Under the Dome

Edwards lawyer denies plea deal in the works

May 21, 2010 

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is not seeking a plea deal with federal prosecutors over questions regarding his use of campaign funds, contrary to a widely circulated report in a tabloid, his attorney said.

"The National Enquirer's assertion that we are in plea discussions is false," said Wade Smith, a Raleigh lawyer and a former law partner of the former North Carolina senator.

A federal grand jury has been investigating possible violations relating to his political committee's payments to Rielle Hunter, whose child Edwardsfathered during his presidential run.

The National Enquirer quoted unidentified sources this week saying that to avoid jail time, "Edwards has been working around-the-clock behind the scenes with his lawyers to work out a deal with prosecutors."

But Smith said no such work is going on.

Because The National Enquirer broke the story of Edwards' extramarital affair with Hunter and his effort to cover it up during his 2008 presidential campaign, the paper's subsequent reporting on Edwards has received wide circulation in the news media and on blogs.

Dinner with Obama

Steve Lerner hosted the first North Carolina fundraiser for presidential candidate Barack Obama back in June 2007.

On Wednesday night, Obama returned the favor.

Lerner, a public relations and marketing executive from Chapel Hill, was scheduled to be a guest at a White House dinner Wednesday night for Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa.

Lerner and Dr. Sharon Van Horn, a Chapel Hill pediatrician, were on the dinner's list of invited guests.

On the menu were Wagyu beef in black mole sauce with grilled beans, a salad of jicama with oranges, grapefruit and pineapple, followed by herb green seviche of Hawaiian opah (a type of fish). For dessert, guests had a chocolate cajeta (a syrupy confection) tart with toasted homemade marshmallows along with graham cracker crumble and goat cheese ice cream.

Rivals no more: Ken Lewis, the Chapel Hill lawyer who finished third in the Senate primary, endorsed his former opponent, Elaine Marshall, perhaps delivering African-American votes to her for the June 22 runoff with Cal Cunningham.

Insurance smackdown: Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin called an emergency news conference to fight a special provision in the Senate budget proposal that would strip him of his rate-making authority. The provision was shocking, he said, and happened "in the cover of darkness." Senate leader Marc Basnight said the idea came from his office but ended up in the budget legislation by mistake. The item was later removed.

Wise to privatize? Two circulating proposals would outsource parts of the state's troubled mental health and probation systems. Lobbyists are pushing privatization, and legislators and state officials are listening. Skeptics say it's a bad idea.

In other news: Former Department of Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett was issued a subpoena in the federal investigation into former Gov. Mike Easley's administration. The Senate budget proposal allows local school systems to furlough teachers. Odd couple: Former Gov. Jim Hunt and "American Idol" finalist Anoop Desai teamed up on a You Tube video to ask people to oppose cuts to the Smart Start early childhood education program.

By staff writers Rob Christensen and Jane Stancill

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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