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Obama slams Edwards over 527s

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
OSCALOOSA, Iowa -- Hillary
Clinton is not the only candidate Barack Obama is ready to get into the
ring with as the Iowa caucuses draw near.

Obama slammed John
Edwards at a town hall today, saying he "talks the talk" but doesn't
"walk the walk" when it comes to the influence of special interest
groups. 

"Both of us agree that we have to take on the special
interests and lobbyists. Both of us agree that they have too much
influence in Washington. But I'd like to think in decisions when we
actually had the chance to do something about it, I did something and
John didn't. I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk."

Obama
criticized Edwards for saying that he doesn't approve of 527s, while at
the same time not disavowing a group, Alliance for a New America, run
by long-time Edwards advisor and 2004 campaign manager, Nick Baldick.  
In the current presidential cycle, Baldick served as a consultant to
Edwards through the second quarter of 2007.

"You've got these outside groups that are helping out candidates and it's a way of getting around the  campaign finance laws. So he said he's opposed to them - we found out today that there is an outside group spending $750,000-  – just bought three quarters of a million dollars worth of television time – and the individual who's running the group used to be John Edwards's campaign manager. So you can't say yesterday you don't believe in 'em, and today you have three quarters of a million dollars being spent for you. You can't just talk the talk. The easiest thing in the world is to talk about change during election time."  

On Friday, according to the Associated Press, John Edwards said of 527s: "The way the law exists today is you have no control you're not allowed by law to have contact or to coordinate with 527s. So can you discourage it? Yes, and I do."  

Alliance for a New America will buy $769,610 in advertising across Iowa on Tuesday, with 1,400 gross ratings points in Des Moines, 1300 in Cedar Rapids and 1900 in Sioux City   - an Edwards stronghold. The group is backed by local branches of the Service Employees International Union, of which Edwards has the most endorsements.

Combine this ad buy with the actual Edwards ad buy and pro-Edwards groups are out-spending both Clinton and Obama.  Both Edwards and Clinton are benefitting from the help of outside groups; no major outside special interest is helping Obama.

The Washington Post reported that the group has raised $850,000 and already spent $590,000 in radio ads. The group is also considering a direct mail program. Edwards has one other 527 advertising on his behalf, "Working for Working Families," a group backed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters also launched pro-Edwards television advertising in Iowa in mid-December.   

At a retail stop in Oscaloosa later in the day, Obama criticized Edwards but wouldn't go as far as to say that 527s should be disbanded or didn't have a role to play.

"I just think it's important to have consistency…  Yesterday you said you're opposed to it and the next day your campaign manager and political director is running one. One of the things that's really important to the people of Iowa is that there's gotta be follow through. We are delivering on that change not just talking about it," he said while ordering tea and pumpkin pie at a local coffee shop.

He went on to say the he was a strong backer of labor groups and that they had a right to advertise, but the process required more transparency.

"The concern is that there's no disclosure and we don't know where its coming from," he said.

*** UPDATE *** Edwards responds: "Senator Obama's attacks seem to increase as momentum for our campaign
grows. The truth is I am the only candidate in this race who has never
taken a dime of PAC or Washington lobbyist money -- ever. And, it's why
I support public financing of federal elections. As for
outside groups, unfortunately, you can't control them, but let me make
it clear -- I think money has corrupted our politics and these groups
should not be a part of the political process.

"Of
course, if Senator Obama is serious about real change, I hope he and
Senator Clinton will finally end their silence and join with me in
calling on the Democratic Party to end the influence of Washington
lobbyists by once and for all rejecting their money."