Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards reported nearly $39 million in income in the past decade, according to tax returns released by his campaign yesterday.
Edwards, who was a trial lawyer for two decades before winning a seat in the Senate in 1998, reported earnings of $11.4 million in 1997. That year he won two of his biggest cases and set records for jury awards in North Carolina -- a $25 million verdict for the family of a girl who was disemboweled in a wading pool and a $23.3 million medical malpractice verdict for a child injured at birth.
The joint returns for Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, show that they paid $13.2 million, more than 34 percent of their income, in federal income taxes from 1994 to 2003. The couple reported income of $5.2 million in 1994, $5.4 million in 1995, $4.3 million in 1996, $11.4 million in 1997, $5.9 million in 1998, $1.7 million in 1999, $1.8 million in 2000, $1.7 million in 2001, $1.2 million in 2002 and $306,000 in 2003. Until 2001, Elizabeth Edwards listed her occupation as attorney; since then, she has listed her occupation as homemaker.
The tax returns show that Edwards and his wife reported $5 million in business income after he became a senator, a result of payments he received from his former law partners who bought out his share of the firm. The money did not violate the Senate's restrictions on outside income because the payments were for services prior to his joining the government payroll. Senators receive an annual salary of $158,100.
Republicans have frequently criticized Edwards's former career, blaming trial lawyers -- particularly those who specialize in medical malpractice -- for driving up the cost of business. President Bush, for example, has called for tort reform.
Edwards often talks on the stump about his humble beginnings; his father worked in a mill, and he was the first in his family to go to college. He sometimes tells audiences that he is "blessed" to now be financially secure.
Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry reported $395,338 in income last year and paid $90,575 in taxes. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to the Heinz food company fortune, reported income of $5.1 million in income last year and paid $587,000 in taxes.
President Bush last year reported income of $822,000, on which he paid 28 percent in federal taxes. In the late 1990s, Bush sold his share of the Texas Rangers baseball team for about $15 million. Vice President Cheney, a former chief executive at Halliburton, reported $1.3 million in income last year and paid 20 percent of that in taxes.
Researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.