US Chamber helping form alliance critical of Edwards' law career

WASHINGTON: The US Chamber of Commerce is helping to launch a 527 group assailing vice presidential candidate John Edwards for his former career as a trial lawyer. The effort will be led by Burson-Marsteller COO Ken Rietz.

WASHINGTON: The US Chamber of Commerce is helping to launch a 527 group assailing vice presidential candidate John Edwards for his former career as a trial lawyer. The effort will be led by Burson-Marsteller COO Ken Rietz.

Known as The November Fund, the group will run ads and media campaigns in swing states linking Edwards to frivolous lawsuits believed by the chamber to damage American companies and the economy. The chamber is the largest lobbying and advocacy group representing the interests of US business.

Although The November Fund is not formally tied to the chamber, it has already received half a million dollars in funding from the advocacy group, with assurances of further fundraising assistance.

Named for the section of the tax code under which they operate, 527s exploit a loophole in campaign-finance law to raise and spend unlimited funds on election advertisements and media campaigns.

The chamber is a longstanding client of Burson's. Nonetheless, Rietz has taken a leave of absence from the firm to act as The November Fund's director.

"Burson has a policy of not being involved in candidates' campaigns in any way, so I took a leave of absence so the company would not be involved," he said.

Rietz added that he will return to Burson following the election in November.

Chamber president Thomas Donahue had warned Democrats earlier this year that his group would drop its "customary neutrality" in order to campaign against Edwards if he were selected as John Kerry's running mate. The chamber still does not intend to make an official endorsement, he said, but will act aggressively through The November Fund to assure Bush's re-election.

"We [will] run a campaign that says there is a runaway legal system in this country," Donahue told The Wall Street Journal. "We have an acute problem here. If Edwards ends up in the second- most-important job in the government, he will influence the appointment of at least a thousand people in the government, and he will be a party to naming the next four justices on the Supreme Court."

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