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Gov't Watchdog Asks Judge To Dismiss John Edwards Case

Sep 22, 2011

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Reported by

Frank James

The man-bites-watchdog political story of the week has to be Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asking a federal judge to allow it to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the effort by John Edwards, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina, to get the Justice Department case against him dismissed.

CREW, a good government group, asked the court to dismiss charges brought by Justice Department that Edwards violated campaign finance laws by allegedly conspiring to have money from wealthy friends of Edwards', Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and Fred Baron, used to pay the expense of his mistress and their child.

From CREW's press release:

"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..."

CREW's position is that the money Mellon and Baron gave to third parties to cover the expenses of Rielle Hunter and her child were arguably not campaign contributions under federal law and that there's no proof they wouldn't have been made even if Edwards hadn't been a presidential candidate at the time.

The watchdog acknowledges that it normally supports Justice Department prosecutions of politicians. But this time it can't; federal prosecutors are trying to criminalize bad behavior, according to CREW.

CREW accuses the Justice Department of using pretzel logic to arrive at a theory by which to charge Edwards:

"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."

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