John Edwards Indicted Over Alleged Misuse of Money to Hide Affair
John Edwards, who sought the Democratic nomination twice and who enjoyed a legion of loyal, dedicated followers who believed in him, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts over coverup of extramarital affair, including conspiracy, illegal campaign contributions, CBS News reports:
A federal grand jury indicted two-time presidential candidate John Edwards on Friday over $925,000 spent to keep his mistress and their baby in hiding during the peak of his 2008 campaign for the White House.
The case of USA v. Johnny Reid Edwards contains six counts, including conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements. The indictment was returned in the Middle District of North Carolina Friday.
The indictment said the payments were a scheme to protect Edwards’ White House ambitions. “A centerpiece of Edwards’ candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man,” the indictment said.
“Edwards knew that public revelation of the affair and the pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining Edwards’ presentation of himself as a family man and by forcing his campaign to divert personnel and resources away from other campaign activities to respond to criticism and media scrutiny regarding the affair and pregnancy,” the indictment added.
The indictment and an arrest warrant were filed in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is in the district where his campaign was headquartered.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer on Friday denounced Edwards’ “scheme.”
“We will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supporters to circumvent our election laws,” he said in a statement. “Our campaign finance system is designed to preserve the integrity of democratic elections — for the presidency and all other elected offices — and we will vigorously pursue abuses of the kind alleged today.”
He is charged with one count of conspiracy, four counts of accepting illegal contributions and one count of making false statements by not disclosing the payments in federal campaign-finance reports.
Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, worked as a campaign videographer. Their daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, was born in February 2008, several weeks after he ended his White House bid.
He initially denied having the affair, but in the summer of 2008 admitted to a relationship with Hunter. Last year, he acknowledged fathering her child, just days before the release of a tell-all book by ex-campaign aide Andrew Young.
Young, who had initially claimed paternity to protect his boss, has said Edwards solicited money from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon, to hide the affair. Young said Mellon sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to him, funneled through her decorator and sometimes concealed in boxes of chocolates.
“This was the arrangement the senator expected me to follow, so that he would have plausible deniability,” Young wrote in his memoir, The Politician.
Defense lawyers have argued that a felony prosecution of Mr. Edwards—the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee and unsuccessful 2008 Democratic presidential candidate—would be a misuse of campaign-finance law. They say Mr. Edwards didn’t break the law.
The charges could represent the final chapter of a once-promising political career. A trial is likely to feature details of Mr. Edwards’s personal conduct as his wife, Elizabeth, battled cancer. She died last year.
The case also presents challenges for the Justice Department, which is using an aggressive strategy to argue that Mr. Edwards intended to violate campaign-finance laws.
More than $1 million was allegedly paid to the mistress, Rielle Hunter, and to former Edwards aide Andrew Young, whom Mr. Edwards initially named as the child’s father. The money was allegedly aimed at keeping the affair quiet and Mr. Edwards’s 2008 presidential campaign viable.
A key question in the probe is whether, as the government alleges, the money served a campaign purpose, people familiar with the investigation said. Federal election laws restrict the personal use of campaign donations and require disclosure of contributions.
“John Edwards has done wrong in his life—and he knows it better than anyone—but he did not break the law,” one of his lawyers, Greg Craig, said in a statement last week, as he led talks aimed at reaching a plea agreement. “The government’s theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is novel and untested.”
Key to the government’s allegations against Mr. Edwards is a 2000 Federal Election Commission advisory opinion known as Harvey, in which the commission said donors can’t get around disclosure laws just by asserting the donation isn’t linked to politics. Government lawyers, in discussions with Mr. Edwards’s lawyers, have argued the FEC opinion shows their case has precedent.
But no matter how this actual case turns out, one thing is certain:
John Edwards’ name will be forever associated with the word “sleaze” and “hypocrite” because of the way he presented himself with his cancer-striken wife (who died last year) while at the same time carrying on an affair while going before the voters. He makes other politicians’ sex scandals pale in comparison.
Here’s a timeline of the John Edwards scandal.
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