There have been few politicians who have fallen so far and as fast as John Edwards. It is difficult to argue that he did not earn it, either. However, even someone as oleaginous as he does not deserve his latest problem.
The New York Times reports that the Justice Department will soon be indicting Edwards on criminal charges for misusing campaign funds. The indictment will allege that Edwards used money solicited from two wealthy donors to hide his affair and the child he had with his mistress, Rielle Hunter, as well as to pay off an aide to claim to have fathered that child in order to cover for Edwards. The Justice Department is proceeding under campaign finance laws because, as the Times reports, “[t]he money could be considered campaign contributions if prosecutors can show that Mr. Edwards helped orchestrate donations to hide Ms. Hunter or that he knew the money would be used to keep the affair hidden so it would not hurt his candidacy.”
To put it in technical terms, this is nuts. What Edwards did was a lot of things, none of them very nice, but it is a stretch to call them campaign finance violations. Only through a series of ridiculous assumptions can one call the money solicited to pay off his mistress and a fall-guy campaign contributions. Instead, the government’s desire to prosecute him appears to be a radical expansion of what the law considers campaign funds. If this definition sticks, it would give the government enormous power to investigate and prosecute any solicitation of money used to benefit someone who happens to be a candidate, no matter how tangentially connected to the candidate’s actual campaign. One hopes that Edwards will fight, and stop, this effort to expand campaign finance laws to cover monetary transactions that have nothing to do with campaigning.