We can draw several clear conclusions from the indictment of John Edwards.
The case is a joke, quite literally. It mocks justice.
The cast of characters consists of people who should have recused themselves, rather than bringing a prosecution. This strange case has the faint odor of the nonstop assault on former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman.
Apparently the Department of Justice has a lot of time on its hands. How else could it pursue this transparent nonsense while failing to prosecute the perpetrators of the financial collapse?
Finally, the prosecution shows that those in control are not even pretending to acknowledge a rule of law.
The Indictment has No Basis in Law
Prosecutors redefine and distort the definition of campaign contributions and activities to fit the Edwards case. They ignore the clearly stated language negating their claim. As a result, this prosecution is so flawed it can only be judged as a personal or political prosecution.
The third sentence of the Edwards indictment states: "A centerpiece of Edwards' candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man." Having made that assertion, the US Attorney sprung his trap. The Election Act's contribution limit applied "to anything of value provided for the purpose of influencing the presidential election"" That's the entire case. John Edwards took money to cover up a personal problem that would have hurt his campaign. Taking the money isn't the main problem. Edwards would have been guilty had he used his own money. The alleged crime is using money in excess of the maximum limit for anything that influences the election.
There has never been a campaign finance prosecution using this broad theory. Here's why. You have candidates who take salaries, cash in investments, undergo plastic surgery, and even receive mortgages and other loans during their candidacy. These acts all contribute to a candidate's positive image in some way. But, they are not considered campaign expenditures under the campaign finance law used to charge Edwards. The law specifically excludes personal funds in Sections 431, 441 and elsewhere makes clear.
There's no specific language in the law about paying off a mistress. But that's clearly personal, an outcome of personal behavior. It's no different than a candidate using money in excess of the $2,500 contribution limit to polish up his or her image with a loan for an electorate friendly ranch, a new "tuck," or even a vacation. Whether these are paid for with loans from others or with personal funds, these acts are never the cause of legal problems for the elected officials or their challengers.
What is campaign expenditure? Is it "anything of value provided for the purpose of influencing the presidential election"? The US Attorney would have us think so. But he knows better. That is language right out of federal election law. The indictment neglects language in the very same section, 431, Definitions (20), (A) that tells us what constitutes "Federal election activity" in the following subparagraphs: (i) voter registration; (ii) voter identification; (iii) public communication; and, (iv) services.
The specifics in (20) (A) make it perfectly clear what constitutes "election activity." It's the nuts and bolts of getting the vote out, advertising, and the logistics of moving candidates and people around. There is no basis to expand and distort the definition as the Department of Justice prosecution does. The neglect of obvious clauses in the law that exculpate Edwards or anyone else similarly charged speaks to the transparent weakness of the indictment.
A Stacked Deck at the Department of Justice
Who had the gall to bring this indictment in the first place? It comes from the Department of Justice, via the US Attorney's office, North Carolina, Eastern District. President George W. Bush appointed the US Attorney behind this effort in 2006, George E.B. Holding. He comes from the same family that owns the holding company that controls Citizens Bank, one of the largest regional banks in the Southeast. The family had strong ties to the late Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC). Holding's three high profile indictments of politicians were all prominent Democrats.