Political Headlines June 3, 2011: John Edwards Indicted by Grand Jury for Misappropriating Campaign Funds

POLITICAL HEADLINES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: JOHN EDWARDS INDICTED

Jennifer Rotenizer/Winston-Salem Journal, via Associated Press

John Edwards enters the Federal Building in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C. on Friday. A grand jury indicted the two-time presidential candidate, accusing him of trying to protect his political ambitions by soliciting and secretly spending more than $925,000 to hide his mistress and their baby from the public.

Grand jury indicts former presidential candidate John Edwards: A federal grand jury has indicted two-time presidential candidate John Edwards over massive sums of money spent to keep his mistress 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 on Friday.

  • U.S. v. Johnny Reid Edwards indictment: The charges Conspiracy: John Edwards faces one conspiracy count, with prosecutors arguing that he participated in a scheme to violate federal campaign-finance laws by using $925,000 in private money from two wealthy benefactors to help keep his pregnant mistress and love child a secret.
    Illegal campaign contributions: Prosecutors filed four charges of illegal campaign contributions against Edwards, saying he was part of a conspiracy that willfully and knowingly accepted contributions that exceeded federal limits. The four charges are nearly identical, referencing contributions Edwards received in 2007 and 2008 from his former campaign-finance chairman, Fred Baron, and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the widow of banking heir Paul Mellon.
    False statements: The indictment includes one count of false statements, saying that the conspiracy Edwards participated in knowingly allowed the filing of false and deceptive campaign-finance reports that failed to disclose the illegal contributions from Baron and Mellon. Document: The full indictment against John Edwards
  • Public vs. private: Long an issue for John Edwards: The legal case against two-time presidential candidate John Edwards focuses on where to draw the line between the public and private in a politician’s life, a divide he riskily straddled throughout his entire career and family life.
    Edwards isn’t alone. The private activities and concerns of public officials increasingly seem to be pulled or pushed into the public arena. Is that Rep. Anthony Weiner modeling his underwear? Donald Trump and Sarah Palin use a knife and fork to eat pizza! Which school did President Barack Obama pick to go all the way in college hoops?
    These things don’t reveal much about their qualifications to lead, yet they fascinate Americans…. – AP, 6-5-11
  • Feds say Edwards hid mistress to aid campaign: In May 2007, as John Edwards endured ridicule for his $400 haircut, a wealthy supporter fired off a note to a campaign aide, vowing to privately pay for his hair care and other expenses important to his candidacy.
    “It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions,” Bunny Mellon wrote in a letter cited by federal prosecutors.
    Investigators believe there should have been restrictions on the $925,000 in under-the-table money that Mellon and another benefactor ended up providing to support Edwards. It’s key to the government’s contention that the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee broke the law in hiding his pregnant mistress during the final months of his 2008 campaign for the White House. Prosecutors contend that plan was an illegal conspiracy to evade campaign finance laws…. – AP, 6-4-11
  • Edwards Indicted in Campaign Fund Case: John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina and presidential candidate, was indicted Friday morning by a grand jury in Raleigh on charges that he violated campaign finance law during his 2008 presidential campaign.
    Mr. Edwards is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in Winston-Salem, N.C., at 2:30 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Patrick Auld.
    The grand jury, which has been investigating the case for two years, indicted Mr. Edwards on six counts — four involving illegal payments, one involving conspiracy and one involving false statements. “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,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement. “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.”
    At issue are financial contributions that prosecutors say Mr. Edwards received in excess of federal limits, did not report properly and then misused for the political purpose of hiding his extramarital affair to save his candidacy. Mr. Edwards, 57, has maintained that he used the money to hide the affair, but for private purposes — to conceal it from his wife.
    Mr. Edwards had a chance to reach a plea agreement and avoid the indictment, but he chose not to do so and will fight the charges, his lawyers said.
    The decision to fight could lead to a long, messy, public trial and possible jail sentence for Mr. Edwards, or it could lead to his acquittal.
    The decision to risk a trial reflects confidence by some on the Edwards legal team that the government’s case would not hold up in court…. – NYT, 6-3-11
  • Edwards Pleads Not Guilty in Campaign Fund Case: John Edwards, the former Democratic senator from North Carolina, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he conspired to cover up an extramarital affair while running for president in 2008 by “secretly obtaining,” misusing and misreporting certain campaign contributions in violation of federal law.
    He entered his plea at the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem on Friday afternoon, setting the stage for a trial to begin July 11. When the judge read him his list of rights, including the right to remain silent, Mr. Edwards, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004 and twice a candidate for president, said: “Your honor, I’m an attorney. I’m aware of that.”
    Later, outside the courthouse, Mr. Edwards told reporters he had behaved badly but insisted he had not committed a crime.
    “I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I’ve caused to others,” he said. “But I did not break the law. And I never, ever thought that I was breaking the law.”
    The indictment handed up earlier Friday in Greensboro charged that Mr. Edwards, 57, conspired to use illegal campaign contributions to conceal his affair with his mistress for political reasons…. – NYT, 6-3-11
  • Edwards pleads not guilty to finance charges in NC: Former presidential hopeful John Edwards pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that he solicited and secretly spent more than $925,000 to hide his mistress and their baby from the public at the height of his 2008 White House campaign.
    In a 30-second statement to dozens of reporters and television news cameras that surrounded him outside the courthouse, he said he never thought he was breaking the law.
    “There is no question that I have done wrong,” he said. “And I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I have caused to others. But I did not break the law.”
    Edwards did not have to post bond, but he had to surrender his passport and is not allowed to leave the continental U.S. He also can’t have contact with one of the wealthy benefactors who gave him money that prosecutors say was used to hide the affair.
    The indictment contained six felony counts, including conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements for keeping the spending off the campaign’s public finance reports.
    It said the payments made with money from two wealthy supporters were a scheme to protect Edwards’ presidential 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.
    Prosecutors said the spending was illegal because the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee should have reported it on public campaign finance filings and because it exceeded the $2,300 limit per person for campaign contributions.
    Edwards’ lawyer, Gregory Craig, said there’s no way that anyone, including Edwards, would have known that the payments should be treated as campaign contributions.
    “This is an unprecedented prosecution,” he said at the courthouse. “He has broken no law and we will defend this case vigorously.”… – AP, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards indicted in $925K mistress cover-up: John Edwards acknowledged he has “done wrong” and hurt others but denied breaking the law after federal prosecutors charged him Friday with using $925,000 to hide his pregnant mistress during his 2008 run for president.
    The former U.S. senator and two-time Democratic presidential hopeful was indicted on six felony charges that he violated campaign-finance laws in a desperate bid to protect his White House hopes and his image as a devoted family man.
    Edwards, 57, pleaded not guilty and was released without bail on the condition he surrender his passport and not leave the continental U.S.
    A former trial lawyer who won multimillion-dollar verdicts with the same formidable powers of persuasion that propelled his political career, he faces the prospect of a lurid trial and the possibility of prison time and the loss of his license to practice law.
    “There’s no question that I’ve done wrong. And I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I’ve caused to others,” Edwards said outside the courthouse, accompanied by his oldest daughter, Cate, 29. “But I did not break the law.”… – AP, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards denies federal charges: The former Democratic presidential candidate says he didn’t break the law when he used funds from two supporters to hide his mistress and their daughter.
    Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has insisted that he broke no laws when he hid his pregnant mistress while seeking the nomination in 2008. Now, he’s made that position official, pleading not guilty to federal criminal charges that he accepted nearly $1 million from two supporters to fund the deception.
    On Friday, a federal grand jury indicted Edwards, 57, on six counts of violating campaign finance laws, lying to the government and conspiring to protect his candidacy by breaking the law.
    The case against Edwards could rise or fall on whether the government is reaching too far and trying to hold Edwards to a higher election law standard than usual. Notably, the first paragraph of the 19-page indictment said that a “centerpiece” of Edwards candidacy in 2008 was “his public image as a devoted family man” and that he often stressed to voters that “family comes first.”
    The government maintains that by accepting money to keep his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and eventually their daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, out of sight, he was trying to maintain the viability of his candidacy. Therefore, the government said, the money constituted undeclared campaign contributions. LAT, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards: ‘I did not break the law’: Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said he takes “full responsibility for having done wrong” but insisted he “did not break the law” to cover up his extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter.
    Edwards was indicted earlier today by a federal grand jury. He pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, making false statements and four counts of illegal campaign contributions.
    In a brief statement to reporters outside the courthouse in Winston-Salem, N.C., Edwards declared his innocence on the criminal allegations.
    “There’s no question I’ve done wrong,” Edwards said, adding he’ll “regret the pain and the harm” that he caused for the rest of his life. But he was adamant: “I did not break the law and I never, ever thought I was breaking the law.”… – USA Today, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards: ‘I’ve Done Wrong, but I Did Not Break the Law’: Two-time presidential candidate John Edwards pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he spent more than $900,000 in campaign donations to cover up his extramarital affair as he was running for the White House in 2008.
    “There’s no question that I’ve done wrong, and I take full responsibility for having done wrong. I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and harm that I’ve caused to others,” he said in a brief statement outside a federal courthouse in Winston-Salem, N.C. after being arraigned.”But I did not break the law, and I never ever thought I was breaking the law.”
    A federal grand jury indicted Edwards on six counts: conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count if convicted…. – Fox News, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards: I Did “Wrong,” But Broke No Law: Disgraced ex-senator John Edwards admitted today he has “done wrong” – but insisted he broke no laws. The onetime presidential hopeful made his 20-second statement shortly after he was indicted for allegedly using more than $900,000 in campaign funds to cover up an extramarital affair during his failed 2008 presidential campaign.
    “There’s no question that I’ve done wrong and I take full responsibility for having done wrong,” Edwards said after he pleaded not guilty – and endured the humiliation of having to surrender his passport.
    “And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I’ve caused to others. But I did not break the law and I never, ever thought that I was breaking the law.”
    Then Edwards, flanked by his daughter Kate, left without another word…. – NY Daily News, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards indictment: A North Carolina grand jury has indicted former Sen. John Edwards on criminal campaign finance violations in connection with a sex scandal.
    Edwards, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004 and a candidate for president in 2004 and 2008, was charged with four counts of illegal campaign contributions, one count of conspiracy and one count of false statements. The charges stem from a years-long investigation into whether Edwards used money from two supporters to cover up an affair with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign videographer with whom he had a child….. – LAT, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards in a brief statement outside a federal courthouse in Winston-Salem, N.C. after being arraigned: “There’s no question that I’ve done wrong, and I take full responsibility for having done wrong. I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and harm that I’ve caused to others. But I did not break the law, and I never ever thought I was breaking the law.”
  • Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer 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. 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.”
  • Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement: “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.”
  • Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Scott Thomas, who is serving as an expert witness for Edwards’ legal team: “I believe that the theory on which the government intends to base its prosecution is without precedent in federal election law, and that the Federal Election Commission would not support a finding that the conduct at issue constituted a civil violation, much less warranted a criminal prosecution.”
  • John Edwards’ lawyer, Gregory Craig: “This is an unprecedented prosecution. He has broken no law and we will defend this case vigorously.”… -
  • Plus, John Edwards indicted: Can his legacy be rehabbed?Politico Arena, 6-3-11
  • Edwards emails acknowledge payments: Prosecutors have obtained emails between John Edwards and a former aide to use as evidence at trial that he knew about payments to his pregnant mistress even while he was publicly denying it, people familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Monday.
    Dozens of emails were exchanged between Edwards and his former speechwriter Wendy Button as they worked on a never-released draft statement to acknowledge paternity of his out-of-wedlock child, according to people who have seen the messages and requested anonymity because they have not been made public yet.
    The messages, draft statements and notes of their related phone conversations are key evidence prosecutors are using against Edwards, indicted on charges he failed to report nearly $1 million allegedly spent to keep his mistress out of the public eye as he pursued the White House. The former senator was still denying he was the baby’s father and publicly maintained he knew nothing about any money that may have been spent when the emails were sent in summer 2009…. – AP, 6-6-11
  • Criminal charges likely Fri. against John Edwards: Criminal charges were likely to be filed Friday against John Edwards, the culmination of a two-year federal investigation into money used to cover up an extramarital affair during the 2008 presidential election.
    Edwards’ attorney Greg Craig was traveling to meet with prosecutors in North Carolina, an indication that the former presidential candidate will likely be charged, either in a grand jury indictment or in a negotiated charge to which he would plead guilty…. – AP, 6-3-11
  • John Edwards indicted in $925K mistress cover-up: John Edwards acknowledged he has “done wrong” and hurt others but strongly denied breaking the law after federal prosecutors charged him Friday with using $925,000 in under-the-table campaign contributions to hide his pregnant mistress during his 2008 run for president.
    The former U.S. senator and two-time Democratic presidential hopeful was indicted on six felony charges that he violated campaign finance laws in a desperate bid to protect both his White House hopes and his image as a devoted family man…. – AP, 6-2-11
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