The John Edwards Indictment

Seems dubious to me.

You just read the headlines and you get the impression that JE took money that had been contributed to “his campaign” and used it to hide his mistress. But from what I’ve read, that doesn’t seem to be what is being alleged.

Apparently, a wealthy admirer/supporter of his contributed the money directly to the people involved. The feds are treating this as a “campaign contribution” because it had the effect (possibly intended) of helping his campaign. I don’t buy it.

I see some of the articles about the case say that the indictment “breaks new ground”, but they’ve been vague about just what new ground is being broken. Possibly this is the issue.

There’s enough malfeasance around without breaking new ground, IMHO. This looks like overzealous prosecution to me.

Couple of links.

As Yahoo put it, quoting the indictment

Does the money have to go into, and come directly out of, the coffers of his campaign to be considered a donation? What about if a backer/booster directly bought a bunch of air time on TV, trumpeting our favorite ambulance chaser, with or without his coordination/blessing?

Wouldn’t that be a campaign contribution? How is this any different?

My understanding is that someone who buys a bunch of air time supporting a candidate is not making a campaign contribution, and the candidate does not have to report it. That said, JE was more directly involved in this case.

But JE had reasons to cover this up that went far beyond this particular campaign. This affair destroyed his life. It’s not like it was just about the campaign.

[Truth is that JE had enough money to pay for the mistress by himself, and didn’t really need this suporter’s money. But I imagine that direct payments by him would have brought it to the attention of other people, most notably Elizabeth.]

The interests of John Edwards the candidate and John Edwards the man were the same here, and I have trouble believing he was unaware his benefactors were giving Hunter the money (one of his own aides lied about being the baby’s father). I’m not sure where this leaves the case legally. I was just saying in the MPSIMS thread there’s no way this case goes to trial because no jury will be favorably disposed to Edwards.

That’s true. I would say that means it’s not a campaign contribution.


There have apparently been ongoing negotiations about this for some time, but apparently Edwards doesn’t want to plead guilty to anything that will cost him his law license.

And I would say it might count as a campaign contribution even if it wasn’t made directly through the campaign, especially since it was made by people who were supporting Edwards.

There are other things that come into play here.

At one point Rielle Hunter was a paid campaign staffer. This same campaign accepted federal matching funds. So even if Rielle Hunter never collected a dime of salary that wasn’t legitimately earned through filming her videos, and even if none of the money touched campaign coffers directly, it still is a federal case because she was part of the campaign, and because there were federal funds involved and federal election laws in play.

Since Edwards or his agents solicited separate unreported contributions to keep her quiet, they attempted to preserve the appearance of financial and marital fidelity to the electorate. This is essentially a conspiracy to perpetrate a financial crime - not reporting income to an organization. Were this a private organization the IRS would be involved and Edwards would be glad to just lose his law license.

If you solicit money and then use it for a campaing purpose, it’s a campaign contribution.

If you solicit money for a personal purpose, it isn’t.

So that’s what the case will hinge on – was the money for the private purpose of hiding Edwards’ infidelity from his wife, or the political purpose of hiding it from the country?

I think there’s enough evidence to indict – that is, there’s probable cause to believe it was political motivations.

But there’s not, and likely never will be, enough evidence to say beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not personal.

And since the rule of lenity should apply to criminal law anyway, I think this indictment was a misuse of the government’s time and power. Marley23’s comment is right on the nose: “The interests of John Edwards the candidate and John Edwards the man were the same here…”

That being the case, no conviction should be had on these facts.

I am never surprised when a married politician gets caught with women. There are a lot of beautiful women throwing themselves at pols. The pols are ego driven people who are competitive and like to conquer opponents. History has shown they also conquer women. It is difficult to find a pol who does not mess around.
But it is the cover up that kills your career. Lie to the people and when they find out you are done.
That assumes you are a Democrat. The Repubs can get away with it.

But nobody is alleging that these payments were made for her work on the campaign.

But what if it’s both (as is undoubtedly the case here)?

How did he report the money to the IRS? Or was it given directly to the mistress?

John Ensign would beg to differ.

But, presumadly, the donor gave the money because of the donor’s political interest in JE’s future. He (or she) would not have supported the mistress otherwise.

Does the donor’s motivation matter here, legally speaking?

I think this will be a key issue. Will a jury believe that the contributor would have given the money if Edwards hadn’t been a candidate?

Here’s a blogger making largely the same point:

See also:

But if it was a gift and not a campaign contribution, couldn’t they nail him for tax evasion for not paying the gift tax?

It’s the giver who pays the federal gift tax, not the recipient.

It wasn’t given directly to him.

I can’t imagine the IRS would argue that someone should pay taxes on money given to someone else simply because it had the effect of helping the first person.

I thought the political cartoon on that page was pretty funny.

Interesting analysis, and it does raise the question-- where does one draw the line? If I offer him a free sandwich, is that a campaign contribution?

I can’t find any jury instructions on this point in an admittedly cursory search, but I suspect the jury would be asked to determine if the primary purpose, or a substantial purpose, was political.