Edwards senior adviser to, heavy investor in daily’s owner

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Democratic presidential candidate received $479,512 in 2006 from Fortress Investment Group, LLC, and has $7.5 million invested in the hedge fund firm

Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards received $479,512 in 2006 as a senior adviser to Fortress Investment Group, LLC, a hedge fund and venture capital firm that in 2006 bought more than 60 percent of the stake in publicly-traded GateHouse Media, Inc., the local daily’s parent company.

According to a July 25 article on MSN Money by Tim Middleton, “Edwards has at least $7.5 million invested with Fortress and its hedge funds.” The article also said Federal Election Commission records indicate Fortress employees have donated $187,850 to Edwards’ presidential campaign, more than any other company. A March fund-raiser hosted by Fortress also raised more than $1 million for Edwards’ campaign, the article said.

GateHouse, based in Fairport, N.Y., finalized the $410 million purchase of the Rockford Register Star and three other Gannett Co., Inc., newspapers May 7. The company has been snatching up small- and medium-sized newspapers throughout the country, racking up $690 million in debt as of March 9. GateHouse owns more than 450 community publications, including more than 80 daily newspapers in 19 states across the country. McClean, Va.-based Gannett had owned the daily since 1967.

The MSN Money article also said Fortress had recently “agreed to acquire Penn National Gaming, the third-largest gambling concern in the United States.” The article quoted the Financial Times: “If the deal is completed, some of Mr. Edwards’ money could be put to work in a controversial industry that he wants to regulate more closely. When a senator, Mr. Edwards co-sponsored a bill to ban gambling on amateur sports.”

Further, the MSN Money article reported: “Fortress…owns subprime lender Nationstar Mortgage, formerly Centex Home Equity. The Dallas company calls itself ‘one of the nation’s leading mortgage lenders offering nonprime mortgages and home-equity loans.’

“As a presidential candidate, Edwards has lashed out at subprime lenders, saying they are ‘pulling a fast one on hardworking homeowners.’

“Fortress Fund III is based in the Cayman Islands. Edwards’ campaign said he opposes offshore tax havens and, ‘as president, he will end them.’”

Edwards, third in fund-raising among Democratic presidential hopefuls behind U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., drew headlines earlier this year when it was disclosed he used campaign funds to pay for $400 haircuts, which he said he later reimbursed.

Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, also recently completed construction of a $5 million, 28,000-square-foot home on 102 acres on Old Greensboro Road just west of Chapel Hill, N.C. As reported in a Jan. 26 article in the Carolina Journal: “‘The Edwardses’ residential property will likely have the highest tax value in the county,’ Orange County Tax Assessor John Smith told Carolina Journal. He estimated that the tax value will exceed $6 million when the facility is completed.”

The MSN Money article also reported Edwards has stock in “Apple, BP PLC, Burlington Resources, Medtronic and Schlumberger, the chief rival to Halliburton, where Vice President Dick Cheney was once CEO.” According to the article, Edwards has invested “between $29.5 million (his campaign’s estimate) and $62 million (the high end of ranges described in his federal disclosure)” in trusts and accounts.

Elizabeth Edwards announced in March her breast cancer, originally diagnosed in 2004, had returned. She remains on the campaign trail, and on June 26 called into MSNBC’s Hardball to confront conservative columnist, commentator and bestselling author Ann Coulter regarding Coulter’s personal attacks against the Edwards family. Coulter had previously joked about the death of the Edwardses’ first son Wade, who was killed in a car crash in 1996, and in March used a pejorative term for a homosexual in reference to John Edwards.

In a June 25 appearance on Good Morning America in reference to the slur, Coulter said she “had learned her lesson” and that, “If I’m gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.”

In her June 26 confrontation of Coulter on Hardball, Elizabeth Edwards said: “I’d like to ask Ann Coulter—if she wants to debate on issues, on positions—we certainly disagree with nearly everything she said on your show today—but it’s quite another matter for these personal attacks that the things she has said over the years not just about John but about other candidates. [Coulter has also made fun of Obama’s middle name, Hussein, and attacked Hillary Clinton’s physical appearance.] It lowers our political dialogue precisely at the time that we need to raise it.”

Regarding Coulter’s comments about the death of the Edwardses’ son, Elizabeth Edwards said: “I’m making this call as a mother. I’m the mother of that boy who died. My children participate—these young people behind you [in the audience] are the age of my children. You’re asking them to participate in a dialogue that’s based on hatefulness instead of on the issues, and I don’t think that’s serving them or this country very well.”

Coulter’s response: “I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking. No.”

The following day, June 27, John Edwards appeared on Hardball and added: “I don’t think [Coulter] has any shame; there’s no doubt about that. I think that’s just the way she behaves. That’s who she is. And I think that’s a lot of what we see from these people who are just—that are crazy.”

The Edwards campaign has used Coulter’s remarks in literature and ads to raise funds for his presidential campaign.

from the Aug 1-7, 2007, issue

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