John Edwards (search), former senator and vice presidential candidate, has a new part-time job as head of the University of North Carolina law school's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity (search).

Edwards, who represented North Carolina for one term in the Senate, began work Tuesday by moderating a panel discussion on the importance of savings and assets in moving families out of poverty.

"We have millions of Americans who work full time and still live in poverty, and that is absolutely wrong," said Edwards, a Democrat.

Edwards will earn $40,000 a year from the state university to head the center and has made a two-year commitment. His salary is paid from private funds raised by the university.

In an interview Wednesday on NBC's "Today," Edwards called poverty "one of the great moral issues in America today." He said more people live in poverty now in the United States than 30 years ago.

Asked if he had made a decision on whether to run for president in 2008, Edwards said no.

"I have a campaign and a cause right now and this is it. This is where I'm going to spend my passion and my energy."

But the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party (search), Ferrell Blount, complained the center was merely a vehicle to keep Edwards in the political limelight.

"He is actually using the state of North Carolina's tax dollars for his political operation, and that's not right," Blount said.

Gene Nichol, who as law school dean recruited Edwards to the new post, said the accusation is baseless.

"The center will outlast Senator Edwards' time with us, and will make a lasting contribution to the mission of the University of North Carolina," Nichol said Tuesday. "I don't think John Edwards needs the UNC law school to draw national press."