ABC11 Investigates

Donors want money back from John Edwards

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Since news broke of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter and his subsequent indictment on charges he used campaign money to try to cover it up, many who gave money to his presidential campaign have said they want their donations back.

They include Chapel Hill area real estate broker Kitty Stockton who expressed her disappointment with Edwards on the Oprah Winfrey show last year.

"I gave $500 to John Edwards and I'd really like my money back," Stockton told Oprah.

Contacted recently by the ABC11 I-Team, Stockton said she has yet to see a refund.

”I gave my money in good faith. I trusted him. I thought he was a leader. He was somebody I thought would be good for the country, and he clearly let us down," said Stockton.

Triangle businessman Tim Hucks also donated to the Edwards campaign.

"I made that contribution. It was accepted. It was from personal funds … to go down to New Orleans and do a Habitat for Humanity project with John Edwards," said Hucks

An I-Team analysis of Edwards for President campaign finance filings shows it has quietly refunded $3.8 million to more than 1,200 supporters. But the majority are fundraisers known as "bundlers" and private contributors who raised the maximum of $2,300 each. Only a fraction of smaller donors who gave $500 or less have gotten refunds.

The documents show nearly 50 percent of refunds went to big donors, while small donors received just 6 percent.

Stockton says she thinks smaller donors should get their money back too.

"First, it would be the right thing to do. And secondly, if the money's there still and there are others who are getting their money back, then certainly the smaller donors should be able to," she said.

"They got their money back, so why not an individual citizen?" Hucks asked.

According to federal campaign finance laws, Edwards can use what's left in his campaign fund for a variety of things - including paying for his legal defense.

"No, that's definitely not how I want my money to be used," said Stockton. "If that's the truth, that makes me very angry."

But campaign finance experts say the law is fairly broad on the subject.

"Former candidates are given relative latitude when it comes to what they can do with their money after they leave office or after they don't win office," Dave Levinthal with the Center for Responsive Politics explained.

"Legal activities would definitely be an option. You can donate it to charity. You can do quite a number of things, short of taking your family on a trip to Disney World or using it to buy a car," Levinthal continued.

The Federal Election Commission says any donor who wants money back has to write to the campaign directly. It lists the address for the Edwards campaign on its website.

Hucks and Stockton say they are contacting the campaign for their refund.

ABC11 left messages for the treasurer of the Edwards campaign fund, Lora Haggard for comment, but our phone calls have not been returned.

Next week, the Edwards campaign is expected to file a federal report on how much money still exists in his presidential campaign fund.

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Tags:
john edwards, rielle hunter, abc11 investigates, steve daniels
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