Edwards presidential campaign still spending

Former Sen. John Edwards.
December 1, 2010 4:19:53 PM PST
Former presidential candidate John Edwards still has nearly $4 million in the account he set up when he made his 2008 run for the White House.

It includes federal matching money and donations from contributors. An I-Team review of records shows the campaign has not returned those millions to contributors or the federal Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

And, even though he ended his campaign for president nearly three years ago, records show public money still pays the salaries of some on Edwards' staff, and more is going for lawyers and travel expenses.

That's at the same time a federal grand jury in Raleigh investigates the Edwards' 2008 campaign finances.

Records show the campaign is currently spending between $50,000 and $90,000 a month.

I-Team investigators also found in Federal Election Commission filings that the campaign received $38,345 in donations from a former Chapel Hill restaurant called The Barbecue Joint which closed last March. Documents show the campaign got the money in August and September.

That was news to former Barbecue Joint owner Jon Childres.

"I'm speechless. I don't know what to say, because we had nothing to do with this. We did not give any money to the failed Edwards campaign," Childres told ABC11. "I've never met John Edwards, and to the best of my knowledge, he's never been in the restaurant. And, we certainly did not contribute any money to the campaign whatsoever, much less, $38,000."

The Edwards campaign says the filing was a computer error.

And, according to FEC regulations, there's no legal requirement for the Edwards campaign to return money it received from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

A candidate can use the money to "wind down" a campaign by paying debt and working on FEC audits, but there's no time limit to shut down the campaign committee.

"It is not uncommon for candidates to maintain an office and hold on to that war chest that they have accumulated over a long period of time," explained Sheila Krumholtz, Executive Director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

According to FEC filings, the law firm of Utrecht and Phillips in Washington has received $200,000 so far this year.

Another $60,000 has gone to rent payments.

Three people are getting a paycheck from Edwards every two weeks - more than $144,000 total through October.

Thousands have also gone for travel and cell phones.

The Edwards campaign tells the I-Team all the money in the FEC filings is being spent to support an FEC audit of the campaign.

"This is not what campaigns are supposed to be about. It's what leads to the citizens being more and more cynical about the campaign process," offered Frank Perry with the Foundation for Ethics in Public Service. "When I make a contribution to a campaign, that is precisely by definition what I am doing. I'm not doing it to continue the salaries and the travel."

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