January 24, 2018


Why John Edwards is Guilty (Hans A. von Spakovsky, 5/28/12, The Heritage Foundation)

[F]ederal law limits the amount that a donor can contribute to a federal candidate. That amount was $2,300 in 2008, when Edwards was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. The law defines "contribution" to include a gift or "deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office."

Most important, FEC regulations state that the payment of a personal expense by any person other than the candidate is considered a contribution to the candidate, unless the payment would have been made irrespective of the candidacy. As the FEC said in a prior advisory opinion, the key question is, "Would the third party pay the expense if the candidate was not running for Federal office?"

The testimony of government witnesses makes it pretty clear that the payments by these donors would not have been made if Edwards had not been running for office. Edwards is a multimillionaire; he could easily have afforded to make the payments (including legally obligated child support) out of his personal funds. But such personal payments would have blown up his candidacy and made it impossible to hide what he clearly wanted to keep hidden. The payments by his maxed-out campaign contributors were clearly intended to "influence" the 2008 presidential election by keeping Edwards in the race and protecting his reputation. [...]

My experience on the FEC led me to conclude that federal campaign-finance laws are too complex, too ambiguous, and too restrictive. They help ensure the safety of incumbents and make it much more difficult for challengers. We would be better served with a system that did not limit the amount of campaign contributions, but simply required full disclosure of all donations so that voters can make their own decisions on how important it is to them that candidates are receiving funds from particular contributors.

But the gifts made on behalf of Edwards by his campaign contributors to keep this potential scandal quiet were intended to help him stay in the 2008 presidential race as a viable candidate. They would not have been made if not for Edwards's status as a federal candidate, and they were linked to a federal election. They should be considered illegal campaign contributions under federal law and applicable FEC regulations and advisory opinions. A jury may end up disagreeing that Edwards knew that what he was doing was illegal, but if the government's facts are correct, then John Edwards should be held accountable for violating federal law.

Posted by at January 24, 2018 6:27 PM