I’m having a hard time believing former North Carolina Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards was acquitted yesterday. This is a classic example of the violation of the very laws that make our nation great.
I cannot believe that a man who used his campaign funds to help Al Qaeda …. Wait … Oh – he didn’t use the money to fund terrorist cells? Well, I can’t believe that a former Senator can escape the hand of justice when he uses campaign funds to buy real-estate and … I’m sorry … He didn’t do that either?
So, all he actually did was use some of his rich friend’s money to cover up an affair? What in the name of Ken Starr was the Justice Department doing spending millions of dollars to investigate a grown man for cheating on his wife? That, more than anything else is what America should be thinking, if anything, about the John Edwards verdict that came out on Thursday.
Edwards had been under investigation for using big time donors to funnel money into his campaign to hide his mistress Rielle Hunter, and eventually their love child from the press. That’s it. That’s his crime. Using campaign funds to “hide” an employee who he had an affair and out of wedlock child with. He wasn’t funding a child slavery ring in Singapore, he wasn’t laundering money for drug cartels, sending checks to militia-men in Oklahoma or using campaign funds to build a new extension on his house. He, in full coordination with wealthy friends and donors, was spending money to cover up a mistake. A mistake, I might add, that was ultimately proved irrelevant because he was clearly a third wheel to Clinton and Obama in the 2008 primary.
This entire case is a classic example of how an overzealous Justice Department and the tabloid tastes of some segments of the American public can dictate policy when there is no serious harm done to the body of the Republic. Rielle Hunter was hired to film a documentary of the Edwards campaign, they got involved, she got pregnant he wanted to hide her. Since she was an employee of the campaign it’s not as if he created a fake job for her just to have his side-piece close to him at all times. Now that would be a former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevy level violation of public trust.
Instead, Edwards was just a run of the mill political cad, something that we see in American politics all the time. The kinds of people who actually cared about what Edwards was doing are the same kind of soap-opera watching, Camelot loving, Prince William and Kate fans that confuse American politicians with some type of modern day royalty with slightly less exotic titles. Unfortunately, there are enough people in the country who felt personally betrayed by Edward’s antics (cheating on a cancer – stricken wife; lying about a mistress) that the Obama Justice Department felt the need to do something. Which was only made more insane by the fact that after years of investigations first by Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding then by Obama Justice Department attorney Lanny Breuer they
lost the case. I think both of these guys are due an official Chris Darden breakdown.
The silliest part in all of this is that this case reflects the absolute ineptitude of most campaign finance law in American politics.
Using federal campaign funds to hide a mistress was only vaguely illegal back when Edwards was doing it in 2008. Now, after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling what Edwards did was par for the course. I spoke to a Democratic strategist that I know about the Edwards case and campaign finance in general and he put it pretty succinctly.
“John Edwards knew what he was doing was wrong. The problem is that our campaign finance laws don’t know what’s wrong anymore,” said Democratic strategist Wyeth Ruthven at Qorvis Communications. “The Edwards case dealt with $925,000 in suspect contributions. Presidential SuperPACs have already spent more than $90 million in this election cycle. If Edwards had pulled this stunt in 2012, his deep-pocketed friends could have created the Restore Our Mistresses SuperPAC and the FEC would be powerless to stop them.”
So the real problem in this case wasn’t simply that the Justice Department was overzealous, although that played a role. The issue is that the entire spirit of campaign finance laws have changed so much in the last 4 years that you’re going to have a hard time finding a jury full of people who think that your friends slipping you some cash to help cover up a wild weekend in Vegas constitutes a federal crime.
Let us all hope that this throwback provincialism to the 90’s panty raids conducted by the Republicans against Clinton never rears its head in modern times again. I’m willing to wager that plenty of other candidates are doing the same thing as John Edwards did four years ago, it’s just that today they can get a Super PAC to cover for them.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.