John Edwards Affair: Many Big Campaign Donors Got Refunds in March

John Edwards' Two Americas:
The Fat Cats and Bundlers Who Got their Money Refunded;
The Working Stiffs Who Stayed in the Dark

* The John Edwards' campaign has already refunded $3,831,398 to contributors--many who contributed the maximum of $2300.
* 2,247 donors have already received money back from the John Edwards--many who are trial attorneys and political "bundlers"--and most received it back on March 24.
* Refunds to small donors under $100 have accounted for only 1/5th of one percent, so far, according to Open
* The Edwards campaign still has $4,791,200 cash on hand, according to its July 31, 2008 filing.
* There are no instructions on the Edwards' campaign website for applying for a refund, though the campaign is still taking donations on the same site. It may be that refunds will be issued on a "first come, first serve" basis, but that is speculation. More on the refund process in a DBKP story to be published later Monday.

For any readers who gave money to the John Edwards' campaign and are now upset that perhaps that hard-earned $50 or $100 (or more) went to pay for Rielle Hunter's stay in the tony Governor's Club or Andrew Young's BWM that Hunter drove for awhile, there's hope yet to recover that money.

While searching for info on another John Edwards' story, DBKP's LBG uncovered something previously unreported in the media: the Edwards' campaign made a number of refunds to campaign contributors on March 24. Most were large contributors--trial attorneys and political contribution bundlers--and many received $2300, or more, back from the Edwards' campaign. Many not only received refunds themselves, but members of their families who had contributed also received checks from the campaign in March.

For a candidate that ran on a "Two Americas" theme, when it came time for refunds, only One America got campaign refund checks, while the other America was kept in the dark.

Until now.

Warren Buffet told CNBC last week: "I've seen a lot of class-action suits with less to it than this particular case. The facts are clear. I mean, he [John Edwards] solicited money and he wasn't telling the truth to the people he was soliciting it from."

Buffet was talking class action, but DBKP has learned that the Edwards' campaign has refunded $3,831,398--the bulk of it back on March 24, when the campaign quietly issued refunds to the vast majority of the 2,247 who've received their money back.

Many of those receiving refunds were big trial attorneys and bundlers--those political money men/women who round up boatloads of cash for a candidate's campaign.

One such bundler was Atlanta attorney, Stephen Leeds. He received $2300 back on March 24. Apparently, at least one of the contributors, who gave Leeds $750 of her money for Edwards, has not.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in a story Sunday of one such former Edwards' backer who wants her money back.

“That’s money I could have put in my children’s college fund,” state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) said of her contributions to Edwards.

Stuckey said she donated a total of $750 to Edwards and has contacted former Edwards backer Stephen Leeds trying to find out how to get a refund.

Leeds, an Atlanta attorney, has been an Edwards supporter since 2002 and was considered Edwards’ point man in metro Atlanta. Leeds said he now backs presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama and has no idea if there is any money in Edwards’ campaign coffers to return to disgruntled former supporters. He said he has not talked with Edwards since the scandal broke.

“John ended up dishonoring an awful lot of people in this process, from his family to a lot of his supporters,” said Leeds, who gave Edwards $2,300 for his primary run and $2,300 for the general election.

The Journal-Constitution reported that Leeds stated, "Any general fund campaign contributions will be returned to donors because he [Edwards] is not running in November".

Leeds should be able to help Benfield get her money back: Leeds received $2300 back from the campaign in March, according to Open

Lee Stranahan predicted last week, in a Huffington Post article, that Democrats might want their money back from Edwards:

Some Democrats Will Want Their Money Back : It's already becoming something people are talking about informally but it's just a matter of time before lawsuits start because it's becoming clear that Edwards used campaign money to take his girlfriend on the road with him. Times are hard and this could become a new and innovative economic stimulus plan for Democrats.

Again, for the first lucky applicants, no lawsuits are necessary: just be at the front of the line and be the first on your block to get your John Edwards' stimulus check!

At least that's the speculation until later today, when a few experts in the field will give their views in a yet-to-be-published DBKP article.

More from Warren Buffett on the class-action matter:

CNBC: Did you ever give money to John Edwards along the way?

BUFFETT: No, I didn't--I didn't give money to John Edwards. And, in fact, I think if I'd given money to him, I'd probably be asking for it back now. It's an interesting situation because John Edwards essentially was soliciting money from people to further his ambitions for the presidency, and, you know, people sent him 50, $100, $200, and I would say that they sent it in while they were being misled by the person who was soliciting the money from them. And, you know, I think if I were Edwards, I might give up a haircut or two and refund at least, you know, the people that gave the 50 or $100, $200 items, because they-- if they had known the facts, they wouldn't have sent him the money, and he is the guy that didn't give them the facts. I mean, he knew that, in effect, he wouldn't be elected president. I mean, the story was out there during the campaign. He denied it, but it was out there. And, in fact, I've never heard of it, but it might be kind of interesting if somebody, some contributor, would bring a class-action suit on behalf of all these people who essentially were led to send money to a man under totally false circumstances, false pretenses, and where he knew it and didn't tell them the truth.

Mickey Kaus commented on the Buffett class-action idea:

Heh! ... I would think this would be a difficult precedent to contain--can donors sue McCain because he didn't, in fact, get "the message" from the defeat of his immigration semi-amnesty bill--and he knew it? Maybe businesses have to live with this sort of uncertain class-action threat when they dissemble. Politicians will never stand for it.

But again, why go the legal route--that seems more make-work for the bundler-types, many who've already received their refund checks--when you can apply to the Edwards campaign directly for your money back?

Time may be of the essence here: the campaign reported $4,791,200 cash on hand in its July 31 filing. Because there is no information on the Edwards' campaign website about a refund process--but one whole page dedicated to collecting donations is still active--contacting the campaign would seem to be a must.

And, "first come, first served" might be something for disgruntled Edwards' contributors to keep in mind. DBKP is still probing the matter and will have more on the process, as well as a story on who received their cash back in March, only seven weeks after the former NC senator called it quits.

One such contributor left a comment on one of our Edwards' stories just last week. Identified only as "emma", the comment may ring a bell with some former Edwards' contributors:

"...and i gave $500 to his campaign which went to pay for his whore’s meals! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!"

But, there may be hope yet for emma.

She may not be a big campaign cash bundler--42% of all Edwards' bundlers received refunds so far, most on March 24--but 125 contributors who gave under $100 have gotten refunds back from the Edwards' campaign thus far.

In a story to be published later today, more facts about the March refunds:

* Who got their money back early?

Fred Baron was one, ex-NBA player Eric Montross--who rented his Governor's Club house to Andrew Young for awhile--was another. Many trial lawyers, such as John O'Quinn, William Lerach and Thomas Girardi, were in on the Edwards' early refund program.

* Who in Hollywood got back money already from the campaign?

* What small contributors--who earned big bucks--have already gotten their money back?

Also, later today: How to apply for refunds.

As J.G. Wentworth says in his TV commercials, "It's your money."

by Mondoreb
notes: LBG
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