After very nearly being beaten by lawyer and community activist Donna Edwards (D) in the 2006 primary, Rep. Albert Wynn (D) has repeatedly tried to turn Edwards’ work for the Washington, D.C.-based Arca Foundation into a liability for her this campaign cycle.
Last week, for the third time since September, Wynn’s campaign said a group that is endorsing Edwards is doing so because of its financial ties to the foundation. This time, Wynn’s campaign is questioning the soon-to-be announced endorsement of Edwards by Clean Water Action, an environmental and public health organization.
According to Arca’s grant records, which are posted on the Web, in 2004 the Clean Water Fund, which is affiliated with Clean Water Action, received a $75,000 grant from the foundation. Edwards has served as executive director of the Arca Foundation since 2000, though she is on leave as she campaigns for Congress.
Lori Sherwood, Wynn’s campaign spokeswoman, said the financial tie raises more conflict-of-interest questions. Wynn’s campaign has raised similar concerns in recent weeks with the League of Conservation Voters and Progressive Maryland endorsements of Edwards. Both groups have received grants in the past from Arca.
“This is another example where once again [Edwards] has gotten an endorsement from a group that Arca has given to,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood said these groups should disclose their relationship with the foundation at the time of their endorsements.
The renewed conflict-of-interest claims come a week after a 4th district Democratic debate where Wynn went after Edwards over Arca’s financial investment portfolio. He claimed that the foundation’s investments in companies like Verizon and Halliburton show that Edwards will represent the interests of large corporations in Congress.
Edwards has repeatedly said that Wynn’s complaints about her control over Arca’s grants are disingenuous and little more than a campaign tactic by an incumbent who is running scared.
Margery Tabankin, a former Arca executive director and current member of its board of directors, said Wynn is wrong if he thinks Edwards’ position with the foundation gives her control over the organization’s investments or final grant decisions.
“I think it is really both unfortunate and a little desperate for the Congressman to be attacking the good name and the good work of charitable organizations that are trying to make a difference in people’s lives,” Edwards said. “He’s trying to distract and deflect from his own record of failure.”
— John McArdle