The criminal trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards in North Carolina is a good starting point for the law to clearly define what constitutes a campaign contribution. Even as the prosecution tries to convince jurors that Edwards knew that nearly $1 million in secret cash from rich donors was meant to help hide his pregnant mistress during the 2008 election campaign, they know that they are walking on thin ice.
U.S. campaign funding laws arevague, and it is hard to track all the money that flows into and out of a politician’s accounts and tie them to particular actions and purposes. But the law should not be left in the grey area; it should be in black and white.
Edwards's defense team is fully aware of the inconsistencies in the law, which is why they are staking their case on the argument that fathering a child with a consenting adult and then accepting a financial contribution to hide the ‘problem’ from his wife is not a federal offense.
“John Edwards is a man who committed many sins, but no crime,” said defense attorney Allison Van Laningham on Monday.
Allegedly, Edwards went to extraordinary lengths to conceal his infidelity from his late wife Elizabeth. He even convinced campaign aide Andrew Young, who is now the key prosecution witness in his case, to claim that he was the father of Hunter’s child.
On the stand on Tuesday, Young testified that Edwards' aides sought help from a number of people to help finance an effort to stash the pregnant Ms. Hunter far from the media-rich environment of the campaign. Young said Edwards had assured him that the contributions were legal.
Prosecutors argue that the money was meant to keep the Edwards campaign viable, because Edwards would have quickly been electoral toast if the truth were to come out. Thus, the money was a campaign contribution, they say.
If convicted, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and fines of more than $1 million.