The Corner

Edwards Indictment Imminent

John Edwards is set to be indicted on charges of violating campaign-finance laws.

There will be much sport had out of the fact that Mr. “Two Americas,” the alleged working-class hero, turned to his gazillionaire pals — Bunny Mellon, the widow of banking heir Paul Mellon, and the late (and possibly crooked) Democratic fund-raiser/asbestos-chaser Fred Baron — to pay hush money to his mistress, “hiring” her to do videography “work.”  

Conservatives will enjoy watching the odious Mr. Edwards suffer, of course. But I wonder: Should that sort of thing be illegal under campaign-finance laws? I will grant you unethical, distasteful, dishonest, vulgar, etc., but illegal as a matter of campaign finance? The times being what they are, it is not a crime to have a mistress, or even to lie about it casually. Being a cad is, in most jurisdictions, perfectly legal. Conning your gullible rich pals into underwriting your fling (and conning one of your sycophants into temporarily claiming paternity of the resulting offspring) is pretty awful behavior (though probably indicative of why Edwards was a wildly successful lawyer and probably would have been twice as dangerous as Barack Obama in the White House), but I do not see which part of that contains an element of what we now think of as a crime. 

I do not want to encourage the activities of such as Mr. Edwards, of course, but I do not want to encourage the campaign-finance police to extend their reach ever-deeper into life beyond the campaign trail. If I am missing some obvious reason why this should be a crime, I would grateful for being corrected.

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