Born in South Carolina, John Edwards grew up in Robbins, North Carolina and likes to claim himself as a native North Carolinian. He graduated from North Carolina State with a BS in textiles before earning a law degree from the University of North Carolina.
Before being elected to the Senate he was a practicing personal-injury attorney for 20 years, achieving status as on the top ambulance-chasers in the state’s history. Edwards won verdicts totaling $152 million, including one for $25 million, the largest personal-injury verdict ever in North Carolina. With 30% or more going to him as the lawyer for every victory, he amassed a fortune estimated between $20 and $50 million.
His trial-lawyer millions helped launch his political career just seven years ago. A political novice who had not even voted in every election or could remember whether he originally registered as a Republican or a Democrat, Edwards decided that his first attempt at public office would be to run for the US Senate. In his primary, he spent $3.2 million dollars. He claimed he would be “a people’s senator, someone who speaks for all the people of North Carolina, not the special interests.” In the general election, Edwards spent over $6 million of his own money to defeat one term incumbent, Lauch Faircloth 51%-47%.
Since being elected, Edwards name has risen in prominence despite his relative lack of political achievements. His only major legislative accomplishments have been the passing of HMO regulation and the No Child Left Behind Act, an ill-conceived federalization of education. Yet, he is a media darling and was in consideration for the vice presidential nomination in 2000.
The 2004 election year will be very interesting for Edwards, as he must eventually choose between a run for the White House or a defense of his Senate seat. They are both long shots—thanks to a largely anti-freedom, pro-trial lawyer voting record in his first Senate term, he may find the sledding tougher running again state-wide in North Carolina than he does in the Democratic Presidential primary.
John Edwards consistently votes against any kind of tax cuts or tax reform and in favor of spending increases. In 1999 he voted against reducing taxes by $792 billion over 10 years. The next year he voted against limiting discretionary spending. In 2000 he voted against a temporary suspension of the gas tax and against reducing the marriage penalty. In 2001 he voted against reducing capitol gains and President Bush’s Tax Relief Package. In 2002, he voted against permanently repealing the death tax. Finally, most recently, he voted against the President’s Jobs and Growth package.
Edwards supports increasing the minimum wage, a position that costs jobs for entry-level and low-income workers.
A press release from Senator Edwards office reads, “Senator Edwards Supports Social Security Reform.” However, upon reading the release further, it is obvious that he does not support true reform of the current system. He supported not penalizing seniors who continue to work past the age of retirement, but he does not support personal retirement accounts. He does not even support a Social Security lockbox. Instead, Edwards wants to make sure that Social Security funds will always be available for the government to dip its hands into.
Edwards voting record demonstrates his opposition to school choice. He voted against an amendment that would have given parents the right to create a tax-free educational savings account of up to $2000 per child per year to fund public or private school tuition or other educational expenses. He also voted against creating a voucher program for disadvantaged students. Edwards’s solution to the failures of our nation’s public schools is to simply throw more money at the problem. He voted yes to grant public schools $2.4 billion to reduce class sizes and another $200 million to fund standardized testing instead of private tutoring.
Edwards has yet to take a definitive stand on welfare reform. However, given that he votes with Senator Kennedy (D-MA) over 90% of the time, it is likely that he opposes giving the states more control over their welfare programs.
Senator Edwards’ stance on tort reform is clear. He is inflexibly opposed to anything that resembles tort reform. Edwards made a fortune as a personal injury trial lawyer, and he actively embraces the dark underbelly of our broken legal system. More than 4 out of every 5 dollars donated to Edward’s PAC comes from trial lawyers. Edwards even helped squash a bill that would have imposed limits on lawsuits in the wake of September 11. He also helped pass legislation that makes it easier to file lawsuits against HMOs, and opposes caps on malpractice suits. He also voted against protecting computer companies from frivolous lawsuits after Y2K and against capping the settlements.
Senator Edwards has a mixed record on free trade. He supports it when it is politically convenient and opposes it otherwise. He supported granting permanent normal trade status to China, but he voted against extending similar trade benefits to nations of the Caribbean, Central America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Most recently, he voted against trade promotion authority.
Edwards’s Score Card
ADA – Americans for Democratic Action
ACLU – American Civil Liberties Union
AFS – American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees
LCV – League of Conservation Voters
CON – Concord Coalition
ITIC – Information Technology Industry Council
NTU – National Taxpayers Union
COC – Chamber of Commerce of the United States
ACU – American Conservative Union
NTLC – National Tax-Limitation Committee
CHC – Christian Coalition