Edwards, money and hypocrisy (Part 2)

Former Sen. John Edwards' controversial comments in favor of limiting the number of participants in the presidential debates came after an NAACP candidates forum in which straight-talking former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) blasted fellow Democrats for their corporate cash-driven health care proposals.

"Follow the money," Gravel urged. Joe Biden is "getting a lot of money from the trial lawyers. The rest are getting millions from the health care industry. If you think they're going to do something for you on health care, you're more gullible than I thought."

An item that appeared Friday on the AfterDowningStreet.org blog followed Gravel's advice. It examined Edwards' $16.1 million investment in Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund that in turn invests in Humana -- one of the health insurance companies that comes under fire for denying care to sick policyholders in Michael Moore's popular new documentary "Sicko." David Swanson reports:

Edwards does not just invest in Fortress. It also invests in him, to the tune of $1.7 million in pay and investment income, including $479,512 in salary for a year of "part-time consulting" that began in October 2005. And then there are the campaign contributions.

As the Associated Press reported recently, Fortress was the single biggest employer of Edwards' donors during the first quarter of the year; donors who listed "Fortress" as their employer contributed $67,450 to Edwards' campaign during the three-month period.

At the same time, Edwards is promoting a health care proposal that would boost the profits of Humana and other big insurers by requiring Americans to purchase policies from private companies.

So much for being a man of the people. Insurance companies, more like it.

Notably, during the forum that sparked Edwards' whispered call for restricting the number of participants in future debates, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) criticized Edwards' health care proposal. Kucinich supports a not-for-profit single-payer system like the one used by most of the world's wealthy nations; it would essentially eliminate the need for private health insurers.

Gravel and Kucinich would likely be two of the candidates eliminated from any debate in which participation hinged on fundraising success. To date, Kucinich has reported raising just shy of $350,000, while Gravel has raised just over $15,000 -- the second-to-last and last fundraisers respectively among the current Democratic pack.