NYTimes Questions Whether Edwards Cares About the Poor

Is Leslie Wayne hoping to get a job with the National Review?

Mr. Edwards, who reported this year that he had assets of nearly $30 million, came up with a novel solution, creating a nonprofit organization with the stated mission of fighting poverty. 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.

If you had a successful career and are now rich, you cannot be truly concerned about poverty. Am I reading some transcript from Sean Hannity’s show or what? Leslie Wayne continues:

But it was his use of a tax-exempt organization to finance his travel and employ people connected to his past and current campaigns that went beyond what most other prospective candidates have done before pursuing national office. And according to experts on nonprofit foundations, Mr. Edwards pushed at the boundaries of how far such organizations can venture into the political realm. Such entities, which are regulated under Section 501C-4 of the tax code, can engage in advocacy but cannot make partisan political activities their primary purpose without risking loss of their tax-exempt status. Because the organization is not required to disclose its donors – and the campaign declined to do so – it is not clear whether those who gave money to it did so understanding that they were supporting Mr. Edwards’s political viability as much or more than they were giving money to combat poverty.

This sounds a lot like a Tom DeLay ploy! But Greg Sargent details the Edwards side of the story including this:

But we’ve just learned something new and surprising about the story. The Edwards campaign has just told us on the record that The Times refused the chance to talk to any real, live beneficiaries of Edwards’ programs.

Greg continues with this review of what Leslie Warren wrote:

We think these lines are highly charged with innuendo in a way that’s beneath the Paper of Record. They stray into mind-reading and indulge in motive assessment. They lack factual specificity. Given how potentially damaging they are – and simultaneously how murky they are – they should not have been permitted by the editors to get onto the paper’s front page. Unless the paper’s editors no longer mind murky innuendo on A1 above the fold. But if you are going to put such lines on your front page – if you are going to publish an enormous story alleging that a person’s antipoverty program was set up mainly to benefit the person who set it up – then basic journalistic fairness would dictate that you make a genuine effort to see how the program fulfilled its “stated” purpose of helping people. Surprisingly, no mention of how the programs actually impacted people appears until the story’s 18th paragraph – and at that point it comes from the mouth of an Edwards spokesman. There’s no indication that the reporter made any genuine independent effort at all to discover whether the programs helped anyone.

Greg provides links to other bloggers who have condemned this op-ed dressed up as journalism. If the NY Times does the right thing and fires this “reporter”, I’m sure the National Review will be happy to let Leslie Warren write for them.