12/30/07

Only union lobbyists would be allowed

Democrat John Edwards pledged Saturday to ban lobbyists from jobs in his administration if he is elected.

He said people who have lobbied for a foreign government or on behalf of a corporation will not be allowed to work in his White House. That would rule out a talent pool of Democrats with Capitol Hill or Clinton White House experience, many of whom are lobbying while their party is in exile from the White House. A new president must fill thousands of jobs in the White House and the Cabinet agencies.

Asked about cutting off this expertise, including groups that champion the same causes he does such as pro-labor groups, Edwards acknowledged he will have to make some judgments.

"But, what my view is that anybody who has been lobbying on behalf of big corporations are a part of the problem. Because corporate greed is what is at the heart and the soul of what's stealing the future of our children and what's killing the middle class of this country."

Edwards has made fighting against greedy corporations, federal lobbyists and special interests a central message to his campaign. "This is a continuation of my belief that we need to reduce the influence of these special interests and lobbyists, which I have believed the entire time I have been in public life," he told reporters after the event.

Also on Saturday, Edwards insisted he has not taken any money from special interests as the Obama campaign complained about big spending by outside groups friendly to Edwards.

"His campaign simply exploited the biggest loophole in the campaign finance system in order to get public matching funds while arranging through allies to benefit from a 527. That's how they avoided the spending limits that are a condition of the public matching funds," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a statement.

Plouffe said the outside spending allows Edwards to stay within the limits required by public financing "while still spending all he needed to spend in Iowa."

His memo was prompted by disclosure of a $495,000 donation from philanthropist Rachel Mellon to a 527 group called the Alliance for a New America that is running ads in Iowa in support of Edwards' campaign. The nonprofit 527 groups can legally carry out some political activity but have come under scrutiny by the Federal Election Commission for their advertising during past presidential campaigns.
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An FEC report showed the donation came from Oak Spring Farms LLC, the corporate entity that holds Mellon's fortune. Mellon is the 97-year-old widow of Paul Mellon, the son of industrialist Andrew Mellon.

She also contributed the maximum $4,600 allowed to Edwards' campaign earlier this year. The lawyer who serves as director of the investment fund, Oak Springs Farm LLC, also has contributed the maximum $4,600 allowed to Edwards' campaign.

Edwards dismissed the Obama camp's criticism of outside spending.

"I'm very proud of my record now, almost 10 years now ... unlike other candidates including Sen. Obama, I've never take money from a Washington lobbyist, never taken money from a PAC."

He added: "If Senator Obama and his campaign want to focus on negative attacks they can do that, but that is not what I'm going to do."

The Alliance for a New America is a newly created organization headed by former Edwards adviser Nick Baldick. It has received most of its support from labor groups, many of them locals belonging to the Service Employees International Union. The alliance is spending about $600,000 on radio ads and about $750,000 on television ads in Iowa supporting Edwards.

Such groups are not allowed to coordinate their efforts with a political campaign. Edwards aides have said there has been no such coordination, and Edwards himself has called on the 527 to stop its activities.

"I'm proud to have the support of labor unions. Unless I'm mistaken what they are doing is just positive support for my campaign. But, I've said 527s should be outlawed, I stand by that," he added.

(washingtonpost.com)

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