John Edwards

Edwards of Arabia?

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When it comes to Saudi Arabia, million-dollar payoffs, and Washington politicians, extreme scrutiny seems to me no vice. Still, this weird weekend news about perfect-haired presidential candidate John Edwards may just be a coincidence:

WASHINGTON—While he was a member of the congressional investigation into U.S. and Saudi intelligence failures, Sen. John Edwards agreed to sell his home for $3.52 million to the public relations expert hired by Saudi Arabia to counter charges it was soft on terrorism. [?]

Though the sale broke off nearly a year ago, Edwards hasn't returned or publicly disclosed [the buyer's] $100,000 deposit, which remains in a real estate escrow account while the senator decides what to do with it. Edwards recently sold the house to another buyer for a half-million dollars less than [the buyer's] offer.

Edwards' office isn't having any conflict-of-interest whispering:

"It is bizarre and outrageous that a contract dispute with a total stranger would become a source of wild speculation and international intrigue. Only in Washington."

(Link via John Hood)

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  1. Only Republicans can have conflict of interest. To have a conflict, one must first have a duty, and democrats acknowledge no duty.

  2. Yeah, why would anyone think there was something fishy about keeping $100,000 from a Saudi agent?

    If Edwards broke the contract, he has no legal basis for keeping the money.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

  3. Actually, RC might want to click through and read the story. It was *the putative buyer* who backed out of the transaction. If the Edwards’ sold the house for $500,000 less, then they have a breach of K action worth at least $500,000, which is probably why the money is still in the escrow account.

    I don’t know about NC’s laws or if this would be covered by the FHA, but if you failed to sell your home to a buyer ready, willing, and able to buy the home solely because the buyer associated with people you didn’t like on the basis of their national origin, that might qualify as housing discrimination.

  4. Got me, Ann – I had read a different story that didn’t have those details in it.

    Somehow, the fact that he went ahead and took $3mm from the government of Hungary for the house doesn’t leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy about his ethics, though. Does the man have no understanding of “conflicts of interest”, or does he just not care when $3mm are on the table.

  5. He’s a lawyer, for god’s sake.

  6. Ann –

    Two corrections:
    First, the house is in DC, not NC. Second, the potential buyer is a US citizen who is a registered agent (in the State Department sense) of a foreign power.

    RC Dean and everyone else: I’ve got to imagine that the market for “Washington DC upscale housing” is a constantly-fluxing group of
    – incoming Reps and Senators and partisan administrators
    – incoming senior diplomatic staff (of foreign countries)
    – power lobbyists and attorneys.

    These guys are probably buying from one another every 2-6 years or whatever. (as an aside, the real estate transfer taxes in DC must be an awesome cash stream… anyone know, does this go to the city administration, or to Congress?) So I see nothing untoward about a multimillion dollar DC house going for sale to a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power.

    I do believe that Edwards was negligent in not declaring his buyer’s connection to the senate ethics committee ONCE HE LEARNED OF IT. I do not believe Edwards was under any requirement to vett all potential buyers for their connections.

    The senate rule reads to me: “Use your head, dot your ‘i’s and cross yout ‘t’s”, and if a Presidential aspirant Laywer can’t toe to this, he’s pretty weak.

  7. Excellent points, Keith. I would merely add that the fact that the real estate market in DC is swimming in conflicts of interest and potential corruption (odd, isn’t it, that the Saudi flak was apparently willing to pay well above market value) does nothing to excuse those who subject themselves to conflicts of interest. Just because it is common doesn’t make it right.

    And if Edwards or others want to avoid the whole mess, all he has to do is rent an apartment. He is there as a servant of the people, not a grandee.

    Looking down the road, it will be interesting to see who puts money in Bill and Hillary’s pocket by buying their mansion, won’t it?

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