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John Edwards Ordered to Return $2.6 Mil in Matching Campaign Funds

John Edwards can't seem to catch a break. Today, the FEC ordered his campaign to return $2.6 million in matching funds it had received after announcing he quit the 2004 presidential race.

The FEC determined that Edwards had received just over 2.1 million dollars in matching funds after the campaign was winding down and Edwards was no longer in the race. The commission decided that in total his campaign must pay back $2,278,315 in excess matching funds.

According to the FEC, "Presidential candidates receive federal government funds to pay for the valid expenses of their political campaigns in both the primary and general elections."

Sounds like Edwards had an inkling this would be the ruling. On June 30, 2011, the campaign had $2.6 million in cash-on-hand.

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Report: John Edwards Turned Down Plea to Three Misdemeanors

McClatchy reports on anonymously sourced accounts of the final plea negotiations between John Edwards and the Government. It's very detailed.

The essence: Edwards had a choice between a felony and the ability to argue for no jail time, or a plea to three misdemeanors and a six month sentence. If he took the latter, he couldn't argue for home detention or a halfway house instead of prison.

Because the misdemeanor deal would have precluded him from arguing for a non-jail sentence, he turned it down. The final negotiations lasted past Midnight on Thursday, and into Friday morning, just minutes before the grand jury returned the Indictment on Friday. [More...]

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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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John Edwards Arrives at Court

Update: Here is John Edwards' statement after his court appearance today.

John Edwards has arrived at the federal courthouse in North Carolina with his daughter Cate.

The unnamed staffer in the Indictment who claimed John Edwards knew of Fred Baron's payments to Rielle Hunter during the campaign is reportedly Wendy Button. She didn't include that detail in her article on helping draft the statement admitting paternity (which wasn't used.) [More...]

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John Edwards Indicted on Six Counts

The John Edwards Indictment has arrived. It contains six counts. You can read it here.

It's all about Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon. Nothing as I thought here about his PACS and other campaign related companies. The New York Times writes:

At issue are financial contributions that prosecutors say Mr. Edwards received in excess of federal limits, did not report properly and then misused for the political purpose of hiding his extramarital affair to save his candidacy. Mr. Edwards, 57, has maintained that he used the money to hide the affair, but for private purposes — to conceal it from his wife.

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Crunchtime for John Edwards

The media is abuzz with news that John Edwards' Washington attorney, Craig, flew to Raleigh last night. No one knows whether an Indictment was returned this week, whether the visit is for a final negotiating session with prosecutors, or whether Edwards has agreed to a plea deal and an Information will be filed tomorrow.

Nor does anyone seem to know what Edwards might be charged with, other than violating federal election laws pertaining to campaign contributions.

It seems to me the media is over-simplifying the case. It began as an investigation into whether John Edwards knew about the money Fred Baron gave Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young. The evidence has always been conflicting as to what John Edwards knew, if anything. Fred Baron, who funded Rielle and Andrew's excellent adventure and is now deceased, insisted John did not know. His widow and law partner, Lisa Blue, told the grand jury the same thing. And it's doubtful the Justice Department would bring such a high-profile federal prosecution based on the words of people with as much baggage as Andrew Young and his wife, or Rielle Hunter. [More..]

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John Edwards Lunches With Bunny Mellon

The media seems surprised that John Edwards had lunch yesterday with 100 year old heiress Bunny Mellon, who was a grand jury witness in his soon-to-be criminal case. Edwards' attorney says the visit was purely personal and they didn't discuss his legal situation.

First, there's no secrecy rule imposed on witnesses to a federal grand jury. The secrecy rule pertains to Government prosecutors and their agents. Second, it's not the first time Edwards visited Bunny Mellon since the probe started. He flew up to see her in December, 2009.

According to CBS News today, it ultimately may be quite important for Edwards to show he has had a continuing personal relationship with Bunny Mellon since his campaign ended. Here's why: [More...]

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John Edwards Lawyer: He Didn't Break the Law

John Edwards has added some heft to his legal team: former White House Counsel Gregory Craig. Craig released this statement today:

“John Edwards has done wrong in his life – and he knows it better than anyone but he did not break the law. The government’s theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is novel and untested. There is no civil or criminal precedent for such a prosecution. The government originally investigated allegations that Senator Edwards’ campaign’s funds were misused but continued its pursuit even after finding that not one penny from the Edwards campaign was involved.

The Justice Department has wasted millions of dollars and thousands of hours on a matter more appropriately a topic for the Federal Election Commission to consider, not a criminal court.”

Craig says Edwards is prepared to fight. My translation: If the Government offers a misdemeanor, there's still room to talk, particularly before the Indictment is returned. [More...]

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John Edwards Grand Jury Close to Wrapping Up

According to the news, things don't look good for John Edwards. The grand jury is winding down, and a decision is expected this week or next. I think the Grand Jury there meets on Thursdays, twice a month, but that could have changed.

Some say he'll either be indicted or have worked out a plea deal, but he won't get off scott-free. The likely charges, according to the anonymous sources: The money from Heiress Bunny Mellon, which he treated like a gift rather than a campaign contribution. [More...]

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Edwards Grand Jury Hears From Fred Baron's Widow

The grand jury investigation into John Edwards continues. Today, the grand jury heard from Lisa Blue Baron, the widow of Edwards' campaign finance chair Fred Baron. Blue was accompanied by her Washington attorney, Abbe Lowell. Where does Ms. Blue fit in the picture?

Reportedly, the grand jury is investigating whether Edwards' campaign funds were improperly diverted to Rielle Hunter. Fred Baron said the money he gave Hunter was personal money, not campaign related, and that Edwards didn't know about it at the time. According to Andrew Young (whose credibility is zero in my book) Lisa Blue was assigned the task of comforting Hunter on the phone during the time period he was tasked with babysitting her and pretending to be the baby's father.

Rielle Hunter, in her GQ interviewed said:[More...]

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Bunny Mellon's Relatives Make Grand Jury Appearance in John Edwards Investigation

Bump and Update: Four relatives of Bunny Mellon are at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, NC where the grand jury investigating John Edwards' campaign finances is meeting:
Sources told WRAL News that Stacy Lloyd III, the son of heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon; his two sons, Stacy Lloyd IV and Thomas Lloyd; and Thomas Lloyd's wife, Ricki Lloyd, were called to testify before the grand jury.

The FBI has already spoken to Bunny Mellon, having made two trips to her farm. Her lawyer, Alexander Forger, said months ago he testified before the grand jury and said Edwards did nothing wrong.

Why is this heating up now? Perhaps because Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding, who reportedly is not leaving the office to make way for Obama's nominee Thomas Walker, until he's done with Edwards' investigation, has more time on his hands having finally concluded the investigation of former Gov. Mike Easley (which ended with a whimper rather than a bang). [More..]

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Feds Issue New Subpoenas in John Edwards Investigation

Twenty new grand jury subpoenas have been issued in the federal investigation into whether John Edwards violated campaign financing rules with respect to money the campaign provided Rielle Hunter.

The subpoenas were ordered at the behest of Main Justice:

According to our source, when that process wrapped-up, prosecutors in Raleigh sent the case to the Department of Justice in Washington for a review. The Justice Department then told prosecutors in Raleigh to interview more people and get more information about the people who donated money to help Edwards' former aide Andrew Young, his wife and Rielle Hunter live a life on the run.

It sounds like the investigation has moved from whether the payments to Rielle were legitimate to whether there was hush money paid afterwards. The relocation expenses were purportedly paid by now-deceased attorney Fred Baron, who was Edwards' campaign manager in 2004 and 2008. He told the Dallas Morning News: [More...]

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Rielle Rehab Tour Chooses Oprah

The Rielle Hunter Rehab Tour continues. The next installment: Oprah Winfrey. When? May sweeps, of course. The misunderstood mistress, who no one cares about, who only talks about herself, has chosen Oprah Winfrey over Diane Sawyer and Barbra Walters to share the next tawdry installment. The up side: Oprah's on daytime, none of us with day jobs have to worry about watching.

How many faces does this story have? [More...]

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More From the Rielle Hunter Train Wreck

Update: Here's a interesting profile of Rielle Hunter from her hometown magazine in Ocala, FL.

It gets worse. GQ not only has the Rielle Hunter interview that will appear in the magazine I wrote about earlier, it has the video of her photo shoot (in which she doesn't look like she's hating being photographed without her pants or provocatively) and outtakes from the interview. Highlights:

  • John Edwards asked her opinion as to whether he should endorse Obama (she didn't give one)
  • Edwards lawyers asked her to swear in writing she didn't leak or sell information about them
  • She hasn't spoken to her sister in 17 years (the sister that went on TV to talk about her) -- it sounds like she doesn't talk to anyone in her family :

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Rielle Hunter Talks,

Rielle Hunter, paramour of John Edwards, is telling her side of the story to GQ.

The first thing I noticed is the photo spread of Hunter that accompanies the article. In two of the three photos, she's wearing no pants and her white shirt is unbuttoned suggestively. In a third, her sweatpants are loosened and untied with her now flatter belly exposed and her child on top of her. She looks like she's auditioning for a Hollywood movie. No matter what she has to say, it's going to be hard to take her seriously and impossible not to question her motives.

She looks good, kind of like Heather Locklear. What we learn: She loves her "Johnny." She insists she didn't meet him in the bar (but afterwards on a street corner)and she would never approach a man first. But what are the first words she says to him on the street corner? "You're so hot." The inconsistencies in her tale get worse as the interview progresses. [More...]

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