Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

November 2, 2003

by J

Another Non-Issue

Trivia and minutiae. Tapped reports that Edwards is getting hammered over .... that's right .... a failed real estate deal. Short version from what I can tell is that he was trying to sell his house and the deal fell through, leaving $100,000 in an escrow account. Turns out the non-buyer was somehow connected with the Saudis.
Though the sale broke off nearly a year ago, Edwards hasn't returned or publicly disclosed Petruzzello's $100,000 deposit, which remains in a real estate escrow account as the senator decides what to do with it. Edwards recently sold the house to another buyer for a half-million dollars less than Petruzzello's offer.

"If I took control of the $100,000, I would disclose it because that would be an asset of mine and it would be necessary that it should be disclosed. And that disclosure would include making sure that it was appropriate because of the legal issues associated it with it," Edwards told The Associated Press.

The Senate ethics manual says lawmakers are obligated to avoid financial transactions that create even the "possibility or appearance" of a conflict of interest or if "they have personal financial stakes in the outcome of their official duties." Discretion is left to the senator.

Edwards said he handled the transaction through real estate agents and doesn't believe he had any obligation to try to learn about Petruzzello's clients.

[...] Several ethics experts who reviewed the transaction at the request of AP said they believed Edwards had an obligation to recognize the appearance of a conflict of interest once he learned of the Saudi connection, either disclosing the transaction or seeking Senate Ethics Committee clearance.

"The potential conflict of interest is readily apparent when a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence receives $100,000 in a real or sham business deal with a foreign agent or a person with extensive foreign contracts at the same time the Senate is investigating possible lapses in national security," said Kent Cooper, the former head of government's public disclosure office for federal candidates.
Ok. Maybe I could buy the argument that if he decides to keep the money that he has to disclose something. But, as he states, he hasn't decided what to do about it and I believe him when he says he didn't know the buyer had anything to do with the Saudis. Maybe I'm being naive, but this looks oppo-gone-wild.
Posted by J at November 2, 2003 08:53 AM

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