WASHINGTON – John Edwards (search) rose to political prominence criticizing President Bush for creating "two Americas," one for the privileged and one for everyone else. A look at his finances shows he's one of the privileged.
Edwards, tapped Tuesday by Sen. John Kerry (search), D-Mass., to be his vice presidential running mate, is a multimillionaire former trial lawyer with wide-ranging investments in mutual funds, stocks of major American corporations and bonds of North Carolina educational and governmental organizations.
The North Carolina senator's financial disclosure statement shows that he made more than 200 trades of stocks, bonds and mutual funds last year, while he was challenging Kerry and other Democrats for the party's presidential nomination.
For instance, Edwards made more than $50,000 in profit on sales of IBM stock last year. He reported capital gains of $15,000 to $50,000 each on sales of stock in 3M Co., Caterpillar, Cisco Systems, Clear Channel Communications, and Merck & Co.
Edwards' financial holdings were in a blind trust until he decided to run for president and had to dissolve the trust because of executive branch disclosure rules, said Michael Briggs, his Senate press secretary. Briggs said Edwards has given his investment adviser, the same one who handled the blind trust, the authority to make all his investment decisions.
Edwards sold his Washington, D.C., home last year for $3 million, $800,000 more than he paid for it in 1999. Before the sale, to the government of Hungary, Edwards entertained an offer of $3.52 million from a public relations specialist hired by Saudi Arabia to influence Congress and the public after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Edwards, who at the time was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee (search) that was investigating Saudi and U.S. terrorism lapses, said he learned months after the offer was made, but before the deal fell apart, that registered foreign agent Michael Petruzzello worked for Saudi Arabia. He said he never talked to Petruzzello about the Saudis.
Petruzzello made a $100,000 deposit into an escrow account when he made the offer on Edwards' home. The deal fell through when Petruzzello couldn't sell his existing home, and his deposit was never returned. Edwards said last year he would formally disclose the $100,000 deposit if and when he took control of it.
Edwards built his personal fortune as a trial lawyer, winning $150 million worth of verdicts or settlements in 60 cases in the 1990s. During his presidential campaign, he raised at least $9 million from lawyers before withdrawing from the race in March. He took in about $22 million in all.
Once Edwards dropped out of the race, he urged his top fund-raisers to support Kerry. In subsequent months, lawyers gave at least $7 million to the Kerry campaign. In March and April, almost $1 of every $10 Kerry raised came from lawyers.
On the personal financial side, Edwards actively traded in stocks, bonds and mutual funds last year, with individual purchases and sales at times topping $1 million. In August, for example, he invested more than $1 million in a municipal bond mutual fund, then sold his shares a month later.
Edwards also invested heavily in his home state. He purchased bonds totaling between $1.8 million and $4.1 million in 14 different North Carolina educational and governmental units last year.
During the buildup and aftermath of the Iraq war, Edwards bought and sold stock in several defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, General Electric, British Petroleum, Cardinal Health Inc., and General Dynamics.
Edwards' largest asset at the end of last year was an outstanding loan of more than $5 million to his Senate campaign fund. He also reported four separate holdings of $1 million each, including a money market portfolio, an American Europacific growth mutual fund and two Atlantic Trust mutual funds.