Here’s the sleaze

After hearing the latest daily take from the John Edwards trial, now under way in Greensboro, N.C., you almost want to take a shower. It’s better (or worse) than any daytime soap.

It all boils down to a prize fight between two liars. In one corner, former Sen. Edwards, once a rising star in the Democratic Party. As a candidate for president in 2007 and 2008, he lied to his wife — and the nation — about his affair with Rielle Hunter. He lied about fathering a child with her. And, to keep the mistress and illegitimate child secret, he arranged for two supporters to shower her with cash.

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In the other corner, former Edwards aide Andrew Young, who now piously condemns everything he helped Edwards do. He and his wife received the checks from Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon, and funneled the money directly to Hunter. They traveled with her from state to state. They even shared a home with her in Santa Barbara. And, in the ultimate act of acolyte loyalty, Young even claimed that he, not Edwards, was the father of Hunter’s baby daughter.

So the obvious first question is: Why should the jury believe anything said by either one of these pathological liars? But the bigger question is: Why is the Department of Justice prosecuting this case in the first place? On so many levels, the Edwards trial seems an abuse of prosecutorial powers. John Edwards’s behavior was certainly sleazy. Even sinful. But it’s not against the law to have an affair and lie about it, or have friends write your mistress a check, or even father a baby outside of wedlock. So where’s the federal crime?

The Department of Justice has charged Edwards with six felony counts of misuse of campaign funds. But, as noted above, checks from Mellon and Baron — totaling roughly a combined $925,000 — were not written to the Edwards campaign, nor to Edwards himself. As Young has testified, Mellon’s checks were written to her interior decorator, who co-signed them with Young’s wife, who then gave the money to Rielle Hunter. 

In the world of campaign finance law, this is a new first. Never before has anyone been charged for checks written — not to a campaign — but by one third party to another third party. Not only that, it seems absurdly out of date for the DOJ to charge Edwards with indirectly accepting more than the then-legal limit of $2,300 per donor — when today, fat-cats like Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Foster Friess and the Koch Brothers are donating tens of millions of dollars to super-PACs supporting individual federal candidates — and nobody cares.

The case against John Edwards, started under President Bush, was continued and expanded by Attorney General Eric Holder. Big mistake. Holder has filed no charges against Wall Street executives for wrecking our economy. Instead, he’s prosecuting John Edwards for pampering his mistress.

What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Press is host of the nationally syndicated “Bill Press Show.”


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