Former Senator John Edwards
D - NC
On May 31, 2012, a jury in the corruption trial of former U.S. Senator from North Carolina and presidential candidate John Edwards said that it could not agree on a verdict for five of six counts, and U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles was forced to declare a mistrial. But, while Edwards may have been partially exonerated (he was acquitted on one count), he was certainly not vindicated.
John Edwards conducted an illicit affair with campaign employee Rielle Hunter that resulted in the birth of their daughter. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Edwards reportedly persuaded his former political aide Andrew Young to claim that he was the father of the child, and not Edwards. The ruse failed and Edwards was forced to admit to the whole sordid mess. The focus then shifted to whether Edwards unlawfully diverted campaign funds to hide the affair.
Edwards denies the claim, but according to witness testimony Hunter and Young received nearly a million dollars in “hush” payments from philanthropist Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Texas billionaire Fred Baron, two campaign donors who did not want to see the scandal derail Edwards’ pursuit of the White House. According to an excellent analysis by Hans Von Spakovsky at the Heritage Foundation, the money paid to Edwards’ mistress was “dishonest, dishonorable, and illegal:”
“Federal law…prohibits the conversion of campaign funds to any personal use (2 U.S.C. §439a). 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 (11 CFR 113.1). As the FEC said in a prior advisory opinion (AO 2008-17), the key question is, ‘Would the third party pay the expense if the candidate was not running for Federal office?’”
In short, John Edwards may have eluded the reach of the law. But, in the courtroom of public opinion he remains one of the “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” for 2012.