Is Hush Money Really a Campaign Expense? The John Edwards Example.

Sara Mase, Staff Writer

Political scandal has long been the fodder for juicy media stories.  In just the last several decades there have been numerous examples of poorly behaving public officials – but the most recent is John Edwards.  After losing the vice-presidency in 2004, losing the presidential race in 2008, and finding out that his wife has cancer you wouldn’t think that life could get much worse for him.[1]  Enter, Rielle Hunter, a videographer during his 2008 presidential bid.[2]  In July 2008, Edwards admitted to having an extramarital affair with her, that ended in 2006, but that appears to only be the tip of the iceberg.[3]  Earlier this year, on May 3, 2009, Edwards admitted “that federal investigators [were] looking into the handling of” his campaign finances during his 2008 run for the presidential nomination.[4]

 Specifically, investigators are looking into money and gifts, including a BMW, that were paid to Ms. Hunter during the campaign.[5]  These included:

 Benefits Ms. Hunter received from the two Edwards supporters, Fred Baron, a wealthy trial lawyer from Dallas who has since died, and Rachel Mellon, known as Bunny, a 99-year-old heiress to the Mellon fortune.  Before his death, Mr. Baron said in a statement that he paid Ms. Hunter and helped move her and [an aide] to California and other places on his own initiative, without informing Mr. Edwards.  Mr. Edwards has asserted that he knew nothing of the benefits provided to Ms. Hunter by Mr. Baron or Mrs. Mellon.[6]

 In addition, investigators are also “examining some $114,000 paid by the Edwards campaign to Ms. Hunter for a series of short campaign videos she produced.  About $14,000 of that money was paid to her well after the videos were produced, some through transfers from accounts and listed as for furniture purchases.”[7]  Despite the investigation, “Edwards has maintained that there was no impropriety in campaign payments for Hunter’s work.”[8]

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