John Edwards has been indicted for receiving large gifts from friends that he used to cover up his affair and love child with Rielle Hunter during his presidential campaign. According to federal prosecutors, these were campaign contributions and expenditures and should have been reported as such. In addition the amounts given to Edwards exceeded the $2,500 contribution limit.
The theory of the prosecution appears to be that the gifts and expenditures were meant to benefit the campaign by avoiding disclosure of what would surely have damaged Edward’s status as presidential contender.
As a candidate in a presidential primary, Edwards received $12,882,877.42 in federal primary matching funds. These funds are available to a candidate to be used for “qualified campaign expenses.” It follows under the prosecutions’ theory that Edwards could have used federal money to conceal his sexual peccadilloes.
OK, so I am running for president and the recipient of primary matching funds. My teenage daughter gets pregnant, and I am concerned it might damage my campaign, so I arrange for an abortion, with her consent of course. Can I use matching funds for this? Or, I am accused by a masseuse of making a pass at her during a massage. She threatens to go public if I don’t give her $250,000. Can I use matching funds for this? What if a young woman threatens to expose a titillating tweet I sent her? Under the theory of the Edwards prosecution, the answer would have to be yes.
Should the government compile a list that states which such expenditures are allowed and which are not? If they don’t, and surely Edwards will contend, they have not, how is a candidate to know what is legal and illegal. And if the funds are so used and reported, how much information must be given about their purpose? Would not a filing that disclosed the purpose defeat the purpose of spending the money in the first place? What is a candidate to do?
Tune in to the John Edwards trial to find out.