Campaign Contribution or Gift: John Edwards Has the Better Hand
The charges in the John Edwards Indictment are all premised on the assumption that the monies from Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon that ended up financing Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young's excellent adventures were campaign contributions rather than gifts. If they weren't campaign contributions, there's no crime.
There's no case law on point. There are no prior federal prosecutions alleging a candidate mislabeled a campaign contribution as a gift, thereby violating federal election law.
What the Government told Edwards' attorneys and election law experts prior to the Indictment was that there was a FEC civil advisory opinion in 2000 (the Harvey opinion) that supported its position. Team Edwards responded that opinion was distinguishable from his situation, and pointed out another advisory opinion (the Moran opinion) in 2002, closer to his situation which concluded the donated money was not a campaign contribution. The Wall St. Journal has more here, and also check out election law expert Rick Hasen at Slate.
Neither opinion is directly on point in Edwards' case. Both are distinguishable. And newer FEC advisory opinions clearly state the opinions are not only advisory, but that they are not to be relied on in cases with distinguishable facts. [More...]
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