Criminal Justice

We Find the Defendant, John Edwards, Guilty of Scumbaggery


If John Edwards were on trial for cheating on his dying wife, fathering his mistress's child, lying to everyone about the affair, and squandering other people's money in a vain attempt to keep these secrets, there would be no room for reasonable doubt. But since the former North Carolina senator and vice presidential nominee is charged with violating campaign finance regulations, federal prosecutors must do more than show what a sleazy, callous jerk he is. So far they have not done that.

The essence of the government's case is that Edwards solicited illegal campaign contributions from two wealthy donors and used the money to support a lavish life in hiding for Edwards' girlfriend, the aide who helped Edwards by falsely claiming to be the father of her baby girl, and the aide's wife. Edwards says the money—a total of $925,000—represented gifts from friends who were helping him hide the affair from his wife, not campaign contributions aimed at helping him win the Democratic presidential nomination. A former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Scott Thomas, was prepared to testify in support of this interpretation yesterday, but U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said the jury did not need him to explain the law, since that was her job.

Eagles did, however, allow testimony from Lora Haggard, chief financial officer of Edwards' campaign, who made the same point. Haggard noted that a recently completed FEC audit of the campaign's records did not conclude that the $925,000—which the commission surely knew about, given all the attention to the criminal case against Edwards—should have been reported as campaign contributions. In other words, the FEC itself implicitly agreed with Edwards' characterization of the transfers as gifts used for personal expenses. As The New York Times notes, Haggard's testimony "presents an unusual situation," since it means "one government agency says the money was not a contribution, and another—the Department of Justice—says it was." Federal prosecutor Jeffrey Tsai claimed to be unfazed, saying, "Whatever the FEC determined is not relevant to the criminal charges."

Really? The FEC, the agency charged with regulating campaign contributions, does not think the money spent on covering up Edwards' affair fell into that category, but somehow Edwards was supposed to know that it did? It is hard to see how the government can show criminal intent in these circumstances. According to the Times, the Justice Department's evidence, which it finished presenting last week, has been heavy on the sordid details of Edwards' adultery and his absurd efforts to conceal it, neither of which was a federal crime, but "relatively light on election law," which is the crux of the case. Unless the jury decides to convict Edwards for being a scumbag, he should win an easy acquittal. 

Previous coverage of the Edwards case here.

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  1. From a purely technical legal perspective, I have a question:

    Is the definition of “campaign contributions that should have been reported” the same as the definition the proseuctors are using in their case? From the same statute, and everything?

    I really don’t know.

    If its not, though, then the FEC’s opinion on what their statute means doesn’t really matter much in a prosecution applying a different statute.

    1. Yes, the definition is the same or at least it should be since he is accused of violating a specific statute and the DOJ is prosecuting the violation of that statute.

  2. I look forward to the dramatic announcement, “We, the Jury, find the Defendant guilty . . . of being John Edwards!”

  3. You know what’s a bummer? That John Edwards isn’t president right now.

    1. At least we wouldn’t have to put up with a First Lady. So there’s that, at least.

    2. This whole thing would be a lot more fun wouldnt it? Would Edwards get a rainbow halo too?

    3. Edwards 2016!

    4. Screw Edwards what about Hillary Clinton? She was the one who got fucked over by this whole thing. Had the media done its job, Edwards would have dropped out in December and Hillary is probably President right now.

      1. Stop depressing everyone.

  4. Why hasn’t Edwards scumbaggery been excluded? If the FEC’s legal opinion is irrelevant to the case then Edward’s affair certainly is as well.

    1. It’s to help the careers of all those involved. Great question.

  5. Who cares if Edwards isn’t “technically guilty”? I just want to see him go to prison for something.

    1. Why? Two wrongs don’t make a right. He may be an asshole, but being an asshole isn’t a crime (unless I’m wrong and Massachusetts and New Jersey are really penal colonies).

      1. I agree. I don’t care how much of an asshole he is. What he did is not a crime.

        1. +1

          They can’t even make the allegations sound like a crime. And you think they’d be pretty good at that.

          Person A gave Person B money to not talk about something that Person A didn’t want the world to know about. Even assuming John Edwards had 100% knowledge about what was going on, he wasn’t Person A or Person B. To put him in jail for something that he didn’t have legal authority to prevent is just plain evil.

          1. Especially when the underlying action was not criminal. It is not criminal to cheat on your wife. They would have a case if he had done something criminal with Hunter. Then that would be obstruction. But there was no crime here. He was paying her to avoid embarrassment. Taking care of your mistress so she doesn’t have a need to sell her story to the press is not a crime.

            1. Since it’s the feds, I’m surprised he’s not accused of “conspiracy to commit FEC fraud” or some such thing.

            2. “It is not criminal to cheat on your wife.”

              ? 14?184. Fornication and adultery.

              If any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor: Provided, that the admissions or confessions of one shall not be received in evidence against the other. North Carolina Statute 14?184 – Fornication and adultery

              Apparently adultery is a crime in Edwards’ home state.

              1. Sodomy is probably illegal too. But neither law would pass constitutional muster. And last I looked the Feds were not claiming the affair was a crime.

                1. North Carolinans take their moral laws seriously. It’s the last state that allows you to sue your spouse’s paramour for “alienation of affection.” It was the last state to allow a lottery. And, it’s the most recent state to prohibit gays from marrying (thereby protecting gays from alienation of affection lawsuits).

                  1. It was the last state to allow a lottery.

                    Ahem… we still don’t have a lottery in Utah.

                2. I’m just pointing out the fact that adultery is technically a crime in NC (and many other states). Does that mean that John Edwards should go to jail for it? Hell no. As far as I see it, the man committed no crime and our government is wasting resources on a useless prosecution. Let the man wallow in the misery of his own creation.

              2. This is a federal prosecution. State law doesn’t have a bearing on this.

                1. I was merely pointing out John’s error regarding the legality of adultery.

    2. Me today, you tomorrow.

  6. Mickey Klaus made a really good point today. How is Obama’s friend offering Jeremiah Wright money to go underground in 2008 any different than this?

    1. Come on John, you know the answer…

    2. Easy.

      Obama won.

  7. If the $925,000 were supposed to be gifts, did he report them to the IRS and pay gift tax on them?

    1. Wouldn’t that be responsibility of the person who actually received the money?

      1. Actually, no. The donor is normally responsible for paying the gift tax.

        1. Ok. I thought “him” meant Edwards.

    2. Since the lifetime exemption is up over a million now, he probably didn’t owe taxes on it. I am not sure if you have to report though.

      1. Life time, but the year limit is 13K. So whoever accepted the gift is liable for 35% tax on anything above that in a year.

        1. But you still don’t owe taxes. You don’t owe taxes until you go over the lifetime exemption. If I give someone 100K on year, I don’t owe taxes. But my life time exemption is now 87K less than it was.

          1. Not from what I reading. The lifetime limit is to keep you from getting as many $12,999 gifts per year as you want. It’s a double firebreak, not too much in a year, not too much for a lifetime.

            The gift tax is, after all, about keeping people from avoiding estate taxes.

            1. maybe so. It has been 20 years since I took the bar. And I haven’t thought about estate law since. But I always thought the yearly limit did not count against you lifetime limit. Otherwise, you would have to report every single gift, no matter how small, you give, since it would run up against your 13K limit and also reduce your lifetime exemption.

              1. You are supposed to claim it all as income, but you can “deduct” up to 13K. At least I think that’s what I’m reading. Tax law is like Chinese backwards algebra.

                Dagny? Oh, Dagny…

                1. According to this, the giver is normally responsible for paying the gift tax not the receiver.

                2. Gifts are not income. Donors cannot deduct gifts, unless they count as charitable donations.

            2. No, the lifetime credit and the $13,000 annual exemption are separate. The $13,000 annual exemption is per recepient and does not count toward the lifetime credit and you don’t have to report those. The lifetime credit is per donor, and you (the donor) do have to report it, but don’t have to pay tax until you exceed it. Any credit used then is counted against your estate tax credit (which used to be same as the gift tax credit, but now is higher).

    3. Gift tax reporting is done by the giver, and is required for any gifts over the exemption (@$13,000 per year?).

      So the question is: Did Bunny Mellon file the gift tax return on what she “gave” to Rielle?

      If not, then apparently she didn’t consider it a gift to Rielle.

      And remember: these funds were laundered (crudely, I can’t remember how exactly).

      I think the prosecution can make a decent case, based on the lack of gift tax returns and the attempted laundering, that these weren’t gifts.

      That doesn’t mean they were illegal campaign contributions, either, but it certainly shortens the list of what they could be.

      1. I bet Bunny filed the returns. They were a little smarter than that. Why wouldn’t you file the returns? And they hadn’t, they could have her for tax fraud or at least failure to file.

        1. I don’t think she did. These payments were laundered through an interior decorator, as I recall.

      2. You don’t have to file or report political contributions as taxable gifts.

        If they weren’t reported and taxed as gifts, doesn’t it speak to intent? It does to me, what with all my fancy TV lawyer training.

        1. It does to me, what with all my fancy TV lawyer training.

          “And I’ll take that advice under cooperation, all right? Now, let’s say you and I go toe-to-toe on bird law and see who comes out the victor?”

        2. It may speak to Bunny’s intent, but not to Edwards’. Any it only speaks to Bunny’s intent to the extent she knew the gift tax laws, which she probably didn’t because she’s a crazy old lady.

      3. I wonder if he called these gifts “gifts” in one context while lumping them into the “contributions” bucket for other purposes?

        I’m totally ignorant of the details here and intend to remain so.


        Who pays the gift tax?

        The donor is generally responsible for paying the gift tax. Under special arrangements the donee may agree to pay the tax instead. Please visit with your tax professional if you are considering this type of arrangement.

        What is considered a gift?

        Any transfer to an individual, either directly or indirectly, where full consideration (measured in money or money’s worth) is not received in return.

        What can be excluded from gifts?

        The general rule is that any gift is a taxable gift. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Generally, the following gifts are not taxable gifts.

        1) Gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year.
        2) Tuition or medical expenses you pay for someone (the educational and medical exclusions).
        3) Gifts to your spouse.
        4) Gifts to a political organization for its use.

        1. Thank you Kenneth. Note number one on the list. Gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year are not “taxable gifts”. So that means they don’t count against your life time exemption. That is what I thought.

  8. Giving someone 925K for their campaign should be legal, but it’s not.

    That said, doesn’t Edward’s use of bunny Money create a huge loophole in the campaign finance laws?

    “Mr. Romney, I will not contribute more than $2K to your campaign, but here’s a million dollar gift for you to keep your high school pranks hidden from the WAPO. BTW, no reason to remember this gift after you’re elected and my company needs lots of corporate welfare.”

    1. In some ways yes. But to stop that, you would have to basically stop people from giving each other money.

      1. Just make gifts to political candidates public record, maybe with an exception for family members who would traditionally give gifts to each other.

        Once the public knows who’s buying and selling you, they can vote accordingly.

        1. But in this case the gift wasn’t to the candidate, it was to Hunter. So your rule wouldn’t help.

          That is why this is impossible to stop. You are dealing with gifts between two people neither of which are the candidate.

          1. That’s like saying there shouldn’t be a law agains bribery becuase you can always launder it by giving the bribe to the official’s wife, or kid, or roommate. Yes, some people do get away with those types of bribes, but plenty of them are caught.

            1. But how is it bribery to pay Hunter? She is not part of his family. Unless you were paying Edwards’ child support payments, Edwards is no better off financially for you giving Hunter money.

      2. Don’t give them ideas.

      3. “But to stop that, you would have to basically stop people from giving each other money.”

        IOWs, exactly why campaign finance regs don’t work.

  9. Could somebody refresh my memory on the timeline of when Mrs. Edwards knew about the affair, and when the money was paid?

    I seem to recall that she knew about it earlier than most had supposed.

    1. She did. And she lied about it to keep it quiet and keep her husband’s campaign alive.

      1. Mrs Edwards only looks better than John Edwards because she wasn’t cheating on him. Her naked ambition really takes the cake.

        How about the move where she finds out that John is continuing the affair when she thought he stopped and rips off her top to show her boob-ectomy scars.

        I hope I never get cancer, but if I do, I also hope I have enough dignity not to whip out the cancer scars just to score points in an argument with my spouse.

        1. They were all just craven trash. My favorite part is the testimony from the poor woman employee of Edwards who had to put up with Hunter as a house guest. I guess he was pretty much the guest from hell.

    2. Ah, here we go. In her book, she said he confessed to it shortly after he announced his candidacy for the 2008 nomination, which he did in December, 2006.

      Bunny was writing checks for Rielle in early 2007.

      I don’t think the “we were helping him hide his affair from his wife” defense really works.

  10. Edwards says the money?a total of $925,000?represented gifts from friends who were helping him hide the affair from his wife, not campaign contributions aimed at helping him win the Democratic presidential nomination.

    Since these cash gifts exceed the annual $10,000 limit, I’m sure that Mr. Edwards duly reported them on his income taxes then. That’s the ultimate defense that these weren’t campaign donations that were misdirected to personal expenses right?

    1. No, it was on the givers to file those gift tax returns.

      1. OK. So the two rich people filed the necessary returns to cover the “gifts” that went to Edwards/Hunter, right?

        1. No. And I believe the prosecution was too fumble-fingered to ask.

        2. So I should really read the whole thread before I post stuff after being away from my desk for awhile.

      2. And that, to me, is an odd concept. Think about it, the government taxes your money when you earn it, save it, invest it, spend it or give it away.

        1. …but not if you give it to a political campaign.

    2. why would he report them? first, gifts aren’t income to the donee. second, the money never ended up in his bank account, or was used to satisfy some legal obligation he had.

  11. Without delving into it too much (because I don’t care), how the funds were moved around may be pivotal here. If they ever touched a campaign account, he’s done.

    Of course, given the tax implications we’ve raised here, round two may be tax evasion charges.

    Which brings up the larger question: who did Edwards piss off at DOJ or the White House? The Obamessiah himself? Holder? Who? Because this weak sauce prosecution had to come from somewhere.

    1. I wondered that too. Dave Corzine literally stole a billion dollars from ordinary people and he hasn’t been so much as asked to speak to the FBI. Meanwhile, DOJ has launched a jihad against Edwards, a guy whose political career was over anyway.

  12. What the fuck is with the rich guy risking everything for a nasty skank thing that we see all too often in this country?

    I am no prize, and do not occupy a lofty position in our society, but I wouldn’t even risk a dishwashing job for a roll in the hay with Mizz Hunter. Fuck, if I were single and drunk I wouldn’t even touch her with Warty’s diseased member.

    What the fuck does it say about our once proud nation that these are the type of women that can destroy the lives of our rich and powerful? These tinpot temptresses signal our goddamn weakness to the Chinese and Russians.

    If our politicians are a reflection of us then we are a sad fucking lot…

    1. A couple of things. First, some men will screw anything. So it doesn’t matter if the woman is a skank.

      Second, women who are truly high end and attractive, have single high status men chasing them. So they don’t have to lower themselves to being the other women. So if you are Edwards and you can’t leave your wife, you are left with the Hunters of the world as your option.

      1. In general your arguments seem reasonable, but I cannot believe that Edwards couldn’t find some smitten college girl that was at least a seven.

        And fuck man, if you’re that hard up pull a spitzer; seems a lot safer than messing with some crazy horse-lady.

        The world is watching us John, and when they see this kind of bullshit going on they see us as a weak and desperate people. If we get attacked by terrorists again I blame Monica and Rielle.

        1. Spitzer: Still whoring or not? I vote still whoring.

          1. You don’t just quit.

            I vote still whoring.

          2. People do not just become depraved. He is still whoring. And even desperate women would not sleep with that ugly, abusive troll for free.

            He was known to the Emperor club as a ‘difficult customer’ meaning he liked to rough the girls up.

            1. Maybe there’s a more discreet whoring option. A whoring establishment for those who have been caught whoring?

        2. All true general. There is one other thing. Some men love ugly desperate women. They don’t have enough ego to be with a really attractive women. It is the same thing you see in gorgeous women who date quiet dorky guys. No danger of anyone taking air in the room but the Queen.

          So maybe that explains Edwards.

          1. See Arnold Schwarzenegger.

            1. Hunter is a Victoria Secret model compared to the broad Schwarzenegger knocked up.

              1. Which makes me think Schwarzenegger will throw a quick fuck into anything handy. There’s a difference between low standards and no standards.

    2. Finally, a substantive argument.

      If it looks like this: http://www.anneofcarversville……ology.html

      I’d hit it.

      1. Oh my god, who let that horse in the kid’s bedroom?!

  13. It will never happen. But wouldn’t it be great if a President Romney on his first day in office pardoned Edwards, Clemens, Bonds, Tommy Chong and Martha Stewart on the basis of undoing the massive waste of time those prosecutions were. Again never happen. But it would be wonderful to hear the manufactured outrage over it.

    1. Don’t forget the guy who got convicted for fibbing about not outing the CIA soccer mom, or whatever that mess was.

      1. Him too. I love how that was the biggest crime ever. But the Obama campaign just outed a no shit Al Quada double agent to score cheap political points and not a word is being said.

  14. I’m hoping that the Prosecutor channels John Edwards’s dead wife during the closing statements.**

    **If you know anything about John Edwards, you’ll understand why that’s ironic.

    1. + the internets.

  15. Shouldn’t the defense have filed a motion by now regarding the jury instructions? Did they do that and did the judge rule on it?

    1. I think that is about the stage where they are at in the trial. It is interesting that the judge stopped the government from calling the FEC expert from testifying. A few years ago there was a commodities trading case (I think) where they called in a law professor to testify about the nature of the law in question. And the judge allowed it.

      Just guessing but I bet both sides have submitted their proposed instructions and are now in the process of fighting over them.

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