by Bob Geary
The feds, as widely advertised for a week, got a grand jury to indict former presidential candidate John Edwards. The official charge is that he violated campaign finance laws. The real charge: He lied while he was a candidate about a fact that the voters had a right to know — that his mistress was pregnant with his child.
Here's the indictment for those interested in reading it:
The six-count indictment was obtained by U.S. Attorney George Holding, a Republican appointee based in Raleigh, and the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington. This is what Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the criminal division said about it:
Mr. Edwards is alleged to have accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal from the public facts that he believed would harm his candidacy." As this indictment shows, 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. Our campaign finance system is designed to preserve the integrity of democratic elections....
Person C and Person D in the indictment are Johnny's wealthy backers, heiress Bunny Mellon and lawyer Fred Baron. They shoveled money to support Rielle Hunter, Edwards' mistress, through Edwards' campaign aide Andrew Young.
They did so, the indictment argues, to help Edwards cover up a lie that went to the heart of his campaign. He claimed to be a solid family man and devoted husband to his wife, Elizabeth. He wasn't.
Edwards could've paid Rielle Hunter's expenses himself, of course. But then Elizabeth might've found out about her — and Johnny was lying to her too.
As many others have remarked, it's a bit of a legal stretch to say that wealthy folks can't do personal favors for a candidate who's running for public office. If Person C and Person D had paid for Edwards' vacations, for example, or "paid" him as a lawyer for the use of his name on the door ("Hi, I'm Fred Baron, of the firm of Baron & Edwards"), I don't believe any legal questions would be raised.
But Person C and Person D weren't buying trinkets for Johnny, they were buying him a campaign story — and a false one.
Edwards is reportedly heading for a federal court in Winston-Salem this afternoon to plead not guilty to the indictment. But you know what, I don't think even Johnny Edwards in his prime could get a jury to sympathize with John Edwards now.