Vanity be thy name?
After weeks of speculation, the Government has now moved forward and indicted Presidential Candidate John Edwards on six counts of violating campaign finance laws, making false statements to Government Officials, and engaging in a conspiracy to protect his candidacy for the White House.
The last charge is the crux of it, really!
Yesterday, Mr. Edwards stood on the Courthouse steps and solemnly admitted to reporters that what he did was "wrong", but vigorously noted for the record that he did not knowingly intend to break the law.
And, that is the bone of contention, in a nutshell.
The Government must prove "intent" on the part of the 57-year-old politician to make their allegations stick.
Because Edwards is known as a competent trial attorney, legal analysts are quick to point out, that Edwards' comments are a sure indication that he is now laying the groundwork for his defense in court(in the event the trial commences on-or-about July 11th as announced at press time).
Edwards intends to vigorously argue in court that he tried to hide an affair (and a love child born out of wedlock) to protect his family.
In sharp contrast, the Government has taken the position that the Edwards defense is merely a smokescreen.
The prosecutors intends to prove that Mr. Edwards knowingly and willfully utilized campaign funds to hide his affair (to avoid a nasty scandal) and to protect his bid for the Presidential ticket.
The funds in question were allegedly gifts from two supporters - and as such - were not used inappropriately, according to a spokesperson for Mr. Edwards.
John Edwards is characterizing the misstep as a unfortunate error in judgment which led him down a slippery slope.
But, ultimately, Edwards does not believe that his actions warrant criminal prosecution.
The response back from the Government was crystal clear.
"As the indictment shows, we will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supports to circumvent our election laws," Assistant Attorney General Larry Breuer, who is head of the Justice Department's criminal division.
Gregory Craig - a former White House attorney (who handled the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings!) - lamented that the prosecution against his client was "unprecedented".
"No one has ever been charged, either civilly or criminally, with the claims that have been brought against Sen. Edwards today. No one would have known, or should have known, or could have been expected to know, that these payments would be treated as or should be considered as campaign contributions. And, there was no way Senator Edwards knew that fact either," he asserted to reporters over the past twenty-four hours.
Court papers reflect that the monies in question were solicited and accepted from two individuals - Bunny Mellon (a 100-year-old heiress who contributed $725,000) and Fred Baron (a former National Campaign Finance Manager - now deceased - who coughed up approximately $200,000) - with the help of a trusted aid by the name of Andrew Young.
Mr. Young is expected to be a key witness at the trial.
Young's attorney - David Geneson - told reporters that his client had "no deal" with the Government. But, Young was apparently promised in writing that if he continued to cooperate with the investigation and subsequent criminal proceedings, that the Government would not prosecute him personally.
Of course, this has caused some experts in the election law arena to cry foul.
Normally such violations are handled with civil penalties and result in fines and requirements that candidates repay the money.
In fact, six weeks ago, a former Chairman for the Federal Election Committee - Scott E. Thomas - met in private with prosecutors to try to convince them not to go forward with the pending criminal proceedings.
"I do not believe that there is any prior case that states that the conduct at issue in the Edwards matter or even conduct substantially similar to it , constitutes a violation of the statute," Thomas argued vigorously (but to no avail).
Which begs the question.
Is there a witch hunt underfoot?
If so, who is behind it?
News at 11!
Bunny Mellon & John Edwards