RENO, Nev. (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said his nonprofit anti-poverty center's activities have been "completely legal" and he does not plan to go beyond the legal requirements to disclose its donors.
Speaking to reporters after a town hall meeting Saturday night in Reno, Edwards denied accusations that the Center for Promise and Opportunity has been used to promote his presidential campaign.
Edwards noted his efforts on behalf of the center to raise the minimum wage in states, help low-income students attend college, organize workers into unions and engage young people in the fight against poverty.
"All of this was an effort to try to deal with the issue of poverty in America, which is the cause of my life," says Edwards. "What I've been doing is not only significant and there's nothing wrong with it, it's something I'm very proud of. Everything we did was not only completely legal but we did a lot of good."
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks money in politics, has suggested Edwards has used the nonprofit to help his presidential campaign and has pressed him to disclose its donors.
Asked whether he would comply with the request, Edwards replied,
"I will do whatever the law provides. That's what I do on all these things."
Unlike exploratory committees and political action committees, Edwards' nonprofit is not subject to the Federal Election Commission's strict transparency and oversight rules that require disclosure of expenditures and the source of donations.
The nonprofit filed its 2005 annual report with the Internal Revenue Service in November 2006 and has yet to file its 2006 report, asking for an extension beyond the May deadline.
Edwards formed the nonprofit in 2005, when he pursued his crusade against poverty. He did not declare himself a candidate for president until late in 2006.
In 2005, the nonprofit paid for Edwards' "Opportunity Rocks" tour of college campuses nationwide, including New Hampshire and several delegate-rich states.
Edwards told about 1,500 people during the town hall meeting that he would work to narrow the gap between "the two Americas - the very rich and everybody else."
He said people ask him why he's running for president when he's
subjected to so many personal attacks.
"Does that mean I can't speak out for those who don't have a voice?" Edwards asked. "Every time you do that you're going to get attacked ... It's always been that way in America because people who have wealth and power, they don't want to hear this.
They'd rather kill the messenger. They're not going to kill this
In Las Vegas, Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, told a crowd at the opening of the campaign's southern Nevada office that she and her husband were in the race to win.
She highlighted her husband's support of universal health care, expanding renewable energy programs and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean's strategy of focusing party resources in historically Republican territory.
Asked by a supporter whether her husband should take Dean as his
running mate, she replied, "I love Howard but Howard doesn't want
to play No. 2."
John Edwards was scheduled to appear at three fundraisers in Los
Angeles on Sunday before appearing with his wife on "The Tonight
Show" starring Jay Leno on Monday night, campaign spokesman Mark
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)