Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards derided as a "fantasy" Friday Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's hope that he can work with Washington lobbyists to bring about change as he seeks to sharpen his differences with the Democratic front-runners in advance of Sunday's ABC News Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa.
Edwards said in an interview with ABC News aboard his campaign bus that Obama's statement that lobbyists would "have a seat at the table" under his administration misunderstands the nature of their power over Washington business.
"I disagree with that," Edwards said on board the "Fighting for One America" bus, as he and his campaign entourage traveled between campaign stops in Iowa. "The idea that lobbyists for insurance companies, drug companies, oil companies, are going to voluntarily give away their power is a fantasy. I don't think it will ever happen. I think the only way we're going to bring about change is to take them on head-on, and to defeat them."
Edwards had sharper words for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., suggesting that she would bring her own group of "Washington insiders" if she were elected president.
"I'm not going to replace one group of Washington insiders with another group of Washington insiders," Edwards said when asked about Clinton's relationship with lobbyists. "There's a very clear distinction in terms of what I want to do to bring about the change. Sen. Clinton continues to raise money from (lobbyists), and I think we should say no to that. I mean, Sen. Clinton has been part of Washington for a very long time."
The Clinton campaign responded by saying that her record leaves her best positioned to lead the call for change in the presidential election and beyond.
"Hillary Clinton has fought for change her whole life, and is the candidate with the strength and experience to actually make change happen starting in 2009," said Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman.
Obama's camp also took issue with Edwards.
"Obama has done more to curb lobbyists' influence than anyone else in this race and has the furthest reaching plan to fundamentally reform government and shut the revolving door between the White House and K Street," said Obama campaign spokesperson Bill Burton.
"In Obama's administration," Burton continued, "individuals will not be able to work on regulations or contracts directly related to former employers for two years. And when someone leaves, he or she will not be able to lobby the administration throughout the remainder of his term in office."
Edwards is also facing renewed questions about his commitment to fighting poverty.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that 34 New Orleans homes have had their owners face foreclosure suits from subprime-lending units of Fortress Investment Group, the hedge fund Edwards worked for in 2005 and 2006 -- and that he still had $16 million invested in.
Edwards said he has already moved to divest himself from any Fortress funds that were involved in the actions against Hurricane Katrina victims. He also said he has begun efforts to reach out to those facing foreclosure lawsuits, and said he would dip into his own pocket to help them.
"It's going to take some work to find them," Edwards said. "I don't have a plan yet (of how to help). I just found out about this, and I've got to figure out a way to help them."