Edwards Turns to Future With New PAC
Further stoking speculation about his national ambitions, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D) will soon open a new political action committee that will allow him to pay for his political travels and make donations to Democratic candidates.
A source close to Edwards said the “purpose of the PAC is to allow him to continue his political endeavors and to help Democratic candidates at every level across the country.”
Edwards made a conscious decision to form the as-yet-unnamed new group rather than simply restart New American Optimists, the leadership PAC he used in 2000 and 2001 to fund his fledgling presidential activities.
That choice was based on a desire to put his focus on the future, not the past, according to the source.
He will also re-emerge on the political stage with a speech at the North Dakota Democratic Party convention on April 3.
The last serious Democratic contender to drop out of the presidential race, the freshman Senator is a hot commodity on the campaign trail as he is seen by many Members and strategists as one of the few national figures able to campaign in more conservative corners of the country, including the South.
Neither Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) nor Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) had spoken to Edwards about the new organization at press time, but both expressed an interest in having the North Carolina Senator on the trail for their candidates.
“We intend as things come together and [the vice presidential search] process is completed to reach out” to Edwards, Sens. Bob Graham (Fla.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) as well as Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.), all of whom also ran unsuccessfully for president this cycle.
Corzine and Edwards are friends and have talked informally about the role the North Carolina Senator could play in a cycle in which Democrats have to defend five open seats.
Edwards’ new political venture serves a dual purpose: It bolsters his case as a vice presidential candidate and, if he is not selected, gives him a way to stay in the public eye when he leaves the Senate in January.
Edwards announced in the fall of 2003 that he would not seek re-election after Tar Heel State Democrats said his indecisiveness about running again was putting them at a distinct disadvantage in their efforts to hold the seat.
Rumors have sprung up recently that Edwards is considering re-entering the Senate race, an idea his campaign operatives have summarily dismissed.
In the event Edwards is not picked as Sen. John Kerry’s (Mass.) running mate or as attorney general, he has the option of establishing a separate soft-money arm for his new venture when he leaves federal office.
Such 527 committees, known for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code that governs their actions, have grown increasingly popular since the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. That law bans federal officeholders or candidates from raising or spending soft money.
A decision on whether to open a 527 is under consideration but a decision has not been reached, said one informed source.
The New American Optimists PAC is likely to be shuttered. At the end of 2003, it had just $7,500 left on hand after spending $356,000 last year.
Much of that money went to staff salaries and political contributions to candidates in states with early presidential primaries.