The simmering Obama-Edwards feud over 527's boiled over on Saturday.
OSKALOOSA, Iowa (CNN) — Barack Obama took aim at Democratic rival John Edwards at an Iowa campaign event Saturday, unleashing his harshest criticism yet of the former North Carolina senator for not using his influence to end the actions of third-party groups that support his presidential campaign in Iowa.
"John said yesterday he didn't believe in these 527s. You can't say yesterday you don't believe in it, and today three-quarters of a million dollars is being spent for you,” said Obama. “You can't just talk the talk. Everybody talks change, but how did they act when it was not convenient, when it's hard?"
This week, the Obama campaign has tried to draw attention to what it describes as Edwards’ links to several 527 groups - independent organizations that can raise unlimited funds for ads that can create an environment favorable to their candidate of choice, as long as they do not directly advocate that individual's election.
Its loudest complaints have been about the Alliance for a New America, a Service Employees International Union-linked group which is advertising in support of John Edwards. "The individual who's running the group used to be John Edwards' campaign manager," Obama said Saturday. Nick Baldick, Edwards' 2004 campaign manager, is now part of Alliance for a New America.
The group’s ads praising Edwards are already running on Iowa radio, and Obama said today that it had purchased $750,000 in television time as well. Later, the Illinois senator told reporters that if Edwards wanted to get the ads off the air, he “has such a good relationship with the person who runs it, I suspect that he should be able to get it done.”
He also told the crowd Saturday that Edwards had not done enough while in office to combat the influence Washington lobbyists.
Responding to Obama’s criticism, John Edwards said he had only learned of the group’s actions through the media, and would prefer it if their ads did not air. “I don't have any direct control over it because the law requires that I stay out of it. But I would prefer that all the 527’s, not just this one, but all the 527’s stay out of Iowa,” he said, emphasizing that he had no authority to make that happen.
He also fired back at Barack Obama over lobbyist contributions. “I'm proud of the fact that I've never taken any money, unlike Senator Obama, never taken any money from a Washington lobbyist or a PAC [political action committee].”
During his last presidential run, Edwards faced similar complaints from rival candidates after campaign aide Jonathan Prince allegedly resigned before the Iowa caucuses to help run a 527 that benefited Edwards’ candidacy.
This year, Obama’s campaign has complained that independent groups have poured millions into Iowa on behalf of both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards leading up to that state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, now less than two weeks away.
On Thursday, Obama - who has used attacks from Democratic rivals to raise funds for his White House run – made a new bid for campaign cash based on actions by some of those third-party groups.
“Right now groups supporting Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are flooding Iowa and the other early states with millions of dollars in paid ads, phone calls, and mailings,” he wrote in a fundraising email sent to supporters Thursday. “Some of it is negative and even deceptive, and a lot of it is paid for by huge, unregulated contributions from special interests.”
–CNN's Chris Welch, Jessica Yellin, and Rebecca Sinderbrand