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Booster paid Hunter, aide

Edwards says he didn't know of payments by Texas fundraiser to move the two to Calif.

By Ames Alexander
Staff Writers

One of John Edwards' largest fundraisers says he made payments to Rielle Hunter, but maintains that the former presidential candidate wasn't aware of his involvement.

Fred Baron, a prominent Texas trial lawyer who served as finance chairman of Edwards' two presidential campaigns, told The Dallas Morning News he paid money to Hunter to move from North Carolina to another location.

He told the Dallas newspaper that Hunter and Andrew Young, a former campaign aide who has claimed paternity of Hunter's child, were being followed by tabloid reporters who believed Edwards had fathered her child.

The National Enquirer this month reported that a wealthy supporter of Edwards' was funneling at least $15,000 a month to Hunter, the woman with whom the former presidential candidate now acknowledges he was having an affair.

Baron issued a statement Friday saying he “decided independently to help two friends and former colleagues rebuild their lives.”

“I found that the situation was so destructive to the lives of these two friends that I decided to personally offer help,” he wrote in a statement to the (Raleigh) News & Observer. “John Edwards was not aware that assistance was provided to anyone involved in this matter.”

It is believed that Hunter and Young previously lived in separate homes in Chapel Hill before moving to Santa Barbara, Calif.

Baron has not returned repeated calls from the Observer this week.

Baron, who built a fortune working with a Dallas law firm that specialized in representing victims of asbestos, pesticides and other harmful chemicals, raised millions to fuel Edwards' campaigns.

In an interview with ABC News, Edwards denied that he was involved with any hush-money payments.

“I also have not been engaged in any activity of any description that requested, agreed to or supported payments of any kind to the woman or to the apparent father of the baby,” he wrote in a statement issued Friday evening.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Edwards frequently flew in Baron's plane.

The Edwards campaign made 86 payments totaling about $628,000 to Baron during the first nine months of 2007, according to a Boston Globe analysis of campaign finance reports.

Baron, 61, a past president of the Association of Trial Lawyers, has been one of the nation's top Democratic fundraisers, and one of the largest political contributors in Texas.

Baron's charitable foundation gave $330,000 to various Texas organizations for food and shelter earlier this year.

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