Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who is running for Congress this year after serving nearly nine years in prison on racketeering, extortion, and fraud charges, defended his past Wednesday by saying that he was never charged with "taking anything from the people of Louisiana."
"My conviction came a year-and-a-half after I was governor," the 86-year-old Democrat said on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown." "It had nothing to do with anything I did or didn't do as governor. ... What happened to me was that people who had been my friends, for reasons of their own, testified that I had extorted them."
"Not while I was governor," he continued, "but after I was governor. And there's a big, big difference, and I think people in Louisiana realize that."
Mr. Edwards served in the U.S. House of representatives from 1965-1972 and served a total of four terms as governor of the state, last leaving office in 1996.
Perhaps his most famous race came in 1991, when he declared that the only way he could lose to Ku Klux Klansman David Duke was if he was caught in bed with "a dead girl or a live boy" and that the only thing he had in common with Mr. Duke was that they had "both been wizards beneath the sheets."
Mr. Edwards' campaign even released bumper stickers stating: "Vote for the Crook. It's Important."
But Mr. Edwards said Wednesday that "of course" the people who implicated him weren't telling the truth.
"The government tried four times to convict me," he said. "This particular judge went out of his way to help the prosecution get me convicted."
"I don't like what happened, it was unfair, but OK, it happened," he said. "Of course I've done wrong things in my life, I've made mistakes. But I'll tell you this: I did not do what I was charged with and convicted of. Let me repeat that — it's very important. It had nothing to do with my public service. It had something to do with my relationships with former friends after I got out of the governor's office."
"I wasn't bribed; I wasn't accused of using the powers of my office for improper purposes," he continued. "It had nothing to do with being governor. And people here know that."
The state's 6th Congressional District seat is being vacated by Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Republican challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Mr. Edwards said he probably would have voted for President Obama in 2012, but his hands were tied.
"Well, I'm sorry to say where I was, there were no voting machines," he said with a laugh. "I was in prison."
"I, like the rest of the nation, was caught up in his rhetoric and his promise of a bright future that should be available to us in this country," he said. "I'm very disappointed in what he has done. The Keystone pipeline ought to be approved. We have 20,000 people looking for jobs."
"I could take three or four good contractors from Louisiana and 20,000 working men and women from here and in two years' time have the pipeline built and operational, and you couldn't find where it is — it's just that good under today's technology," he continued.
Mr. Edwards also said he would not have voted for Mr. Obama's health care law if he had been in Congress.
"I'll be back. I'll be back," Mr. Edwards concluded. "And listen: We're different down here. We're better."
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