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:

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

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Rebecca Solnit on silencing women, a Marine commander returns to Iraq, the decline of PBS, and more
Article
Cassandra Among the Creeps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On silencing women

Astra Taylor discusses the potential and peril of the Internet as a tool for cultural democracy

Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Post
Ending College Sexual Assault·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Article
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Astra Taylor discusses the potential and peril of the Internet as a tool for cultural democracy

Photograph by Benjamin Busch
Post
Astra Taylor on The People’s Platform·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Taking back power and culture in the digital age
“There’s a pervasive and ill-advised faith that technology will promote competition if left to its own devices.”
Photograph © Deborah Degraffenried

Chance that a civilian who died in a 20th-century war was American:

1 in 62,000

A physicist calculated that mass worldwide conversion to a vegetarian diet would do more to slow global warming than cutting back on oil and gas use.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today