Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is being a cad against the law?

Let's get this out of the way at the outset -- John Edwards is a pretty despicable dude.

Having said that, should he be prosecuted for violating campaign finance laws? Old Clinton hand Lanny Davis, writing for the Daily Caller, argues that there is a potential case:

It is entirely possible that the judge will rule as a matter of law that Congress never intended “campaign contribution” to be defined as covering such indirect contributions providing benefits to a candidate through hushing up a scandal. If so, then the case will be thrown out and never get to trial or presented to a jury.

However, if you look at the indictment, there are two facts alleged that, if proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, could result in Edwards being found guilty — that is, if the judge lets the case get to a jury.

The two allegations in question? Let Davis explain:

First, in paragraph 26, the indictment quotes Edwards telling his senior aide, Andrew Young, that he needed to falsely state that he was the father of Ms. Rielle’s child, because “his efforts to win the presidency — and everything he fought for — depended on it.” Also, in paragraph 33, Edwards allegedly decided not to issue a public statement that he was aware of donor contributions intended “to support and hide” his relationship with Rielle from the media. However, significantly, the indictment then goes on to quote him as explaining the reason why he chose not to do so: for “legal and practical reasons.”

If both of those alleged statements are believed by the jury to have been actually stated by Edwards, then it can reasonably infer that Edwards knew that the donations to Rielle were primarily to prevent damage to his campaign, and thus, under the law, could be deemed illegal campaign contributions.
There's a lot of hedging there, but that's part of the problem. The Edwards case presents a lot of the sins of modern politics in one location. Campaign finance laws are dubious on any number of grounds and the laws are open to widely divergent interpretation because the legislators who drafted the various laws were unable or unwilling to state their precise intentions. I've always viewed these laws as being expressions of good intentions delivered in bad faith.

At bottom, the case boils down to this:  Edwards was moving money around to keep his bad behavior from become public. It wasn't going to work, because the truth about such matters tends to get come out no matter how much money you spend trying to suppress it. As it stands now, the world knows that Edwards is a scoundrel and that his benefactor Bunny Mellon is a fool. That seems like punishment enough. 


Gino said...

"I've always viewed these laws as being expressions of good intentions delivered in bad faith."

expressions of bad intent delivered in good faith.

what congress intended in campaigm finance, to clarify for Lanny, were laws impossible to be held accountable for.

Mr. D said...

Yeah, you could argue it that way too, Gino.