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Disclosure of affair cost Edwards $15K from IU

Former senator will still receive $35K for speech

POSTED AT 12:53 AM ON Oct. 3, 2008 

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After Union Board members announced Wednesday that former Sen. John Edwards will speak at IU in November, many in the IU community questioned why he was speaking after admitting to an extramarital affair while his wife battled cancer.

Those same discussions took place among Union Board members long before Wednesday’s announcement.

The story of how Union Board got Edwards to speak at IU relies a little on luck and a lot on good timing.

In August, two days after Union Board Lectures Director Andrew Dahlen sent a proposal to the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Edwards announced his extramarital affair.

Dahlen was shocked. He took a few days to rethink bringing Edwards to campus. After speaking with co-sponsors, Dahlen sent a new proposal offering Edwards $35,000 – $15,000 less than the original offer.

Dahlen talked to other sponsoring board members, representatives from the IU College Democrats and the Residence Halls Association, as well as IU Bloomington Provost Karen Hanson, before making his decision.

“It was very much a consensus with the organizations within the Union Board and within the University that this was the way to proceed,” Dahlen said.

Less than two weeks later, Dahlen learned that Edwards had accepted the offer. Soon after, Edwards canceled all his public appearances until after the Nov. 4 election – only a week before Edwards was scheduled to speak.

This didn’t affect Edwards’ planned IU visit because Dahlen had spoken with Hanson, who recommended moving the event until after the elections to avoid politicizing the event.

“In hindsight, that saved the event, because it would have been canceled had we not done that,” Dahlen said.

Dahlen knew people would criticize the selection of Edwards, but he said the former North Carolina senator was the best choice given his reduced price and proximity to the election.

Nathan Click, Union Board public relations director, said the board had to weigh the downsides of bringing Edwards against his ability to analyze the results of the election.

Both Click and Dahlen understood people’s concerns but said the board can’t analyze someone’s personal life when choosing a speaker.

“It sets a dangerous precedent for us if we were not to bring him for this sole reason,” Dahlen said.

Dahlen added that Edwards was the only affordable option of someone involved in the electoral process.

“It’s understandable for people to have their views of the situation and of him coming to IU, but at the end of the day, he is a tremendous voice and a tremendous player in the political process,” Click said. “There’s really no better person across the nation that can comment on the political process better than he could.”

 

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