Friday, January 19, 2007

Odd coincidence or crooked politician?

You decide. WaPo - Identity of Edwards Home's Buyers Veiled: Assisted-Living Magnates in SEC Probe Paid Candidate $5.2 Million
The grand 18th-century house had lingered on Washington's slowing real estate market for more than 18 months. The Edwardses paid $3.8 million in 2002 for the six-bedroom Federal-style house once owned by socialite Polly Fritchey, and they did substantial renovations. The final sale price was half a million dollars below the asking price but still $1.4 million more than the Edwardses paid four years earlier.
Okay, there is nothing wrong with making a profit when you sell your house. Everyone hopes (expects) to do that. He even sold it for less than his original asking price, which sounds quite reasonable if the house had been on the market for a year and a half without moving. The man wants to run for president and he needs the money. Sounds reasonable. But then there is the issue of the buyers:
The wealthy founders of the nation's largest assisted-living housing chain for seniors, the Klaassens are currently cooperating with a government inquiry in connection with accounting practices and stock options exercised by them and other company insiders. They are also the focus of legal complaints by some of the same labor unions whose support Edwards has been assiduously courting for his presidential bid.
. . .
Edwards was told the Klaassens' name "in passing" around the time the offer came in on Dec. 18, Palmieri said last night, but he did not investigate further and had no knowledge of their business until a reporter's inquiry Wednesday. Palmieri said Edwards had not delved into the Klaassens' background: "They left it to be done at arm's length, real estate agent to real estate agent."
One could still make the argument that nothing is afoul here. Who does background checks on the people they are selling their homes to? And why would Edwards want to make a deal that could potentially hurt his image with his desired constituency? He must be telling the truth that he didn't pay any attention to who they were, right? But then you get the kicker:
Edwards has run into controversy once before on a house sale. In 2002, he reached a deal to sell a Washington house to a U.S. lobbyist for Saudi Arabia and then refused to give back the lobbyist's $100,000 earnest money when the deal collapsed. At the time of the sale, the Saudis were trying to improve their image in Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks, and Edwards was serving on the Senate intelligence committee.

Edwards said he did not know the buyer was a Saudi lobbyist until after the deal had fallen through.
So this sort of thing has happened before, with a similar excuse attached? One would think that if he had this same problem in the past he would pay closer attention to who he is selling to a second time around. Politicians can't expect to just behave like average people and not be scrutinized for it. They really need to show exceptional judgement, especially if they are trying to differentiate themselves from the current administration, which I would assume Edwards would be trying to do. This may not be a deciding factor in the primary campaign. I don't now how the public will react to the news, but it does make me have sincere doubts about his use of better judgement.

No comments: