Washington Babylon — August 11, 2008, 9:36 am

John Edwards Ends Fling With Anti-Poverty Center

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Standing Rock Speaks

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Estimated number of people who watched a live Webcast of a hair transplant last fall:

8,000

A rancher in Texas was developing a system that will permit hunters to kill animals by remote control via a website.

A man in Japan was arrested for stealing a prospective employer’s wallet during a job interview, and a court in Germany ruled that it is safe for a woman with breast implants to be a police officer.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today