Legal Filings

Legal Filings
Sep 21, 2011

CREW Seeks Court Approval to File Brief in Support of Sen. Edwards’ Motion to Dismiss Indictment

Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina for leave to file an amicus brief on behalf of former presidential candidate John Edwards (D-NC), seeking dismissal of the indictment against him.  The former senator was indicted in on June 3, 2011 for alleged violations of campaign finance law.  He filed several motions seeking dismissal of the case on September 6th.  Click here to read CREW’s brief

“In the U.S., we don’t prosecute people for being loathsome, we prosecute them for violating the law,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.  “This case suggests some in the Department of Justice may have lost sight of this principle.”

Sen. Edwards has been charged with violating campaign finance laws by conspiring with Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Fred Baron to evade campaign contribution limits by allowing the two to pay the expenses of Sen. Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, and their daughter during his presidential campaign.  Ms. Mellon and Mr. Baron were both long-time friends of Sen. Edwards.

CREW, which generally supports the Department of Justice (DOJ) against politicians charged with corruption, took the unusual step on filing on the side of Sen. Edwards because of the unique nature of the case.   There have been no previous prosecutions or Federal Election Commission (FEC) enforcement actions based on remotely similar facts.

Federal law prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal use, such as rent and vacations.  In recent years, the FEC has held spending campaign funds on clothing and personal trainers violates this ban.  Therefore, under current law, campaign funds could not legally be spent on the personal expenses of a candidate’s mistress.  DOJ is arguing any expenditure that even peripherally benefits a candidate would be a legitimate campaign expense.  Such an interpretation of the law would effectively allow candidates to use campaign funds for nearly anything.

“Here, the government argues Ms. Mellon and Mr. Baron paid Ms. Hunter’s expenses to allow Sen. Edwards to maintain his image as a “family man” by hiding his affair from the American public,” said Ms. Sloan.  “So under this theory, paying the expenses of the mistress of a known philanderer wouldn’t be a campaign contribution, while covering such costs for the girlfriend of someone who presents himself as a loyal husband is.  That can’t be right.”

The Department of Justice is expected to file briefs opposing dismissal on September 26th.  Trial has not yet been scheduled.

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