Fishy Donors Haunt Hillary’s Run

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One of former senator John Edwards' top money folks -- trial lawyer William S. Lerach -- is now headed to prison for at least 12 months under a plea agreement on a conspiracy charge. The Washington Post's Solomon and Carrie Johnson report that Edwards "used the bully pulpit of his presidential campaign to publicly pressure the Securities and Exchange Commission" on Lerach's behalf in May. Edwards on Tuesday returned his personal donations from Lerach -- and he's given to other Democrats as well -- but Edwards "isn't returning the money he raised from others," Solomon and Johnston write.

Elsewhere in the campaign (and not to jinx anybody's streak here), former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., is as hot as his beloved Yankees this week. But Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., looked more like the Mets yesterday -- stumbling en route to the playoffs.

To review Giuliani's past few days: He's tussling with Clinton (even though he seems oddly taken with the Clintons' fame), and is talking tough against Iran. In Iowa, his campaign is engaged in an ad war not with his challengers but with the liberal group MoveOn.org -- a fight Rudy will take any day. And he spent yesterday hobnobbing with the Brits, with Winston Churchill's granddaughter calling the former New York City mayor "Churchill in a baseball cap."

ABC's Jake Tapper sees Giuliani trying to look past his GOP rivals: "His focus on Clinton rather than his GOP opponents is clearly calculated to demonstrate to Republicans, many of whom are wary of some of his more liberal views, that he is best equipped to defeat Clinton in a general election," Tapper writes. "He is also hoping that his London visit will feed into the image of him as a statesman that he's worked to project, as opposed to past moments when he seemed more a rough-and-tumble New York City street fighter."

This is a frontrunner's campaign that's hitting its stride. But before he can coast to any nomination, he'll have to answer skeptics like those he'll face tomorrow when he and the rest of the GOP field appears before the before the National Rife Association (Rudy's Red Sox -- in Orange Jackets?) in Washington. Those decade-old comments he made calling the NRA "extremists" are suddenly getting wide circulation.

And "even as the former New York mayor strives to burnish his Second Amendment credentials at the gathering in Washington, a panel of federal judges in his home town will be hearing arguments on the lawsuit that Giuliani filed seven years ago aimed at punishing the nation's gun manufacturers for violent crimes involving firearms," write Michael Shear and Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post.

Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla doesn't think gun owners are ready to buy candidates' transformations. "At least two of the party's frontrunners, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, have histories of support for gun control. While the two are shifting their stances, it may not be enough to overcome the suspicions of gun owners, who may be more attracted by former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson."

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