Body Politic

Published May 1, 2012

It’s hard to feel sorry for former Democratic presidential contender John Edwards, now on trial on federal charges of illegally using his campaign funds to keep his adulterous affair secret. We can feel sorry for ourselves, however, for having to pay for the prosecution of this sleazy case with our tax dollars.

The trial started just last week, but it already looks like the case is falling apart. The prosecution’s star witness, Edwards’ aide Andrew Young, had testified he solicited money from two wealthy Edwards backers, Fred Baron and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, to hide Edwards’ pregnant mistress from public sight. This took place during the 2008 Edwards presidential campaign and after it folded, when he was under consideration for the vice presidential nomination or a cabinet post.

The prosecution’s theory is that the money became a campaign donation because spending it to conceal the affair was related to the campaign. The defense theory is the money was a gift to Edwards for personal reasons.

Young’s story began to fall apart when he was cross-examined by Edwards’ attorney. Young testified he took several hundred thousand dollars of the donated money and spent it on the new house he and his wife were building. “He is withering on the vine,” a former prosecutor said of Young. “He is backing off some of his positions, and I think he’s really done damage to his own credibility and the government’s case.”

If convicted, Edwards faces a prison term of up to 30 years. But, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times said: “The more I read about John Edwards’ shenanigans during the 2008 presidential campaign, the more I’m convinced he is a mirror-gazing, fork-tongued, tramp-chasing weasel. But the more I read about the federal case against him, the more sure I am that he does not deserve to go to jail.”

Source: James Hill, “John Edwards’ Defense Says Key Witness Double Dipped on Expenses,” April 26, 2012; David Horsey, “John Edwards is a creep not a criminal,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2012