- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Early last year, Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards reportedly engaged in a heated competition to corral Bob Shrum, one of the toughest consultants in the Democratic Party. In a Feb. 26 article by its chief political correspondent — “In the First Mile of a Marathon, Kerry Emerges as a Front-Runner” — the New York Times reported that Mr. Kerry had won what political aficionados had been calling “the Shrum primary.”

Failing to land Mr. Shrum, a former Clinton adviser, had to be a major disappointment for Mr. Edwards. Barely four years earlier, Mr. Shrum had ably assisted the self-styled North Carolinian populist in a bare-knuckle brawl with a Republican incumbent. And shortly before Mr. Shrum shunned the entreaty from Mr. Edwards’ presidential campaign, the senator had showered Mr. Shrum’s firm with millions of dollars.

Throughout 2002, in anticipation of his White House run, Mr. Edwards raised millions of dollars in soon-to-be-banned soft money from his fellow personal-injury lawyers. Those funds financed the political operations of Mr. Edwards’ New American Optimists political action committee (PAC), which served as the freshman senator’s leadership PAC. Interestingly, while Mr. Edwards today claims great personal virtue from the fact that he refuses to accept regulated, limited, still-legal hard-money contributions from PACs, he never mentions the millions of dollars in now-illegal soft money that he personally raised for his very own PAC.

The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan campaign-finance watchdog group, reports that Mr. Edwards transferred more than $2.5 million in soft money to Shrum, Devine & Donilon during the 2002 election. A spokeswoman for the Edwards presidential campaign said the soft money funneled to Shrum et al. funded what had to be a massive media campaign in North Carolina.

An analysis by the American Tort Reform Association found that, before McCain-Feingold outlawed the practice effective the day after the 2002 election, Mr. Edwards “collected more than $3.4 million in soft money from 52 personal-injury lawyers in contributions that averaged $70,000 per attorney.” The donations, according to the CRP, included $200,000 (Turner & Assoc.), $200,000 (Ness, Motley et al.), $155,000 (Baron & Budd), $125,000 (Williams & Bailey), and $100,000 each (Girardi & Keese; Wilkes & McHugh; Foster & Sear; Shernoff, Bidart & Darras; and Reagan, Silber & Trevor).

In addition, the self-righteous North Carolinian populist self-servingly funneled more than $250,000 in lawyer-generated soft money from his personal PAC to Iowa Democratic organizations and candidates; nearly $200,000 in soft money to New Hampshire Democratic organizations and candidates; and more than $100,000 in soft money to South Carolina Democratic organizations and candidates. This, from a man who feels entitled to a halo for not accepting legal, limited, regulated hard-money contributions from PACs.

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