The verdict is in for John Edwards: not guilty on one of the six counts against him; the jury is hung on the other five charges.
Last week I chatted with Ana Marie Cox about the Edwards case over at the Guardian. While many bright minds make a strong argument that nothing Edwards did deserves to be prosecuted as a federal crime as the laws are currently written, I suspect federal prosecutors did not want this circumstance to go without legal consequence for Edwards.
If this sort of shenanigan — working around campaign-finance law by having no money pass through the campaign or the candidate — went entirely unprosecuted, it would be a safe bet that we would see similar versions in the future.
John Edwards needed money to get out of a jam and to help keep his campaign viable. In secret, he (allegedly) arranged for one of his wealthiest fans to give $900,000 to keep Rielle Hunter quiet and hidden. If a candidate can ask wealthy donors to help him out to the tune of six figures (or seven!) in a way that leaves no paperwork fingerprints or record with the FEC, then the door is open to functional bribery. This time it’s “pay this amount to help me hide my mistress,” next time it might be “pay this person to make a false accusation” or “pay this person to endorse me” or who knows what else.