Business Week highlights a rather dubious practice of John Edwards: temporarily "parking" campaign staff in a non-profit organization set up for him at the University of North Carolina, escaping public reporting and apparently funding his preparation to run for office with tax deductible donations from persons and organizations unknown to the public.
During periods when they're out of office, many politicians arrange jobs for loyal former aides. After his unsuccessful 2004 Vice-Presidential bid, John Edwards came up with a creative approach: He started a nonprofit dedicated to fighting poverty. Rather than recruiting outside poverty experts, the Center for Promise & Opportunity became a perch for several once and future Edwards staff members.
The line between an ordinary nonprofit and a group formed to test the political waters can be blurry. But legally there's a big difference. Ordinary nonprofits aren't subject to rules on disclosing donors and limiting contributions; exploratory political groups are. No one has challenged the status of the Edwards center, and experts in the field say it may technically pass muster as an ordinary nonprofit. But at a minimum, it appears to have helped Edwards prepare for the 2008 Presidential race.
Edwards, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina, launched the center in 2005 at the Washington (D.C.) address of his PAC. The nonprofit raised $1.3 million in 2005, the only year for which data are available, and spent some of it on a national speaking tour for Edwards. It also spent $259,000 on consultants. The campaign declines to disclose the donors or consultants.
Even if it passes legal review, this stinks. John Edwards continues to demonstrate he is one of those lawyers who likes to play the angles.