Local Politics

Former staffer says Edwards knew about support for mistress, baby

Posted May 8, 2012

— John Edwards knew that a wealthy donor was paying bills for his mistress and illegitimate child but still lied about it when he finally acknowledged having an affair, a former campaign staffer testified Tuesday.

Wendy Button, who was a speech writer for Edwards, said she was dumbfounded that Edwards had her draft a statement in which he admitted to fathering a child with Rielle Hunter that she knew wasn't entirely true.

Edwards is charged with violating federal campaign finance laws by accepting contributions far above legal limits and not reporting them. Prosecutors allege he used nearly $1 million from Virginia heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron to keep Hunter quiet and his 2008 bid for the White House alive.

John Edwards case graphic WRAL.com archive: John Edwards case

Button said she worked with Edwards throughout the summer of 2009 to craft a public statement to finally acknowledge that Hunter's daughter, Quinn, was his. He had admitted to his affair with her in August 2008 but had repeatedly denied fathering the child.

Initial drafts included an apology to Baron and former aide Andrew Young, who had claimed paternity of Hunter's child in late 2007 to shield Edwards and his campaign from the negative publicity.

"He said he had known all along that Fred Baron had taken care of things, but he didn't know the exact details," Button testified, recalling a conversation with Edwards.

The apology to Young was removed from later drafts – Edwards told Button that Young was "a bad guy" – and Edwards started trying to fudge the details of Hunter's financial support.

Button said she struggled to come up with a line for Edwards' statement, finally settling on, "Some people without my knowledge supported Quinn."

"That deeply concerned me," she testified, adding that she knew it wasn't true.

All references to outside support for Hunter and the baby were eliminated by the time that Edwards finally issued the statement in January 2010.

Edwards told Button that he loved Hunter and continued to see her. When Button asked if the affair was still going on, he replied, "You're not entitled to all the details," she testified.

Earlier Tuesday, a videotape showing Edwards and Hunter having sex was brought out for the first time in the trial. Lawyers previously danced around the subject under orders from U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, referring to it only as a "personal video" or "private video."

Chapel Hill developer Tim Toben said that he and Young joked about the value of the tape, although they never considered using it to blackmail Edwards.

Sketch of Tim Toben testimony Defense portrays witness as biased against Edwards

"I remember the numbers were pretty big numbers," he said.

Toben, who backed Edwards before learning of the affair, bolstered the government's case against Edwards on Monday by testifying to helping hide Hunter from the media and noting that Edwards later bragged how easy it was to get money from a wealthy donor to support anything he did.

Under cross-examination on Tuesday, however, Toben came across as someone who referred to Edwards and his wife in crass terms and helped former Edwards aide Andrew Young write a tell-all book about the candidate's affair and failed presidential campaign.

Defense attorney Allison van Laningham pulled out a series of profanity-laced emails between Toben and Young in which Toben referred to Edwards as a "pathetic little man" and "a sick, evil bastard." He told Young in the messages to "castigate" Edwards in his book, which he referred to as "our thesis."

"Edwards needs to be exposed as a skeeze," Toben wrote.

He was unable to define a skeeze for van Laningham but agreed it was an unflattering term.

"I thought that he had betrayed the trust of the people he spoke for," he told jurors.

When van Laningham suggested that Young's book was just a way to make money, Toben disagreed, saying the purpose of the book was to "get the truth out." Young didn't even want to write it, Toben said, but he encouraged him to do it.

Toben testified that he and Young were watching football one day when Young mentioned having a copy of the sex tape. Young said he would never use the tape to get money from Edwards, Toben said, but the two men joked about the tape's value.

The defense also painted Toben as a snitch, noting that he went to Barack Obama's campaign in the summer of 2008 to express concerns about Edwards, who had told Toben that he was under consideration as Obama's vice-presidential candidate.

"I was alarmed. I couldn’t believe a man with a 4-month-old baby with another woman would seriously consider running for vice president,” he testified.

42 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • 3d May 15, 2012

    For those who support both Edwards and campaign finance disclosure laws - aren't $1million gifts to candidates exactly why we have these laws ? Is $1million gift for personal use less corrupting that $1million dollars gift used to buy air-time or pay campaign staff ?

    Actually, it is more corrupting, as it allows candidates like Edwards to use the money as a slush fund for pay-offs and other cover-ups that would disqualify him for office were they made public.

  • awood2 May 9, 2012

    If Young wasn't going to use the tape for money then why did he have it and why didn't he want to give it back? Cause he wrote a book about that and more (that sells which equals money)

  • jdupree May 9, 2012

    The Jury is not as dumb as Edwards hopes and Edwards is not as smart as he thinks he is. He is guilty, guilty, guilty!

  • awingworth May 9, 2012

    Are you kidding me. The lawyers for Edwards are saying Toben is a snitch,for wanting it to be known Edwards was a liar,cheat and should not have been VP.

    Those guys are getting paid to paint Toben as a snitch????!!!!
    Man, I missed my calling. Snitch...that is really funny. More like Toben wanted to expose the TRUTH.

    Edwards is really paying these guys to come up w/ snitch. So FUNNY!!!!

  • h3ardita11b4 May 9, 2012

    Can someone explain the whole sanctity of marriage thing again?

  • dontstopnow May 9, 2012

    Wonder if Edwards will consider relocation after this trial is over? He should move to another country and change his name. LOL

  • MadMaxx May 9, 2012

    I cannot wait for the Crazy Lady to appear! This is going to be a good one to listen to, I would love to have a camera on John's face when and while his love child's momma is testifying. You know they got to put on the stand just for the amusement! Hey, Edwards is lower that bug slime and everyone knows it, just helps to show his character the longer this goes on. His wife dying of cancer, his own small children, and his EGO! No matter what happens here, there will probably be a judgment of some kind in the after life, if, if there is a heaven, I can see him standing at the gates with St. Peter, and just who will be standing there with him, Elizabeth, a woman scorned, lookout!

  • airbornemonty May 9, 2012

    As far as I am concerned, the only innocent person in the group is the baby. They should all be put in imprison including the baby's mother since she knew Edwards was married but was willing to have the affair anyway. She also knew there was security dipping into his pocket and so she dug in as deep as she could.

    Yes folks, there are women in this world that make a living by either having children or finding someone that has a deep pocket and poor Edwards bit on the barbed hook and got himself hooked into obscurity...po boy!

  • OnlyTheBestWillDo May 9, 2012

    This is not looking good.

  • barbstillkickin May 9, 2012

    Is there really people out there that believe Edwards had no idea. Please lets not make that statement and show your ignorance. Edwards knew everything that was going on and anyone who thinks different are not very bright. No Politician ever does not know where every single dime goes so grow up or let it go. Edwards to me is no news at all he is not very bright and he is a cheater.

More...