosis, yet was able to identify it in the X-rays of every one of 14,000 lawyer clients involved in these lawyers’ lawsuits. Many such clients are recruited by trial lawyer ads (“Find out if YOU have MILLION-DOLLAR LUNGS” read one) seeking plaintiffs for such litigation.

 

Baron, wrote Ponnuru, “has said that the memo was not unethical, that it had not instructed anyone to lie, and that ‘any lawyer in the country that is worth a damn’ works the same way. He has also said, somewhat contradictorily, that the memo was used only in a few cases and was entirely the responsibility of one paralegal.”

 

In a separate article about the Dallas Observer investigation of Baron’s law firm and tactics, wrote its columnist Julie Lyons, “Baron did just about everything he could to interfere with the Observer's reporting and badger its sources, despite his protestations that Baron & Budd is the cleanest, most ethical shop in the country, and that he has nothing to hide.”  The law firm’s tactics included “a letter demanding that the Observer immediately stop speaking to former Baron & Budd employees – despite these individuals’ rights to free speech – and threatening legal action if we didn’t.”

 

“Vowing that ‘someone’s going to jail,’” wrote Lyons, “Baron then subpoenaed Observer reporter Christine Biederman to appear at a deposition to answer questions about her confidential sources.” The law firm also questioned every attorney who had ever worked for the firm and every former employee interviewed or contacted by this left-of-center weekly newspaper. But this is the same kind of hardball Baron is famous for playing not only against businesses and other lawyers (“when you irritate [Baron & Budd], they have a tendency to retaliate,” one attorney told the Observer) but also against an elected judge. Many have smelled and been silenced by the “scent of intimidation” Lyons sensed in what she described as Fred Baron’s “Control Freak” behavior.

 

By 1998 Fred Baron was expanding beyond the courtroom and celebrity (one of his clients had been Karen Silkwood, subject of a major motion picture about a radioactivity whistleblower) into politics. In 1996 he used his enormous wealth by contributing $89,000 in “soft money” to the Democratic Party and more to its candidates. In June 1998 he co-hosted a benefit for President Bill Clinton that raised $500,000, and days later President Clinton was a guest at Baron’s vacation home in Aspen, Colorado.

 

By then even First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother was among the trial lawyers colluding with government and billing up to $7,000 per hour in lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Such private-public collaboration had become a huge source of trial lawyer wealth and government revenue in an era where tax increases were unpopular. “With tax hikes harder to pass,” editorialized the Wall Street Journal last July 7, “Democrats have seized upon lawsuits as the best way to redistribute income.”

 

In the 1998 election Baron friend and fellow trial lawyer John Edwards, with huge backing from the profession, narrowly defeated an incumbent Republican to become U.S. Senator from North Carolina. “To see a guy like [Edwards] come out and say, ‘I am a trial lawyer and proud of it,’” Baron told National Journal in 1999, “has emboldened a lot of us trial lawyers to get more active in politics.”

 

In June 2000 Baron was elected President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, an organization that in some election cycles provided up to 40 percent of the Democratic Party’s campaign contributions. Since 1991 Baron, his wife and others linked to his law firm have donated nearly $2.5 million to Democratic candidates and committees. By one account, a wing of the new Taj Mahal-like headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C. was almost named for Baron, who would have had no trouble gaining access in 2000 to the ear of its prospective presidential candidate, Vice President Al Gore. Baron was undoubtedly a factor in neophyte Senator John Edwards being added to Mr. Gore’s short list of potential running mates.

 

“I picked up my Wall Street Journal last night…and what did I learn? ‘The plaintiffs’ bar is all but running the Senate.’ Now, I really strongly disagree with that,” Baron told a June 2002 conference, “particularly the words ‘all but.’” 

 

But by September 2002, with the Senate at last beginning to consider limits on asbestos lawsuits that would affect the 10,000 clients Baron then represented, he went ballistic. “There will be a jihad,” he warned. “We will fight them with everything we’ve got.” (On January 10, 2001 a racketeering complaint under the RICO statutes was filed against Baron & Budd lawyers, alleging that they and others had threatened a company if it persisted in supporting the later-stalled Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act. Baron denied the allegations and called them “garbage.”)

 

 Baron did not yet own the entire Senate, just the Democratic minority. But one member who had taken his money and done his bidding was Senator John Edwards, whom Baron had begun to see as the racehorse he could ride into the Oval Office of the White House. Edwards had even gone to the mat and successfully blocked a bill that would have impeded trial lawyer lawsuits against companies when people there were injured by a terrorist attack. Edwards has defended the trial lawyer ideal of allowing all lawsuits all of the time.

 

Edwards had no place to go but up. Internal polling in North Carolina showed that the boyish Senator who talked like a Southerner but voted 90 percent of the time like leftwing Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D.-Massachusetts) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D.-New York) had almost no chance of being re-elected in 2004. With heavy backing from Baron, his coterie of other wealthy trial lawyer friends, and their fleet of corporate jets owned by six law firms the Edwards 2004 presidential campaign was launched with Baron as head of its finance committee. Edwards came in second, but at the urging of both Baron and Ralph Nader was picked by winner John F. Kerry as his vice presidential running mate. Baron, who holds the keys to trial lawyer money across America, was named co-chair of Kerry-Edwards Victory ’04 Committee.

 

If elected Vice President this November, Edwards and his gray eminence Baron will be only a heartbeat away from the presidency and will have an open road to the Democratic nomination after President Kerry leaves office.  Few voters have been introduced to this dark shadow behind Senator John Edwards’ smiling face, but they ought to learn that a vote for Kerry-Edwards is a vote to give Fred Baron and his litigious friends control over our lives, jobs and wallets.   

 

Among other trial lawyers who bankrolled Senator Edwards is Bill Lerach, founder of San Diego-based Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach L.L.P., who has been called “the Fred Baron of California.”  During three decades as a lawyer, Lerach “has successfully sued and intimidated over 600 companies in class action litigation.” By one estimate his law firm “initiates more than half of all the shareholder lawsuits in the country, and eighty percent of the class action lawsuits in California.” He is so identified with securities class-action litigation that in corporate America to be hit with such a legal action (or “legal extortion,” as its critics call it) is called getting “Lerached.”

 

“I’m the Willy Horton of securities law,” boasted Lerach to one audience in 1995. “They say I make too much money doing this….so I make a sh-t pile of money – so what?” he was quoted saying in Buzz magazine that same year. The money that he, Fred Baron, John Edwards and other trial lawyers make, of course, is taken from consumers like you in the form of higher prices in a host of ways. Businesses must carry more insurance and can afford to hire fewer people. Doctors are forced to order unnecessary tests in order to practice defensive medicine. Inventions that could improve our lives do not come to market because of fears of lawsuits.

 

As the late Robert Heinlein used to say, TANSTAAFL – his acronym for “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.” You might be given a sandwich for free at a picnic, but somebody had to pay the cost of growing the wheat, baking the bread, making the baloney and mustard, assembling the sandwich and shipping it to you.

 

Other trial lawyers funding the Edwards bandwagon include John O’Quinn. As the Manhattan Institute’s Walter Olson, author of The Rule of Lawyers, wrote earlier this month, O’Quinn reaped tens of millions of dollars from silicon breast implant litigation “even as science refuted the notion that silicone was causing autoimmune disease.” He also gives campaign contributions to judges in the same county court system where his lawsuits get tried.

 

Another big Edwards’ bank-roller is Tab Turner, whose litigation specialty is blaming car crashes on purported automotive defects such as “unintended acceleration.”  Because of a probe of his firm by the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, Turner has become the poster boy for behavior that may be widespread among the law firms supporting Edwards. Huge political contributions have come from such firms’ low-paid workers who, according to what one in Turner’s office admitted, were promised reimbursement. If this was done, it is a violation of campaign legal limits on how much an individual or company can donate to a candidate, directly or via others. A deeper investigation of bundling and other law firm techniques to funnel cash to Edwards could expose a scandal of money-laundering more abusive than Vice President Al Gore’s swag bag full of $5,000 checks from a Los Angeles Buddhist Temple’s nuns who had taken vows of poverty. This, of course, is precisely why the left-wing media will do no such investigation.

 

Another puppet master pulling Edwards’ strings is Paul Minor, former president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association. Minor earned $71.5 million from tobacco settlements and gave $75,000 to Edwards’ New American Optimists PAC in 2002. (Edwards has denounced this kind of money as “the worst virus” in our political process, while at the same time stuffing his own political pockets full of it.) Minor is scheduled to go on trial August 16 in Jackson, Mississippi. He was indicted on “charges of extortion, fraud and bribery in an influence-peddling scandal at the Mississippi Supreme Court.” Do not hold your breath waiting for the New York Times or Dan Rather to report on this case, or on the ties that bind John Edwards’ to Paul Minor and lawyers like him.

 

“People try to pretend the law is not a business. Baloney. It’s big business,” said Lerach.

The billions pocketed by trial lawyers and shared with their Democratic Party, tort-reform-opposing political allies get paid for in the end by you at an average cost of $2,884 for every family of four every year. God help America if candidates owned by trial lawyers, now greedy for power as well as money, are able to take control the White House and to remove the last checks-and-balances that restrain trial lawyer ambitions.

 

John Edwards is a “perfect messenger” for trial lawyers, said Baron. He comes across as warm, honest, caring, smiling and to many female voters boyish and sexy. He preaches compassion for the little people he has “defended against giant HMOs and insurance companies” (while pocketing himself up to half of what juries awarded to his clients). But as the Washington Post’s David Broder wrote in 2002, Edwards “almost has to take a populist stance as a way of putting a favorable gloss on his long career as a trial lawyer.”

 

Hollywood actors such as Dennis Hopper have embraced Edwards in part for his warmth,  cuteness and theatrical skills for eliciting empathy that could have made him a successful soap opera star or the next Brad Pitt.

 

But in Washington, D.C. Edwards is seen as someone with no foreign and little domestic policy knowledge or experience. “Those who have tried to discuss complex issues with Edwards beyond his scripted first glib sound bite,” said veteran Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, “have found that you can wade through John Edwards’ deepest thoughts without getting your ankles wet.”

 

“One evening while he was campaigning for the Senate in North Carolina, Edwards was faced with a choice of several events he might attend,” reported Charles Peters of the leftwing Washington Monthly in June 2003. “An advance man suggested, ‘Maybe we ought to go to the reception for Leah Rabin.’ Edwards responded, ‘Who’s she?’ ‘Yitzhak Rabin’s widow,’ replied the aide. ‘Who was he?” asked Edwards.”

 

Imagine having as President or Vice President a John Edwards who did not know that Rabin had been the Prime Minister of our ally Israel.  Later on MSNBC Edwards, aware of his foreign affairs ignorance, declined when Chris Matthews asked him (as happened in an interviewer’s ambush to then Governor George Bush in 2000) if he would like to identify leaders of several small nations. Like Matthews, the rest of the left-leaning establishment media generally takes care not to expose Edwards’ gaffes or signs of incompetence on the campaign trail. One glaring exception was an Edwards’ appearance on “Meet the Press” so evasive, unspecific and lightweight that it left liberal pundits visibly embarrassed that this was one of their leading candidates. This footage will not be re-aired prior to the November 2004 election. And in that same spirit the left-leaning media does not deflate Edwards’ many little deceptions, e.g., saying in every speech that his father was a “mill worker” when in fact his father was more of a management boss over blue-collar workers, a retired mill supervisor.

 

Democrats have accused President George W. Bush of seeing the world as black and white, good and evil. But as Wall Street Journal writer David Robinson recently noted, John Edwards in his book Four Trials and in his speeches exhibits a far more chilling and unforgiving us-versus-them dualism, a world of victims and villains in which capitalists are almost always portrayed and penalized as bad guys. Such is the mentality of this tort lawyer who uses the same slick, polarizing, hypnotic rhetoric on voters that he learned to use on juries to make himself very, very rich. No wonder Edwards has been called “the new Bill Clinton.”

 

One judges a tree by its fruits and a lawmaker by his votes, not his words. John Edwards talks like an optimistic moderate, but according to the highly regarded National Journal his voting record is the fourth most left-wing in the entire U.S. Senate and is to the left of reputed liberals such as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Ted Kennedy. Edwards also has a perfect 100 percent record according to NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, for his support even of the partial-birth abortion procedure viewed by many moderate Democrats as infanticide. This explains why Edwards refused to answer when Washington Post reporters twice asked him during a joint interview if he agreed with running mate Senator Kerry that life begins at conception. The Kerry-Edwards theme of the interview was “restoring truth to the presidency, but Post reporters Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz showed where, again and again, these politicians have lied and evaded issues, as Edwards did here.

 

Since 2001 the AFL-CIO has rated Edwards a perfect 100 for his support of organized labor. He is more protectionist on trade issues than his running mate, which is part of why organized labor likes him. In 2000, for example, Edwards voted against extending trade and tariff benefits to the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, a vote that could have meant poverty, disease and early death for the families of millions of impoverished, unemployed blacks and Hispanics thrown out of work by Edwards’ implicitly-racist and anti-Hispanic vote.

 

Hundreds of other questions ought to be raised about John Edwards…but will not be pursued by the dominant leftwing press. To mention just a few: what is behind Edwards’ strange obsession – his determination to create a super spy agency inside the U.S. patterned on Britain’s M.I.5 to do surveillance on Americans – that has frightened both the FBI and civil libertarians of the left? What political use might he and John Kerry make of all the information about private citizens such an agency would gather?

 

What is the real story behind Edwards’ little-known 2002 agreement to sell one of his mansions to Michael Petruzello, a registered lobbyist and foreign agent employed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for half a million dollars more than the mansion’s market value? Even after whispers of controversy killed this “sweetheart deal,” it left a $100,000 deposit in Edwards’ pocket. Petruzello had visited North Carolina with important Saudis as part of a publicity effort and had placed pro-Saudi TV ads in North Carolina and 19 other home states of Senate Intelligence Committee members such as Edwards, obviously to influence them. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11 were Saudis, and many questions about their links to Saudi Arabia remain unanswered.

 

“The potential conflict of interest is readily apparent,” said Kent Cooper, former head of the government’s public disclosure office for federal candidates, about Edwards “when a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence receives $100,000 in a real or sham business deal with a foreign agent or a person with extensive foreign contracts at the same time the Senate is investigating possible lapses in national security.” 

 

Should John Edwards himself be required to register as a foreign agent bought and paid for by the royal family of Saudi Arabia? And should a John Edwards who, in effect, has pocketed $100,000 from Saudi Arabia be elected to a position of trust only a heartbeat away from becoming President of the United States?

 

Edwards in speeches appears mild-mannered and reasonable. That is not how he appeared during his Judicial Committee inquisition of Bush Federal Court appointee Judge Charles Pickering. Edwards cut off the Judge’s answers, asked vicious questions and then demanded that the veteran civil rights defender answer his questions with only a “Yes” or “No.”  It was demagoguery of the sleaziest sort, giving onlookers a glimpse of the nasty leftist ideologue and partisan political assassin who hides behind Edwards’ usual gentile mask.

 

National Journal ranks Senator John F. Kerry as having the most leftward voting record, to the left of all 99 other members of the Senate. Senator Kerry, who with his wife has family wealth that may exceed $1 billion (hard to say because she refuses to release her

tax returns) is also the wealthiest member of the Senate. Edwards, worth no more than $70 million, may be only the fourth wealthiest Senator. (Perhaps this is what Senator Edwards means when he says there are “two Americas,” one of extremely wealthy limousine leftists like himself and Senator Kerry and the other made up of the rest of us who pay our taxes rather than use gimmicks as Edwards did to avoid paying taxes.)

 

Senator Edwards presumably pays some taxes too, but as a lawyer he knows ways and means beyond the ken of most of us. Edwards, for example, as a practicing attorney in 1995 re-established his business as a professional corporation in which he was the only employee. Most of his huge earnings under this company were defined as dividends, not income. Because of this, for years Edwards paid no Medicare taxes on a positive cash flow of at least five million dollars, thereby saving himself hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in taxes.

 

On the other hand Senator Edwards has not hesitated to use tax money for himself. His required legal filings identifying campaign contributors reveal that in 2000 Edwards’ campaign coffers were enriched by nearly $10,000 from the “University of North Carolina,” and that in 2000 and 2002 his campaign got a combined total of more than $44,000 from the “State of North Carolina.” Has Senator Edwards found a way to take coerced dollars for his partisan Democratic campaigns from both Republican and Democratic taxpayers in North Carolina?

 

These filings also clearly show how right University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato was to say: “Edwards is very, very vulnerable to a charge of being in hock to a powerful and wealthy group of individuals, the personal injury attorneys. The Senator can’t work against their interests, given the money they have given him, and if he works for them, he opens himself up to even more criticism.” But of course the left-leaning national media has deliberately avoided reporting on these puppet masters and their strings of gold that now control both Kerry’s and Edwards’ every move.

 

The Kerry-Edwards ticket is ample evidence that in 2004 the Democratic Party is no longer the party of blue collar working people. It has been taken over by special interests and fat cats, and none are more special or fatter than the trial lawyers who now fund, run and own this political party.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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