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Once upon a time John Edwards wanted to be president. “Poverty,” he said back then, “is the great moral issue of our century,” he told a group of students at Berkeley in 2005. “People living in poverty need you. And another thing: America needs you.”
To show his own dedication, Edwards “created a tax-exempt nonprofit dedicated to fighting poverty”, reported the New York Times. Except:
The organization, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, raised $1.3 million in 2005, and—unlike a sister charity he created to raise scholarship money for poor students—the main beneficiary of the center’s fund-raising was Mr. Edwards himself, tax filings show…
The organization became a big part of a shadow political apparatus for Mr. Edwards after his defeat as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004 and before the start of his presidential bid this time around. Its officers were members of his political staff, and it helped pay for his nearly constant travel, including to early primary states.
While Mr. Edwards said the organization’s purpose was “making the eradication of poverty the cause of this generation,” its federal filings say it financed “retreats and seminars” with foreign policy experts on Iraq and national security issues. Unlike the scholarship charity, donations to it were not tax deductible, and, significantly, it did not have to disclose its donors—as political action committees and other political fund-raising vehicles do—and there were no limits on the size of individual donations.
In other words, the Center may have done some good, but its primary purpose was to serve as a vehicle for Edwards’ political career. Indeed, it appears to be very similar to the bogus “Reform Institute” that John McCain set up after his defeat to George W. Bush in 2000, and which was designed to keep alive his presidential ambitions and reward his cronies.
Edwards of course lost his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, and guess what happened to his big anti-poverty initiative? That’s right–it appears he pulled the plug on it.
About a week before Edwards acknowledged having an affair with Rielle Hunter, Edwards quietly shut down a “scholarship program he started at an Eastern North Carolina high school–a program he once promised would be a model for the nation under an Edwards presidency,” reports the Raleigh News & Observer:
Edwards’ presidential hopes have evaporated. And he recently informed Greene County officials that he would end the pilot program at Greene Central High School. “We sent a communication out to upcoming seniors and their parents,” said Randy Bledsoe, principal of Greene Central High. “Some are saddened that the opportunity is not going to be there for their children. But we’ve had a lot of positive reaction over the years.”
Edwards started the “College for Everyone” pilot program at Greene Central High in 2005, shortly after he was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. It was a privately funded effort designed to increase the number of students at a rural high school who attend college. The program provided the cost of tuition, fees and books at a public college for one year. In exchange, students had to work at least 10 hours a week while in college, take college preparatory courses in high school and stay out of trouble.
But now Edwards is no longer a presidential candidate, and with revelation of his affair, his political career is probably over as well. And no more College for Everyone. And incidentally, it doesn’t look like Edwards’ Center for Promise and Opportunity Foundation did any other notable anti-poverty work, and the group itself appears to be largely defunct. The foundation has no website, and, after examining tax records, my colleague Sebastian Jones determined that it was largely indistinguishable from the College for Everyone program.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Average portion of its yearly household expenditures that a South African family will spend on a funeral:
Neuroscientists were hoping to use rat brain waves to find people buried by earthquakes.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature