A Texas lawyer's favorite liar

The SE Texas Record Aug. 16, 2008, 4:52am

In spite of John Edwards' failed presidential campaigns, Texas trial lawyers such as serial-lawsuit-filing-birds-of-a-feather Wayne Reaud, John Eddie Williams, John O'Quinn and Russell Budd have nothing but good things to say about him.

But nobody cares more about him than Dallas asbestos lawyer magnate Fred Baron, recently identified as the cover-up bankroller for the former U.S. senator's infamous liar-adulterer scandal.

In case you missed it, last week Edwards finally confessed to a wretched affair with a wanna-be videographer who calls herself Rielle Hunter -- her real name is Lisa Druck. That affair went on while Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, fought life-threatening breast cancer.

When Hunter was hunted down by the press in Santa Barbara, Calif., with her newborn child, Baron admitted he bankrolled the cross-country move to get her away from the North Carolina media epicenter of affair and pregnancy rumors that had been circulating for weeks.

Edwards denies the newborn is his, though, and one of his campaign aides now says he's the dad. Such is the slime from which Baron was extracting Edwards' playmate.

News reports peg Hunter's monthly maintenance fees at $15,000 per month, though Baron denies the amount is that much.

It's Baron's newest legacy -- Mr. Hush Money, perhaps preferable to his reigning title as inventor of the Great American Law Firm Asbestos Mill. Baron seems to wear the latter as a badge of honor.

Baron's legal efforts in the late 1990s mandated that companies would have to fight masses of asbestos cases individually, rather than as a part of larger class action lawsuits. This guaranteed his firm, Baron & Budd, could collect fees on each and every suit, earning Baron hundreds of millions personally -- enough for him to buy a $15 million trophy house and gain entry into the highest political circles which included lots of face time with men like Edwards.

It also changed the face of asbestos litigation. Previously a handful of cases emerged annually, pursued on behalf of seriously ill plaintiffs against asbestos manufacturers. Now fee-driven lawyers with Baron in the lead pursue masses of cases at once, filed on behalf of plaintiffs -- many questionable -- alleging damages by companies with no direct connection to asbestos.

The lawsuit transformation, personified by Baron's asbestos actions, has driven 85 companies into bankruptcy and will eventually cost the U.S. economy (meaning "us") between $200-275 billion, according to the Rand Institute, a respected think tank.

The silver lining now for one silver-tongued presidential candidate is a private plane and endless cash at his disposal, in spite of recent disgraceful antics which Edwards can no longer lie about.

Where does it end.

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